Thursday, 22 March 2012

Interview: Ira Nayman

For Ira Nayman's site, visit: You can follow him on twitter

Read the interview below!

Me: Tell us bit about yourself.
Ira: I have the most boring life you could possibly imagine. I read a lot. I stare out the window. I spend several hours a day staring at a computer screen. I read some more. I stare out the window a lot more. Some evenings, I have dinner and watch old TV shows on the computer with a dear friend (oh, like you never do it! And, anyway, it would only be interesting to the MPAA and their friends in Congress…). Friday evenings I spend with my family.

I’m Canadian. Need I say more?

And, yet…and, yet, there are strange universes inside my head, some of which I am able to put into words so that I may share them with others.

Me: Have you always wanted to write? When did it start?
Ira:Almost always. You know how some filmmakers had a “conversion experience” when they were young (they were given a camera for their 10th birthday, and all they wanted to do after that was make movies)? When I was eight, I decided that I wanted to devote my life to writing humour. I can distinctly remember having the revelation in the parking lot of my grade school (which, given the wonky state of my memory, means it’s probably untrue, but still…).

The first thing I wrote were parodies of the Sherlock Holmes stories that I was reading at the time. I used the backs of my dad’s legal sized accounting pads (the fronts had too many criss-crossing lines). I wrote three stories; each one took up a single sheet of paper. I remember thinking to myself, “How do writers fill their stories with so much detail?” Since then, I have written 18 collections of short stories, five collections of cartoons (all of which can be found on my Web site), a novel, 15 short stories and novelettes and over 100 (alas, mostly unproduced) scripts for film, radio and television. I guess I must have figured out the secret…

Me: You have a really unique writing style. How did you develop that or is it just a natural flair?
Ira: Thank you for the compliment. At least, I hope it was a compliment – “unique” can mean so many things…

A writer’s style tends to evolve over time. If you look into the archive of my Web site, Les Pages aux Folles (http://www.lespagesauxfolles), you will find articles I wrote as far back as 1984. Although you can see the same impulses in those pieces that drive my current writing, the style has changed substantially since then. This is as it should be: writing from somebody who repeats himself over and over again will get boring, especially if the person writes humour, since a major element of humour is surprise, and repeating the same things over and over again quickly becomes predictable.

Me: How do you get inspiration?
Ira: Let me start by pointing out that the world is every artist’s primary source material. To be an artist, then, you must immerse yourself in the life around you.

Because much of what I write is topical satire, I read two newspapers a day, seven days a week, plus a couple of weeklies on the weekend. I also try to read general interest newsmagazines when I can. When I added a large dose of science fiction to the mix, I bought subscriptions to Scientific American and Scientific American Mind (although there is a lot of science news in newspapers).

When I am out of the house, I always pay attention to what’s going on in my environment. I always carry a camera with me to take pictures of things that are unusual and/or funny. I watch how the people around me interact, and sometimes (mostly when they’re so loud I can’t help it) listen to what they say.

You never know what will spark creativity, so you have to drink as much as you can from the gushing fire hose of life.

Me: Are you releasing anything this year?
Ira: I started Les Pages aux Folles in 2002 – it will be 10 years old (positively ancient in Internet time!) in the first week of September. The site updates weekly, with new topical material, two new cartoons (I can’t draw a straight line to save my life, so I have to be extra creative with them!) and at least one new Alternate Reality News Service article most weeks. Interested readers can watch the fourth and fifth Alternate Reality News Service books take shape right in front of their very sticky eyeballs!

A couple of summers ago, I wrote a novel called Welcome to the Multiverse (Sorry for the Inconvenience). It is about an investigation by members of the Transdimensional Authority, the organization that monitors and polices traffic between dimensions. Although the TA was mentioned in a couple of Alternate Reality News Service articles (and new Alternate Reality News Service articles are incorporated into it), the novel stands on its own. I am currently looking for a publisher for it. I have also written two novelettes which, although they stand alone, will eventually be melded with other work into a second TA novel; I am currently looking for a publisher for them.

In addition, I have written a series of stories that take place in a universe where matter at all levels of organization has become conscious. They feature a character named Antonio Van der Whall, who is an object psychologist. To date, four of these stories have been sold. “A Really Useful Engine” has been published in Even Birds Are Chained To The Sky and Other Tales: The Fine Line Short Story Collection and “Escalation is Academic” has appeared in the anthology UnCONventional. “If the Mountain Won’t Come to Mohammed” was just released in Here Be Monsters 6. And, finally, “Thinking is the Worst Way to Travel” has been accepted into Explorers: Beyond the Horizon; it will be published in the next month or two. Several other stories in the series are currently awaiting editorial decisions at various publications.

Finally, I wrote a short story about everybody in the world waking up and finding that their gender has flipped called “Both Sides. NOW!” That was really fun to write; I hope it is accepted into the anthology for which it was written.

Yeah, I’m profilic – proflic – prolicf – I write a lot.

Me: Which, out of your many, many books, was your favourite to write? And why?
Ira: Seriously? You want me to choose among my children?

I will say that writing the novel was a nov – umm, new experience for me. Because my previous works were collections of short stories, they didn’t require the same kind of immersion in my fictional universe that writing Welcome to the Multiverse did. I really enjoyed that, and hope to be able to do it again (but, of course, that’s a matter of inspiration, over which I have only limited control).

Me: Do you have any advice for fellow writers?
Ira: Building an artistic career is a long-term prospect. It takes time to build an audience. It takes time to master the necessary skills and develop your voice. I recommended to my students (I used to teach part-time at a university in Toronto) that they need to be thinking of a commitment of 30 or 40 years. For this reason, you should only become an artist if you really, really, really, really, really love creating art (and, that’s five reallys, so you know I’m serious about it). There’s no point devoting yourself for that long to something you have no passion for. On the other hand, if you toil for that long and you never become well known, at least you’ve spent your life doing something you love, and very few people can say that.

Quick fire questions:

Me: Vampire or Werewolf?
Ira: Vampire. (A few years back, I wrote 24 episodes for an original – alas, unproduced – TV series about vampires, so I guess I’m emotionally invested…)
Me: Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings?
Ira: Lord of the Rings. While I thoroughly enjoyed the Harry Potter books, nobody would mistake them for great literature, while just about everybody mistakes Tolkien for great literature!
Me: Fast food or a home-cooked meal?
Ira: Home cooked meal (as long as somebody else is doing the cooking…).
Me: Summer or winter?
Ira: Tough call. Growing up with Canadian winters, I got used to the cold and never really liked the heat. Recently, though, I’ve begun to suspect that I have Seasonal Affective Disorder; the last couple of months have been especially hard on me. When I feel physically good, I write the most, so I’m leaning towards summer…
Me: Fork or Spoon?
Ira: Fork. I want the ability to stab my food to keep it from leaving my plate before I have eaten it.

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