Author Interview: The Tao Of Sean H. Doyle
Doyle doesn’t like to be defined. He writes for himself and looks at things realistically while keeping it interesting. Because life is interesting, you just need to think about it.
He’s been published at PANK Magazine, Sleep. Snort. Fuck., amphibi.us, and various other outlets. He blogs at seanhdoyle.com and tweets at @seanhdoyle.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like?
I was born in Brooklyn and we moved out to Phoenix. I spent a lot of the first few years out in the desert alone because I had a hard time making friends with other kids. I alienated myself and spent a lot of time with my nose in books and teaching myself how to play guitar. Once I found punk rock, everything shifted and I felt like I had found my people, you know? After that, well -- life became an adventure, for sure.
I get the sense from your stories that life must seem pretty fragmented to you. Can you do your best to trace your life in terms of your writing (from when you started all the way towards how you write now)? How did you build up the courage and energy to start submitting to magazines?
Fragmented? Not at all. My life is a pretty clear and concise timeline for me -- what might appear to be fragmented is that I am able to look at my life honestly and pinpoint moments and happenings and present them as what they were/are: "things that happened."
As far as how my writing has evolved throughout my life goes -- like anything else, the more you do something, the more comfortable you become. I don't like being comfortable, so I am always trying to learn and fine-tune what I do. Submitting to magazines was part of the natural progression, really. I'm not sure if it takes courage. The reality is that some people will dig what you do, and some people won't. Not too much sense in worrying one way or the other, because eventually you will find people who dig what you do and appreciate it.
Does your art come from rage?
Not at all. Is this because I write about violence? Violence and rage are two totally different things. Violence happens around us 24/7. The moments in my life where I have had to resort to violence were usually part of a fight or flight response. Rage is something altogether different. I wouldn't be able to be honest about myself or the things that I am writing about if rage were a factor or point of genesis.
Kurt Vonnegut said that we should write to please one person and one person only. Do you think you have that one person? Is it more of a thing/feeling than an actual human being?
Love Vonnegut -- he was probably the first writer that really moved things around inside of me as a kid and helped me realize that there were grown adults out there in the world who felt things in a similar manner to the way that I felt them. I don't have one person. I don't write to please anyone or think about an "audience." I write to untie the knots inside of myself, to find hopefully some greater -- or at times, weirder -- understanding of myself and my life.
What have you learned are the important things about writing about drugs and the experience of being underneath them (given the prominence of the American addiction memoir)?
Americans love misery. Anything that shows that your neighbor or co-worker might be just as miserable as you are is something Americans salivate for -- just look at reality television and tabloids. Nobody is ever going to write a better narco-memoir than Jerry Stahl's "Permanent Midnight." The only other one that comes close is Tom Hansen's "American Junkie," and they are completely different animals. The important thing about any writing is authenticity and clarity of voice -- it doesn't matter if you're writing about being a nanny or a junkie or a cab driver.
You've been sober a couple years now (right?). What role did writing have in shedding yourself from excess?
Sober is a tough word. It has harsh implications to a lot of people. I no longer imbibe. I no longer put chemicals into my blood to keep whatever ugly shit that lurks around inside of me dulled and punch-drunk. Writing had nothing to do with my decision to stop being an asshole to myself. Living did.
Do you think that the ideal non-fiction piece serves as a prose poem? Should prose writers read and/or practice poetry in order to be complete writers?
Ideal? Man -- I don't even know what would be considered "ideal." I think that if someone wants to write, they should read everything they can get their hands on. If you find a writer who speaks to you, devour everything they have ever written and study the arc of their canon. Spend a lot of time alone trying on different masks -- emulate people who move you and find out what does or does not work and then find your own voice and build that writing muscle.
Do you consider writing an affliction, that it chooses you?
It's certainly not a medical condition with a grave prognosis, which is what I think of when I see the word "affliction." Is being a carpenter an affliction? What about being an astrophysicist or a toll booth operator? It is what it is, you know? Are writers tagged at an early age to be something "special" like a LeBron James or a Tatum O'Neal? I don't necessarily buy into people being pre-programmed from birth to be this or that. We make choices. If you choose to be a writer, just do the work. Hard work will set you free.
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