Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Interview Sessions: Volume 1.2

Meet Andrew Shenkman.

If it can be done, there is a good chance that Andrew Shenkman is better than you at it. 
As a musician, he makes up one fifth (a particularly atmospheric and keyboard-y fifth, in fact) of the folk-pop-indie-and-just-generally-exceptional Crowns for Convoy. If you haven't heard of them, well... we won't tell your friends, just so long as you promise to check out their website here. (A handy tip: have a few old plastic bags close by for when your brain blows out of your ears.) C4C, as they are known to those of us who get charged by the word, have played Toronto's famous NXNE festival, and have been described as "Perfect late-night music for drinking with a few friends" (Open 'til Midnight), "Infectiously upbeat and warm, [...] rollicking energy, topped off with a little splash of sunshine" (Lonely Vegabond), and "BlargjhadsfkhjOHMYGOD" (anyone seeing their live set for the first time). 

As a solo artist, Shenkman has also accrued an impressive body of work, including having written scores for City of Words' Get Ready for the Real: The Total Recall Poems DVD, Sven Jurshevski's The Dope Men Gotta Get Paid, and "a non-existent videogame about William H. Macy fighting evil robots" (seriously  check out "bossfight" on his personal blog here). 

And perhaps most pertinently, to put it bluntly, he's a real darn dandy writer. As comfortable writing cinematic science fiction as he is writing intimate, touching portraits of life's stranger corners, his work never fails to surprise and entice. His 2011 piece, "Saltwater," won the This Magazine Great Canadian Literary Hunt for that year, and can be found in all its heart-twisting glory here

In exchange for digging him out from underneath a heap of work related to the Masters program he is currently completing, Shenkman graciously agreed to both answer a few questions for us, and to grace us with his presence/dreamy reading voice on June 15th. The interview is available below, but to see Shenkman in person (along with the frustratingly handsome and talented Jeremy Hanson-Finger), you'll have to join us at the Only Cafe on the fifteenth. (So be there.)

Let's start with something easy: Give us the cereal box break-down of your style — how would you describe it if you only had a blurb on the side of a Wheaties box to sell someone on what you do? (For bonus points, give us a cereal-style title for your body of work, a tagline, and/or some mock nutritional information.)

I'm having a hard time with this one! I don't think it exactly describes my 'style', but no matter what I'm writing I always like trying to make something funny in places that it shouldn't be.

Can you remember the first time an writer's work really reached out and grabbed you? If so, who were they, and what about their writing caught your attention?

I remember reading Slaughter House Five by Kurt Vonnegut when I was in grade five. Even back then I was always shoving books down my face, but I was more of an Animorphs type of reader at the time. I think a lot of that book was lost on me, but I could tell that it was darker and funnier and more touching than anything I had read before that. Like many other folks I was a Vonnegut lifer after that.

As a 'Part 2' to that question: now that you've grown a little as a writer, are there any writers who inspire you, or whose work really makes you want to work harder/better/faster/stronger? Are there any qualities you can point to specifically in their work which stick out to you?

First thing that comes to mind about writers currently making me want to be better is Vince Gilligan and the rest of the Breaking Bad writing staff. They are so 100% loyal to the story and fearless about going wherever that takes them. I know its TV, but it's totally inspiring.

In your own work,are there any themes, images, or characters (etc.) that you find yourself drawn to, intentionally or otherwise? What are they? Why do you think they resonate with you?

I've noticed that I've returned a lot to characters whose experience of the world is kind of fractured. It's a thread that's manifested as mental illness or neurological disorders or narcotic use and one time as really bad food poisoning. I have no idea why!

In the spirit of celebrating reading and writing, how do you like to read? Are you an out-louder? Do you prefer peace and quiet? What's the ideal set of conditions and location for you to read?

If I'm really into a book I can read it anywhere under pretty much any condition. You could be poking me in the ear with a fork and firing off strobe lights and I'll barely notice. It's kind of a mania.
Just for fun, give us a pairing: one of your favourite works/authors and one of your favourite beverages (alcoholic or not). Why do they go together? How do they compliment one another?

How about Mike Mignola and Guinness? That's the first thing that came to my mind.

Because we're all insatiably curious little bastards, can you give us a little taste of what you think you'll be reading come June 15th? 

I'm just working on it now actually. It's kind of non-fictiony, so that'll be different!

Last question: give us a short (less than 75 words) third-person bio blurb about yourself which covers any awards/distinctions you're proud of and what you're tackling right now.

Andrew Shenkman is a writer, as well as a musician and film-maker. He won the 2011 This Magazine Great Canadian Lit Hunt for his short story "Saltwater." He admits that the movie Prometheus had a lot of flaws but is still confused at how negative folks were about that movie.

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