Today I have the pleasure of introducing author Greg Levin who will be sharing his thoughts on reading and writing, and details of his new book, In Wolves’ Clothing.
Greg on Writing
What motivates you to write?
The desire to remain sane. Kafka was spot on when he famously said, “A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.” I can sometimes make it two or three days without working on a novel, blog post or grocery list, but after that I absolutely MUST write. Even when I’m on vacation in paradise with my beautiful wife, I need to scratch out a page here and there to keep the crazy away. Too much sun and surf and relaxation terrifies me.
Your biggest writing distractions?
My wife’s desire to go on vacations in paradise. That, and any kind of noise other than the clicks of my own keyboard and synapses. I wear silicone earplugs whenever writing to avoid being pulled out of my fictional world by such annoying sounds as my wife saying good morning, my teenage daughter sneaking back into the house, or my forgotten cats begging me to feed them. I know this makes me seem a little selfish and mean, but in my defense, I’m not a very good person.
What are your favorite books or sites you go to for writing tips/advice?
It’s been a while since I’ve referenced the following books (and maybe it’s time I revisit), but I’d have to say Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life and Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel. As for sites on the Interweb, I regularly click to Writer Unboxed, Lit Reactor and Writer’s Digest. Joanna Penn’s site—The Creative Penn—is another excellent online resource for writers, newbies and veterans alike.
Least favorite thing about writing?
That’s easy—the fact that I can’t quit it. It’s got me by the goodies and will never let go. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing, but there are times when the relationship turns abusive and I just want out. I’ve tried to leave in the past, but she always finds me and lures me back with her irresistible guile and powerful verbs.
What do your friends and family think about you being a writer?
My friends all think it’s fantastic … until I come out with a new novel and camp outside their homes until they buy multiple copies and write a rave review on Amazon. It’s tiresome for everyone involved.
As for my family, they’re extremely supportive—even when I’m losing my mind and being belligerent and/or neglectful while trying to finish a book. When I do finally finish, my parents always read it in one sitting, then call me afterward to tell me it’s brilliant. I should point out my parents are drinkers. My wife, she’s a bit too supportive. Whenever I even joke about quitting the writing game, she slaps me around—much the way writing does, albeit with better intentions. Still, having someone believe so strongly in you is dangerous.
Most important things a writer should spend money on?
If you’re an indie author like me, you can’t skimp on cover design, editing, proofreading, formatting and marketing. It’s also a good idea to fork over some cash for a course on how to be a drug kingpin or a jewel thief—that way you’ll always have plenty of money to pay for all those other items I mentioned. Finally, bourbon and vodka. (But never mix the two. That’s unhealthy.)
How do you measure your success as a writer?
By the word. It’s a lot more gratifying than measuring success by the royalties. Delusional is my middle name.
What advice would you give to yourself if you were starting the writing journey again?
I’d tell myself debut novels very rarely do well, so it’s better to start off with your third or fourth. I’d also tell myself that trying to make it as a writer is a grind, and that the grind is often painful and miserable, and that it’s important to use that pain and misery to write something worth a damn.
And to never quit. Because you can’t. And if you can, then you were never a writer to begin with. (Insert image of me dropping a mic and confidently strutting away … then blushing upon the realization I still have several interview questions left to answer.)
As a reader
What is your favorite book quote?
Oh my, I have to choose just one? That’s like asking me to choose a favorite snowflake or Rocky film. Hmmm, I think I’ll have to go with the following staggeringly good one from Denis Johnson—an amazing writer we lost earlier this year:
“Talk into my bullet hole. Tell me I’m fine.” (From Jesus’ Son.)
Favorite book hero and/or villain, and why?
I have two favorites, but (spoiler alert) they are really the same person. The first is the unnamed protagonist of Fight Club, and the second is Tyler Durden of Fight Club. I could go on for days explaining why they/he are/is my favorite hero/villain, but I must respect the first rule of Fight Club and not talk about Fight Club. I’ve already said too much.
Your most influential book?
This may shock you, but it’s Fight Club. It’s the book that really got me into contemporary transgressive fiction. And it’s not even my favorite book by Chuck Palahniuk. But it’s the one that awoke in me a fresh new way of writing—dangerous prose with a minimalist bent. Prose that is dark and startling, but also peppered with pathos, humor and humanity.
Warning: Humble-brag ahead. … You can imagine my elation—and my terror—when, after having been a huge fan of Palahniuk’s for years, I got selected by him to participate in his inaugural “Writing Wrong” workshop in Portland this past spring (along with a dozen other writers). Every Monday for ten weeks I got to sit in a room with Chuck, read sections of In Wolves’ Clothing (a work in progress at the time), and have him tell me everything I had to fix to make the book as good as I had deluded myself into thinking it already was. The whole experience was extremely rewarding, and humbling. Most importantly, it gave me the ability to name-drop Chuck Palahniuk during interviews for the rest of my life.
Tell us what you are currently reading and your verdict so far?
I’m reading Kiss Me, Judas by Will Christopher Baer. It’s dark, sardonic and absurd. You know, the perfect book to bring to the beach. A fellow writer recommended it to me after shaming me for having never read it. I don’t know why it took me so long to discover Mr. Baer’s writing talent. I guess I’ve just been too busy trying to discover mine.
If you could have a signed copy of a book by an author (dead or living) what book would it be and why?
The Bible. Because I want to know who wrote it, and because I’d make millions charging people admission to see my signed copy. But I don’t want to end this interview on such a snarky note, so I’m going to provide another answer: Fight Club. You know, in case I ever lose my current copy that Chuck Palahniuk signed for me. Did I mention I know Chuck?
Before I go, thank you very much, Georgina (or is it Gee? Or G. L.?) for giving me such valuable real estate on your most excellent blog. Also, a huge thank you to your readers, who hopefully stuck around here till the end so I can remind them to check out my brand new novel, In Wolves’ Clothing..
Gee: You’re welcome 🙂
About the book
You are living in the your latest novel. Where are you living, and what is it like?
As the protagonist of In Wolves’ Clothing, I’m based in present-day LA, which is nice if you can stand the brutal traffic, brutal sunshine and all the brutally beautiful people. I, personally, cannot. So it’s a good thing I travel the globe for my job. I might be in Phnom Penh one week, Mumbai the next, and Rio de Janeiro the week after that. It’s not as glamorous as it sounds. Not even close. After all, there’s nothing glamorous about pretending to be a pedophile. Yup, that’s what I do for work. If you know of a better way to rescue victims of child sex trafficking, feel free to share it with me. Until then, my team and I will keep hopping on planes, drinking with pimps, and pulling off the most heartbreaking sting operations you can imagine.
About Greg Levin
Greg Levin is an award-winning author of contemporary fiction with a dark comedic tinge. He resides with his wife, daughter and two cats in Austin, Texas, where he’s currently wanted by local authorities for refusing to say “y’all” or do the two-step.
Zero Slade is not a bad guy—he merely plays one when saving children’s lives.
During his seven years on a team fighting child sex trafficking around the globe, Zero’s become quite good at schmoozing with pimps, getting handcuffed by cops and pretending not to care about the Lost Girls he liberates. But the dangerous sting operations—along with Zero’s affinity for prescription painkillers—are starting to take their toll on his marriage. And sanity.
You can also follow Greg on his social media sites!
If you have recently published a book and would like to feature in an author interview, please email me at TheWritingChimp@gmail.com