Friday, November 8, 2013

Interview Sessions: Volume 5.3

Meet Get Reacquainted with Nicholas Daniel Michelis.

We know him. We love him. We couldn't get rid of him if we tried. Nicholas Daniel Michelis, the mind and voice behind the excellent "Grazers," which appeared as part of our second reading, is coming back for more. 

In case you missed the first interview and profile we did with Nicholas, here's a brief primer to get you up to speed on the man and his manuscripts.

We here at the Ruckus Headquarters [ED.'S NOTE: see "basement"] recently had the chance to accompany NDM on a visit to David Bowie Is, the exhibit now running at the AGO. Now, we still don't know exactly what David Bowie is (a man with worse than average handwriting? a pretty decent painter? frequently overdressed?), but we do know one thing: Nicholas hasn't lost his edge. 

In person, NDM cuts an imposing presence. Blue eyes so intense that they can reheat your coffee, and a sharp, contemplative intelligence which never fails to dig deeper -- exactly the man you want at your side in an art gallery. It is unsurprising, of course, that this same intensity and intelligence carries over to his writing. Having read an earlier version of the story he plans on reading for us on November 17th, we're tickled pink to tell you all that this is the norm, and not the exception. 

Nicholas' writing is complex. It is carefully thought out, painstakingly executed, and, when read aloud by the author himself, absolutely enticing. We could go on for hours about Nicholas and his work, but we think that maybe we'll let the man speak for himself. Nicholas was kind enough to answer the interview questions we sent him recently, and we think that his answers will give you exactly the insight you need into what Nicholas brings to the table. In fact, we would be surprised if, after reading the interview below, you weren't chomping at the bit to sit down with a pint and bask in the man's work. We know that we'll be there.

Enjoy Nicholas' answers below, or check out our Interview Sessions Vol. 2.2 for more.



1) Just to get us warmed up, let’s start this interview off with a perennial Ruckus
favourite: For someone who’s never experienced your work before, how would you
describe it? (Bonus points if you can also describe your writing for us as a dish that
would be found on the menu of a fancy bistro.)

Ahem. For those of you who have not dined at Ruckus before, I personally recommend
the Michelis Lamb Burger. The burger is made of fresh ground lamb meat imported
from Greece that has been aged 2-3 years in dark sarcasm, hung low in a hand-dug pit
of despair. Served on a brioche bun and glazed with unrelentingly complex storylines,
our talented chefs top the sandwich with avocado purée, micro tabouleh, spicy tomato
compote, aioliv, and deep fry it all in fear and confusion. The dish is served with
explosive, manic prose, fingerling potatoes, and smoked eggplant hummus. $25.

2) Nick, you’ve read with us before. Now, on the cusp of your second appearance, what
has changed? How has your writing progressed? Are there any new projects you’re

I feel like everything has changed since that reading in July. I’ve discovered a passion
for teaching and am currently applying to Bachelors of Education programs so that I can
focus on my future as an educator of primary students. It all sort of happened around the
time of that first reading. I was asked by my brother’s grade 6 teacher to help her class
record and edit short films they had been working on. That turned into an opportunity
to teach a media literacy class on media texts, purposes, and understanding the concept
of a target market. It’s now November and I’m back in the classroom two days a week
as volunteer teacher. I have a math lesson to teach on Tuesday. Decimals! I am very
nervous. Numbers make me edgy.

As for my writing, I dip back into the work now and again without the grand delusions I
used to carry. For example, I thought I’d one day see myself on a mammoth cruise ship
delivering lectures on how awesome my work is and how everyone should buy it and
revel in its importance for $200 a pop. I don’t do that anymore. That’s not to say I don’t
want to write any more, but I am a lot less angry with myself for taking my time and
thinking up a story worth writing.

No new projects, just old ones renewed.

3) You’ve mentioned before that “Grazers,” the piece you read for us last time, took a
very long time to bring to a point that you were happy with (around 1-2 years, as I recall?
). Anyone reading your work can tell that you are very, very careful with your sentences,
but what about your process specifically benefits from the time it takes?

I had an English teacher in high school that once told our Writer’s Craft class to “kill
your darlings.” I spent years trying to figure out what the hell he was talking about, but I
think it means something like “hold no attachments” and “edit your work ruthlessly.” On
the opposite end of that spectrum, you have the philosophy that reads, “first thought, best
thought,” which is all well and good if you’re Jack Kerouac but not so much if you’re

Often times, when I start out writing a story, it’s because I think it’s the most important
thing going on in my life. The story is. Like really, really mind-crushingly important. It’s
so important that I don’t sleep. I can’t eat because it’s so important. I think about ways to
boost its importance in the eyes of others. And then I stop. Hours, days, weeks, months,
years later. The story isn’t done and it’s not done because it’s not important. I’ve inflated
the idea, overkilled it with solipsism; I think it’s the most important thing, but it doesn’t
make sense to anyone else I read it to. Hours, days, weeks, months, years later. I carefully
plot the murder my favourite words, chop down my favourite sentences, and then glue
together the remaining fragments. Eventually, the work gets back to the point where it’s
readable and someone says that they like it and I begin to love again. I don’t know what
about this process specifically benefits from the time it takes me to write. I am, however,
100% certain that this process is not for the feint of heart. I used to spend the majority of
my time worrying about not writing. Now I walk my dog more often.

4) For our chapbooks at the second Ruckus, you contributed a collection of four poems.
Though Ruckus is a little more familiar with your short stories, we are curious: is poetry
something that you pursue with any regularity? How, for you, does the experience of
writing poetry differ from constructing a short story?

I have no idea what poetry is. I spent a long time thinking about how to best answer this
question and I just can’t figure out what, at the root, poetry is. So I guess that means I
don’t know how to write it, or have any idea what I am doing when I am writing it, so I
don’t write it very often. I, like any creative writer, would like to think my eyeballs are
hearts and my fingers are pithing needles and that I can extract the beauty from beauty-
filled things and the truth from truth-filled things and stick it in a .docx file and send it
to magazines and website inboxes and friends. But the reality is that I probably wouldn’t
know what either of those things looked like if they wore signs around their neck and
tried to pick me up from the airport. However, I can say that that I feel like I can get away
with a lot less explaining in a poem than in a short story. Because I don’t know anything
about poetry, I’m under the impression that readers of poetry want to feel something first
and understand it later, where as writers of poetry feel a feeling first and never really
understand what exactly it’s all about no matter how much they write about it and that’s
what keeps them writing. When I say something in a story, I try not to say it again. In
poetry, you can say the same thing over and over again and never get bored of it. But
don’t quote me on that.

5) Since last we spoke, you wrote a great interview with us for Siren Song. What can you
tell us about Siren Song and their work? Are your blogs going to be a regular feature?

So what I can tell you about Siren Song is that my good friend Zachary and his father
Zsolt Alapi basically run the thing. Zsolt probably more so because Zach, though
originally from Montreal, currently lives in Banff where he’s working as a Literary Arts
Work Study with Banff Centre Press, housed at The Banff Centre for the Arts. (Follow
him on Twitter @ZacharyAlapi.)
Zach approached me during the prelaunch of their new website (
) and asked me for some content. So, I put together our interview. I think that, since I
am virtually incapable of writing regularly, whenever I have something I can send it to
Zach and he will tell me if it’s good for the website or not. Which reminds me that I still
have to write a review of my very funny, Vancouver-based, spoken word artist/friend
Matt Loeb’s ( new album, Enough Has Happened.
Basically the only reason I’ll listen to spoken word poetry is if Matt Loeb tells me to.
Actually, he probably has a better idea of what poetry is than I do. I should get him to
answer that poetry question…

6) To wrap up the longer questions: Give us a [in your case, new] pairing of one of your
favourite authors and one of your favourite beverages (alcoholic or not). Why do they go

I’m going to pair up Thomas Pynchon’s new offering Bleeding Edge with Coca Cola (and
white Bacardi rum) because their true identities are pretty much unknown and they’ll be
damned if they’re ever gonna let the secret recipe out.


1) Desert island novel: From Panic to Power: Proven Techniques to Calm Your
Anxieties, Conquer Your Fears, and Put You in Control of Your Life by Lucinda Bassett

2) Best restaurant in Toronto: Caplansky’s Deli

3) Least favourite thing about your cell phone provider: Everything! Am I right folks?

4) An animal you’ve always wished you could have as a pet: Dragon

5) A colour you would never paint your living room: Beige

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