Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Courtney Elizabeth Mauk's Would You Rather

Bored with the same old fashioned author interviews you see all around the blogosphere? Well, TNBBC's newest series is a fun, new, literary spin on the ole Would You Rather game. Get to know the authors we love to read in ways no other interviewer has. I've asked them to pick sides against the same 20 odd bookish scenarios. And just to spice it up a bit, each author gets to ask their own Would You Rather question to the author who appears after them....

Courtney Elizabeth Mauk's 
Would You Rather

Would you rather write an entire book with your feet or with your tongue?

I’d write with my feet. Writing with your tongue sounds painful and unbearably slow. Unless you interpret “writing with your tongue” as dictating or using voice transcription software. Then I would do that.

Would you rather have one giant bestseller or a long string of moderate sellers?

A long string of moderate sellers. Ideally I’d like longevity and a steady or growing readership. What comes after the one giant bestseller? Vain attempts to publish another? Retirement? I’d prefer to be in it for the long haul.

Would you rather be a well known author now or be considered a literary genius after you’re dead?

A well known author now. Once you’re dead, you’re dead. You don’t get to share in the experience.

Would you rather write a book without using conjunctions or have every sentence of your book begin with one?

I’d be okay with not using conjunctions. The prose would be a little stilted but still readable and after a while you wouldn’t notice. Making every sentence begin with a conjunction would be annoying, for both the reader and me.

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?

I’d get the tattoo. That actually sounds pretty cool. I like the idea of having the words physically imprinted on me. I would prefer that over the audio, which would be distracting and become irritating after a while, lessening my love for the novel.

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?

Write a book I truly believe in and have no one read it. Of course every writer wants readership, but the writing begins in my relationship with the story. I need to fall in love with my work. If I don’t have that, there really isn’t a point to doing it. If I compromised myself, I would feel incredible shame, even if I had “success.”

Would you rather write a plot twist you hated or write a character you hated?

Definitely a plot twist. My characters drive my writing, and I become deeply committed to them. Even when I don’t like what they’re doing, I still have a deep affection for who they are. It would be hard to live with a character I outright hated.

Would you rather use your skin as paper or your blood as ink?

I’ll say my blood as ink. There’s a gothic romance to it that appeals to me. I see candlelight, a blood filled inkwell, a quill pen.

Would you rather become a character in your novel or have your characters escape the page and reenact the novel in real life?

I’d have my characters escape the page and reenact the novel in real life. Even if I never met or saw them, it would be deeply satisfying to know they were out there, doing their thing. I like my own life too much to want to give it up to go live in my novel.

Would you rather write without using punctuation and capitalization or without using words that contained the letter E?

Giving up punctuation and capitalization would be less limiting, but I like the challenge of giving up E. For a short story, I’ll write without E. For a novel, I’ll forgo punctuation and capitalization.

Would you rather have schools teach your book or ban your book?

I’d rather schools teach my book. A banned book may push more boundaries, but a book read in school has more direct opportunity to make an impact.

Would you rather be forced to listen to Ayn Rand bloviate for an hour or be hit on by an angry Dylan Thomas?

Angry Dylan Thomas, I could endure. Ayn Rand would be pure torture.

Would you rather be reduced to speaking only in haiku or be capable of only writing in haiku?

If I have to be limited by form, I’d rather be limited in speech. Speaking in haiku sounds fun, a new artistic avenue. I’ve always been a shy speaker, so maybe the parameters of haiku would create a sort of freedom, a speaking identity.

Would you rather be stuck on an island with only the 50 Shades Series or a series in a language you couldn’t read?

50 Shades. At least it would provide some amusement.  

Would you rather critics rip your book apart publicly or never talk about it at all?

I’d rather be read and ripped than never read and never discussed. Criticism means your writing has had an effect. Whether good or bad, your words did something.

Would you rather have everything you think automatically appear on your Twitter feed or have a voice in your head narrate your every move?

Twitter. At times the tweets might be embarrassing, but people’s feeds get so crowded that much of that would be lost in the shuffle. I like to be alone with my thoughts, so having a voice narrate my every move would be oppressive.

Would you rather give up your computer or pens and paper?

Pens and paper. I do most of my writing on the computer.

Would you rather write an entire novel standing on your tippy-toes or laying down flat on your back?

Lying down. Standing on my tippy-toes for an entire novel would get painful and distract from the work.

Would you rather read naked in front of a packed room or have no one show up to your reading?

I’d prefer to read naked. I could turn it into performance art, and being seen naked isn’t a terrible thing. I mean, we’re all naked under our clothes, right? But facing an empty room—that’s depressing.

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? 

I go back and forth on this one, but I’ll say I’d rather read a book that’s poorly written but has an excellent story. Pretty sentences or interesting structure will only sustain you for so long, but a compelling story will keep the pages turning, even if the prose is unlovely.

And here's Courtney's answer to Corey Mesler's question from last week:

Would you rather lick clean a stranger’s car ashtray, or write a synopsis (or an essay about who the prospective audience is) of your novel for the publisher?

I'll go with writing a synopsis or essay about the prospective audience. As time-consuming and soul-sucking as those can be, they won't give you weird diseases. 

 Check back next week to see what David David Katzman would rather
and see his answer to Courtney's question:

Would you rather never write another word or never read another word? 


Courtney Elizabeth Mauk is the author of the novel Spark (Engine Books, 2012). Her work has appeared in The Literary Review, PANK, Wigleaf, and FiveChapters, among others. She is an assistant editor at Barrelhouse and teaches at Juilliard and The Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop. She lives in Manhattan with her husband.

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