Today, author Brian Paone takes over my page, whose short, “Two Gunslingers,” was just published in the anthology “A Contract of Words,” which includes 28 authors from all over the world. Here is what he had to say about life, writing, and his story:
1. Besides writing, what is one thing you couldn’t live without?
Music. Music drives almost every minute of the day for me. And 80% of what I write is considered rock fiction, which means it’s a novelization or adaptation of a song or album. Music is on probably 20 hours a day in my house and 100% of the time in the car.
2. What was the inspiration for your story?
“Two Gunslingers” is a rock-fiction adaptation of Tom Petty & The Heartbreaker’s song of the same name.
3. If a genie could grant you 3 wishes, what would you wish for?
A 1983 DeLorean, that #14 allows for more than 1 answer, and for Pink Floyd to reunite.
4. Has reading influenced your decision to be a writer? What book(s) made you want to write?
I wanted to become an author because of reading. Stephen King has been my favorite author since 1989, when I read The Dark Half. But before that, I was really into HP Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe and other “classics.” I wrote my first story in 1988 and always wanted to be a writer, but it was discovering King a year later when I just knew unabashedly that’s what I was going to do.
5. Would you describe your writing process? For example, do you write in a specific place, have music playing or is that a no-no, lean toward outlining specifics, or are you a pantser?
I got my own office in 2015 when we moved from Japan to North Carolina, so everything I have written from 2015 onward was written in there. Prior to that, I wrote in our tatami room in Japan, our living room in Georgia, or my bedroom in Massachusetts. Music has been playing for every moment of my writing career. Sometimes I stop typing in-between songs because even that one second of silence disrupts me. I also outline in an every-other way: I outline A, C, E, F and then pants B, D, G.
6. When faced with the dreaded “writer’s block”, how do you push through and find inspiration? Is there a ritual or process you have to get yourself back on track?
I have the opposite problem. I have too many ideas. I suffer from writer’s diarrhea.
7. Did you know how your story would end when you started writing it? If not, did plans change while writing or did you improvise when you arrived?
Yes, because the song has a definitive ending to its story. The last verse alludes to what happened to the two gunslingers at the high-noon duel.
8. If a movie were to be made of your story and you were in charge of casting, who would play your characters? Who would direct?
Sam Elliott would play the shady barkeep, Jason Bateman would play the lead gunslinger, and Emilio Estevez would play the secondary one. Rose Byrne would be the female in the audience, just so I could meet her. I would direct it, duh!
9. How close did your story end up being to the original concept you had in your mind? What were the biggest changes? Why did you make them?
I had never tried to write a western before. Ever. In fact, I’m not really a big fan of the genre as a whole. But that song just wouldn’t go away when I was brainstorming for my source material. I was originally going to adapt Live’s “Rattlesnake,” but it seemed every time I put my music collection on Shuffle, there was Tom Petty again, singing about these two gunslingers who make a crucial decision at a crucial moment during a duel. Then I would find myself singing the song in the shower. It was like the song picked me this time. So I didn’t really have an “original concept,” it all just poured out of me when I made the decision to adapt “Two Gunslingers.”
10. What book were you reading when you thought, This stuff sells??? Oh, hell, I can do that…
Stephen King’s Night Shift. My second published novel—my “horror” novel, if you will—Welcome to Parkview is a collection of vignettes disguised as a novel, and even though the official statement from me will always be that Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” was the main influence, I can’t help but feel King’s Night Shift and Skeleton Crew collections weren’t the driving force in the manner in which I assembled the novel the way I did.
11. Did you have to do any odd research for your story? How did you conduct that research, and then how was it used in your story?
Yes. I knew nothing about cowboys or horses. Thankfully, there still seems to be people who believe cowboys and horses are real, so there is a lot of info on the internet about these magical and mythical creatures.
12. If you could pick one place to sit and write, where would it be?
In a bar where everyone knows each other, like Cheers, with my laptop at the counter and I get to pick the entire playlist for the night.
13. How closely do you relate to/identify with your characters? What inspired them? Did they take over your story or did you direct them?
I have never been a cowboy, a horse, or a barkeep. Maybe that’s what I’ll be this year for Halloween. And even though my story is an adaptation of song lyrics that are marginally specific, they did seem to take over at one point and dictate a lot of their actions and dialogue, partner.
14. What do you consider your all-time favorite novel? One that you would read again and again.
Just one? I’m gonna go change my answer to that genie question and ask that #14 allows more than one answer … hold on …
Okay, back. Now that I fixed that, here is a shortened list: The Bell Jar, Great Gatsby, Les Miserables, Virgin Suicides, Pillars of the Earth, Clan of the Cave Bear, Imajica, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, The Witching Hour, and all 73 Stephen King books.
15. How much of your writing is outlined from the beginning and how much of it is ‘pantsed’ or written on the fly?
Like I said before, I outline major spots I need my characters to reach and then pants everything in between.
16. What are your favorite snack-as-you-write or eat-as-you write foods? How do they help your creative flow or process?
Raw broccoli and cauliflower with ranch dressing. Then a celebratory taco.
17. How is your ACOW story typical or atypical of your writing in general?
“Two Gunslingers” is a western. I have never even come close to writing a western before. Plus nothing “unearthly” happens; as a speculative fiction author, even my rock fiction stuff always has something that just sits a tad over the line of reality, even when it’s steeped in pure drama, whether it’s paranormal, supernatural, or just “David Lynchian”, I always tend to put a glimpse of Oz somewhere in my stories and novels. “Two Gunslingers” is a western and doesn’t deviate.
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