Tuesday 9 January 2018

Interview: John Biscello

This week, I'm sitting down for a chat with author John Biscello to learn all about his life, his writing and, of course, his latest novel Raking the Dust.

Firstly, tell me a little about yourself and your background.
I was born-bred-and-raised in Brooklyn, New York. I moved to the dusty wonderland of Taos, New Mexico in 2001, where in many respects I’ve become quite “de-cityfied,” though I’ll always remain a Brooklyn boy at heart. I’m an author, playwright, poet, performer, and I teach drama at an arts-integrated charter school.
How did you first become interested in writing?
Hard to say the exact moment, as I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember. I’ve always loved entering other worlds and realities and at some point, writing became my primary way of doing that or the way which felt very right for my soul. Or another way of saying that, there was an ease of fluency that allowed much of my soul to enter into stories and language.
raking-the-dust, john-biscello, book

Tell me about Raking the Dust.
Raking the Dust is inspired by my experiences in Taos, of various things I went through, of internal journeys I undertook which were very much brought on by the hardscrabble spiritual challenges of life in a town that will break you down and force you to confront some of your core issues. Some of my own core issues are at the heart of this book: addiction, obsession, alienation, a sense of being haunted by the past. All of those elements form the crux and backbone of the novel’s character and explore it through a mirror darkly. And also comically. Darkly funny, starkly funny, autobiographical surrealism, the spirit of carnival, the writing life: I would say all of those terms apply to RTD’s flavour.
What’s the best part of writing fiction?
Getting to explore different, hidden, overlooked realities, other pockets of existence, other selves you may possess or be possessed by that don’t always appear in the light of day, and experiencing them not necessarily as “fiction,” but as a different reality. Not less real, just different from the commonly accepted and agreed upon notion of reality.
What drew you to this tale?
It was one that built up inside me, one that I “lived through,” during my time in Taos. I always wanted or expected to write my “Taos book,” the one that flushed out my impressions, experiences, speculations, etc., rooted in the juxtaposition of being an outsider, a city-boy who randomly wound up moving to (and staying) in a place that was radically different from where and how I grew up. Also, I’ve always been drawn to tales of writers-trying-to-make-it, that heroic, almost child-like effort of trying to make one’s work and mythology a basis for existence, following one’s bliss come hell or high water kind-of-deal. In a sense, RTD is also a homage to those types of novels.
john-biscello, author

What’s your writing process like?
I have a schedule and I do my best to follow it consistently. To me, it’s a routine, a ritual, and if I stray too far from that routine/ritual, I will lose warm, vital contact with whatever it is that brings us the gift of stories and ideas.
What’s the hardest thing about writing?
Having patience and faith in regards to the publishing industry, or the publishing process.
What do you love most about writing?
That deep sense of felt-connection when you are snugly inside a story or poem or whatever. To be alone in that moment, and yet to have this very human and profound sense of connection, is very soul-satisfying.
Which authors inspire you?
Jane Mendelsohn, Simon Van Booy, Dr. Seuss, Henry Miller, Haruki Murakami, Ernest Hemingway, Dylan Thomas, Paul Auster, Julio Cortazar, Jean Rhys, Hermann Hesse, Sylvia Plath, Knut Hamsun. Those are some.
What are you currently working on?
A novel titled No Man’s Brooklyn, which is set in Bensonhurst, the Brooklyn neighbourhood where I grew up. And I just finished the text for a children’s book based on a story about Franz Kafka. It’s titled The Jackdaw and the Doll, and it will be illustrated by a very talented and wonderful artist, Cris Qualiana.
What’s your all-time favourite book?
Wow, just one, that’s tough. Okay, I’m going to cheat and give you three: Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf, Keri Hulme’s The Bone People, and Knut Hamsun’s Mysteries.
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
Movies, dancing, sports, hiking, daydreaming, meditation, yoga, travel, kissing, and love.
For more information about John and his work, you can pay a visit to his website.

What do you think? Share your thoughts, comments and opinions in the comments below!

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