Caleb J Ross's
Would You Rather
1. Would you rather write an entire book with your feet or with your tongue?
I’ve got freakishly long toes, so for the sake probability and completion, I’ll say feet. However, the concept of a tongue-written book intrigues me, in a literal reflection of the metaphorical kind of way. Writing in tongues (re: thoughts to words) becomes literally writing in tongues. Plus, it would be nice to incorporate another sense into the writing process. We rely so much on touch.
2. Would you rather have one giant bestseller or a long string of moderate sellers?
Probably the long string of moderate sellers. That way I never feel like I’m trying to regain something, trying to fit into an expectation.
I suppose my choice could be determined by whether or not I knew ahead of time that I was only going to have one giant bestseller vs. a string of moderate sellers. Could I choose the bestseller? Would it be possible then for me to consciously create a The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs situation, forcing the world to love my most depraved work? If so, definitely the one giant bestseller. It would be about a flatus monster trying to find its way back to the anus. Kind of like Wizard of Oz if Toto was a dingle berry.
3. Would you rather be a well known author now or be considered a literary genius after you’re dead?
Definitely well know now. Once I’m dead, I’m dead. It’s the same logic that I use when telling my family that I just want to be cremated and thrown in the trash when I die. I don’t care how beautiful my gravestone is. Put that money toward something better.
4. Would you rather write a book without using conjunctions or have every sentence of your book begin with one?
Without conjunctions. It would still be possible to create a compelling narrative without them. Think of it this way: there are only a handful of conjunctions, but there are infinite ways to not use them.
However, this is just the kind of experimental goal I set for myself when I write, so writing an entire book in which every sentence started with a conjunction could be fun. How I write now, I often set a goal to create a good story based off a terrible premise. For example, in my newest novella, As a Machine and Parts (just recently re-released) the premise involves a man who slowly and inexplicably turns into a machine. That’s a stupid concept. But if I’m a good writer, I should be able to make the narrative compelling enough that the reader forgets how stupid the concept is. Other examples: a man who collects human lips. A woman who tries to get her mentally challenged son kidnapped. By the end of a Caleb J. Ross story I want the reader to have been so invested in the characters that he/she forgets all the stupid stuff surrounding the characters.
So, maybe writing a compelling all-conjunction book is a good test. And a masochistic treat. But without the physical pain. Or perhaps with lots of it.
5. 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?
The tattoo option. Because the audio option is ever-present, it would basically be an aural tattoo of sorts, meaning just as permanent, except I wouldn’t be able to cover it up with clothes. Also, if nobody else could hear the audio, I’d probably eventually get committed to a padded room. On the plus side, I’d have my favorite audio book with me.
All of this really depends on whether or not Bobcat Goldthwait is the audiobook narrator, with secondary characters voiced by Gilbert Gottfried. If so, then obviously I’m going with the audio version.
6. Would you rather write a book you truly believe in and have no one read it or write a crappy book that compromises everything you believe in and have it become an overnight success?
The problem with having a successful anything that you don’t truly believe in is that from that point forward you’ll dread having to deliver the same kind of content. That would be its own kind of hell in a way. Let me write crap, I say!
7. Would you rather write a plot twist you hated or write a character you hated?
I can deal with a shitty plot twist; that happens only once. But enduring an entire novel full of crappy characters, even one with an amazing plot twist, would be awful. Not just for the readers, but for me as well.
8. Would you rather use your skin as paper or your blood as ink?
Oh, can I choose both? There’s an artist, Vincent Castiglia, who uses his blog in his paintings, so that option seems acceptable enough. The skin paper thing seems pretty close to traditional tattooing. Put them together and, well, the blood just goes back into the body and dissipates. Kinda anti-climactic, now that I fully explore that thought. Sorry to have wasted your time.
9. Would you rather become a character in your novel or have your characters escape the page and reenact the novel in real life?
As long as I didn’t have to be a part of the real-life reenactment, I’d choose to let the characters escape. I have some crazy stuff going on in my novels.
10. Would you rather write without using punctuation and capitalization or without using words that contained the letter E?
Definitely without punctuation and capitalization. Back at the dawn of the English language, punctuation, capitalization, even spelling and grammar were largely un-regimented. So, knowing it was possible to get the message across back then, I’m sure it would be possible now. Writing without the letter E would be much more difficult. One of my favorite novels ever, Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn, explores this idea, though I think in that novel Dunn chooses to first get rid of easier, non-vowels before he touches on the letter E.
11. Would you rather have schools teach your book or ban your book?
Either way is great for the wallet. Taking that out of the equation, I’d go with having schools teach my book. Any book can get banned, but not any book can be taught. Plus, it’s an honor to have a book be taught (re: validated) by a college. All having a book banned really means is that you’ve struck a nerve with a small, although loud, sub-cultur. Having a book banned would come with its type of validation, though, I suppose.
12. Would you rather be forced to listen to Ayn Rand bloviate for an hour or be hit on by an angry Dylan Thomas?
Getting hit on my Dylan Thomas would be quicker, so I’ll go that route.
13. Would you rather be reduced to speaking only in haiku or be capable of only writing in haiku?
Speaking. I communicate so much more via writing, whether via email, fiction, blog posts, shopping lists, and on and on. I could probably get away with not having to speak (I think it’s funny that rather than entertain the idea of speaking in haiku, I instead decide that not speaking at all is a better choice…I think that speaks more to my laziness than to my hatred of haiku).
14. Would you rather be stuck on an island with only the 50 Shades Series or a series in a language you couldn’t read?
Ethically speaking, I wouldn’t be able to read the 50 Shades series so honestly it probably doesn’t matter which one I choose. So I’ll go with whichever has more pages. I’ll need them to start a fire.
15. Would you rather critics rip your book apart publically or never talk about it at all?
Publically. The general public (who make up the majority of book readers) don’t pay attention to critics anyway. Remember, no critic ever praised 50 Shades of Gray or Twilight. Then again, I wouldn’t want to have written either of those series.
16. Would you rather have everything you think automatically appear on your Twitter feed or have a voice in your head narrate your every move?
As long as that voice in my head sounds like Tom Waits I’d definitely go for the voice in my head.
17. Would you rather give up your computer or pens and paper?
I could never turn my back on ol’ Compy. If the choice had to be made I’d unfortunately have to give a big FU to paper. Sorry Dunder Mifflin.
18. Would you rather write an entire novel standing on your tippy-toes or laying down flat on your back?
If I was on my back, the novel would take much, much longer. I have this weird issue where if I lay down I’ll generally fall asleep within 10 minutes (I think this “weird issue” I have is medically referred to as “being a lazy, unhealthy slob”). That being said, I’d still go for laying on my back, as long as I was allowed to build a rig first that would allow me to write while on my back. Something with cranes and pulleys would be nice.
19. Would you rather read naked in front of a packed room or have no one show up to your reading?
For the sake of anyone who would be in attendance I would most definitely rather have no one show up. I’ve had readings at which only 5 or so people showed up, so having nobody show up really isn’t that much of a stretch.
20. 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’ve read plenty of books that fall into both categories. Given a choice, I’d go for the one that is written well. I can be enamored with great language for much longer than I can be hooked on a strong plot lacking that great language.
And here's Caleb's response to A Lee Martinez's question:
Would you rather be able to write one (and only one) page of fiction a day (that could be part of a larger book eventually or just short stories or whatever) or only be able to write for one week a year? In both cases, everything you write would be amazing.
Probably a full page of fiction every day, because that’s actually quite a bit more than my current non-Would-You-Rather scenario output. Most days I manage a couple hundred words. Writing a full page every day would actually be quite nice.
But the heart of the question, consistency vs. a single burst, the single burst would be nice. I’d like to be able to get my pages out and then have the rest of the time for marketing.
Check back next week to see how Wayne Franklin answer's Caleb's question:
Would you rather get drunk in a dive bar with J.K Rowling or attend a church service with Chuck Palahniuk?
Caleb J Ross's fiction and nonfiction has appeared widely, both online and in print. He is the author ofCharactered Pieces: stories, Stranger Will: a novel, I Didn’t Mean to Be Kevin: a novel, Murmurs: Gathered Stories Vol. One, and As a Machine and Parts. He is an editor at Outsider Writers Collective and moderates The Velvet Podcast, which gathers writers for round table discussions on literature.