I’ve always been a writer, for almost as long as I can remember. For the longest time, I thought I was the only one in my community. I continued under that delusion until I reached high school. Freshman year. I had Mr. Sibley for English that year, and one day he took me aside. He knew about my abilities, because he’d read a good deal of my fiction back then, not just for assignments. No, I was the weirdo who liked to write extra stories and hand them in, just to see the response.
On this day, however, Mr. Sibley told me he wanted me to meet another promising writer from another class of his. The idea was for me and this other guy to switch stories and write a bunch of comments on them to help each other grow as writers. I handed mine in, and soon after, I received my copy of the story covered with red ink.
Unfortunately, Mr. Sibley must have lost his story. I never got it. But I did get something else: my closest friend for going on 22 years. Though I never got to read that story, Robert M. Tannahill has been by my side longer than any other friend I have, and Mr. Sibley is the mad scientist who matched us up. Rob is starting to break through, so we decided to interview each other for our blogs. What follows is my interview with him. You can read his interview with me here.
JB: All your life, you’ve been drawn to the arts. Writing, drawing, music. What pushes you in that direction?
RT: I can’t do anything else. Everything else I attempt turns to shit. Plus, it’s the only work I can do without feeling like punching someone. I like to say I came out of the womb with a pen and a length of nickel. But then, I was a month late being born. I must have known something was bullshit.
JB: What is the worst thing you have ever done, and how has it informed your work?
RT: Hey, whoa, what are you, a FED? Truth is, the worst thing I’ve ever done is fail. It’s hard to call my accomplishments successes. Oh sure, I’ve won plenty of battles, but to what end? I’m still broke, I’m not on welfare, but I still get assholes accusing me of leeching even though wherever I’m at I earn my keep—money is great but it is not everything—there’s something to be said for taking care of folks, dig? Regardless, I keep trying to do kick ass things at the least and great things at the most, but it seems like those who go off and try to be great just trip, fall, and break their face. My mother once told me I was her “great hope” and I have not lived up to that. I can take care of myself, but I’m nothing great. Maybe I’ll end up that way, but it is hard to say. I just try to get my name out there, and when I do I tend to be met with such resistance that I’m not sure if I’m a complete moron or if these fuckers are jealous. I fucked up music because it requires working with people, and I’ll admit I don’t work well with others. I have a clear picture of how things should fit together and I have a lot of trouble stepping back and letting others paint their pictures, mostly because I end up finding their pictures not up to par. I guess that makes me a prick. But at least I let them. Writing, I thought erroneously, was different. All you need is you. Well, bullshit. You need more than yourself. Also, I have much trouble cow-towing. I guess that aids my failings. I just can’t stand having some jerk-off telling me what to do when I already fucking know what to do. I punch people like that because they annoy me. Perhaps they should not. So maybe the worst thing I’ve ever done is the one thing I can’t escape—being me.
JB: Conversely, what is the worst thing that has ever happened to you?
RT: Damn good one. I’m not sure, but I am sure that whatever it was, I did it to myself.
JB: How far would you go for a story?
RT: I’ve gone about as far as I can, I think. Any further, and I’m going to bust through dimensions. I guess that’ll be the rub. I’ve looked into the abyss and it has looked into me. I think we made friends.
JB: On your blog, you express a lot of hatred for phonies in the writing industry. What do you think their lives are like, and why do they conduct themselves as such?
RT: Their lives are either gorgeous or desperate, depending on how long they’ve been sucking Satan’s dick. If they’ve yet to swallow a load I’d say they’re pretty desperate; as I understand, Satan pays well for a good hummer. I know they’re doing better than those of us who don’t suck it, I can tell you that much.
JB: A lot of the way you are can be traced back to your violent, insane father. Let’s say that in an alternate universe, there is a Robert M. Tannahill whose father loved him and never abused him. This Robert M. Tannahill also wants to express himself through art. How does he do it, and why?
RT: He’s probably famous because he’d have been more commercial. Gone to college, played the straight game, stayed out of jail, all that shit. Or maybe not. Maybe he manages a fucking grocery store and just doodles and pines and wishes someone would come along and fuck his world up so he could pull a “Frank’s Wild Years.” Hard to say. He doesn’t exist, at least not here.
JB: What is your idea of the perfect writing career? What kind of work does that consist of?
RT: Perfection is not achievable. I can tell you what I’ll settle for. I don’t have any pretensions of being the next Stephen King—I don’t think that’s possible. I’d like to be able to live a decent life from writing—fuck punching a clock. I can’t do that. I punch a clock and sooner or later, I end up punching a face.
JB: What do you hope to achieve with your work?
RT: Isn’t that the same question? Other than the above stated, I’d like to show writers that they do not have to compromise—writing is about not compromising. Look at some of the shit Warren Ellis writes. You think he’s compromising? I don’t. Of course, Satan’s pecker awaits, ever-stiff.
JB: What are the top five books you feel everyone should read before they die?
RT: Are you fucking kidding me? There’s no top five. Once one has read the five, they’ll want to read five more, but for the sake of it, we’ll say IT by Stephen King, AND THE ASS SAW THE ANGEL by
. CRIME AND PUNISHMENT by Dostoyevsky, ECCE
HOMO from Nietzsche, and STRANGE VS. LOVECRAFT, but only for “McHumans” and
whatever that D.F. Noble story was called.
And Warren Ellis. See? I told you.
And Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.
Everything. Shit, you ask an
author to wrap up five favorite books? I
should kick you in the tante. Nick
JB: You’ve had a few run-ins with disreputable people in the writing industry lately. What words of wisdom do you have for any writers starting out today?
RT: Decide what you want more—money or integrity. Fast money only comes cheap—never good. If you want to write groundbreaking shit, don’t write with dollar signs in your eyes. Never tear up a royalty check, but don’t do it for the cash. Otherwise, you’ll never get any. Unless, of course, you’re writing about kitty-puppies and babies and mommies and yuppies and celebutards. And if you are, I want to kick your ass. Oh yeah, and have patience—the editor’s coke habit is always going to be more important than you.