Would You Rather
Would you rather write an entire book with your feet or with your tongue?
Tongue. Do I not have hands, I guess? This cuts down productivity no matter what. I have to pause to drink coffee.
Would you rather have one giant bestseller or a long string of moderate sellers?
I’ll take the money, Regis. I can fade into obscurity without regret.
Would you rather be a well-known author now or be considered a literary genius after you’re dead?
As above, I’ll take the immediate gratification. Give it now, while I can enjoy it.
Would you rather write a book without using conjunctions or have every sentence of your book begin with one?
Writing without conjunctions seems like a smaller restriction than beginning every sentence with one.
Would you rather have every word of your favorite novel tattooed on your skin or always playing as an audio in the background for the rest of your life?
Tattooed, I think. But put my favorite passages where I can read them easily. (It’s McCarthy’s Suttree, by the way. I don’t know that I have the real estate for this tattoo. I’m not a terribly big dude.)
Would you rather write a book you truly believe in and have no one read it or write a crappy book that comprises everything you believe in and have it become an overnight success?
I’d like to think that I’ll write a lot of books, in my career. I wouldn’t be so ashamed of one book that puts me on all the lists if it meant my other books get widely read. Writing is my joy, but at the end of the day, I want that joy to be shared.
Would you rather write a plot twist you hated or write a character you hated?
I think this depends on how we’re defining hate. Do I hate the character because he or she objectively is poorly written? Or is it because s/he’s bad? I can live with writing a character I hate. Strong emotion one way or the other is good, I think, when reacting to characters in that way. My protagonists are rarely objectively good people, and I’ve certainly written people that were pieces of shit, before.
Would you rather use your skin as paper or your blood as ink?
Blood as ink. Again, limited real estate when it comes to skin.
Would you rather become a character in your novel or have your characters escape the page and reenact the novel in real life?
I think I’d sooner become a character. Reenacting the novel in reality means the world falls to pieces. I’d sooner save people that (though I think that fall is likely coming down the pike).
Would you rather write without using punctuation and capitalization or without using words that contained the letter E?
No punctuation or capitalization. I could see some folks saying this is a natural progression for my style.
Would you rather have schools teach your book or ban your book?
Ban it! Let’s see some revolt up in here.
Would you rather be forced to listen to Ayn Rand bloviate for an hour or be hit on by an angry Dylan Thomas?
I’d much sooner be hit on by Dylan Thomas. We could have a few whiskeys and get in a fistfight.
Would you rather be reduced to speaking only in haiku or be capable of only writing in haiku?
Speaking. I think eventually you’d get good at it, and it would become rather neat.
Would you rather be stuck on an island with only the 50 Shades Series or a series in a language you couldn’t read?
I’ll try to decipher the cuneiform, thank you.
Would you rather critics rip your book apart publicly or never talk about it at all?
Rip it apart. Publicity’s publicity, and I have to eat somehow.
Would you rather have everything you think automatically appear on your Twitter feed or have a voice in your head narrate your every move?
Love me or hate me, I’d end up with a lot of followers.
Would you rather give up your computer or pens and paper?
Pens and paper. Ultimately, my real writing has to occur on the computer. I only take notes on pen and paper some of the time.
Would you rather write an entire novel standing on your tippy-toes or lying down flat on your back?
I don’t think I have tippy-toes. I’ve tried to do that ballet move where you stand right on the tips of your toes, and no-can-do. I would, however, prefer trying it to lying on my back the whole time.
Would you rather read naked in front of a packed room or have no one show up to your reading?
Naked. I’ve been working out. “David searched for his beach ball. He asked the lady nearby. Have you seen a beach ball around here, ma’am? Looks, like, this? And he flexed his arms downward. I think it might be over...there? He pointed with his arm curled.” And of course I act all this out on stage.
Would you rather read a book that is written poorly but has an excellent story, or read one with weak content but is written well?
Probably the latter. I think I’m more quickly infuriated by a poorly-crafted sentence than one in which nothing much happens. Suttree’s my favorite book, as I said, and it’s mostly about a really smart dude who wanders around getting drunk and fishing. Love the hell out of it.
Eric Shonkwiler has had writing appear in Los Angeles Review of Books, The Millions, Fiddleblack, [PANK] Magazine, Midwestern Gothic, and elsewhere. He received his MFA in Fiction from University of California-Riverside, where he was the recipient of the Chancellor’s Distinguished Fellowship Award, and is the author of the novel, Above All Men, a 2014 Midwest Connections Pick published by MG Press. He was born and raised in Ohio and has lived and worked in every contiguous U.S. time zone. You can find him at ericshonkwiler.com and @eshonkwiler.