This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
What’s your Substack about in one sentence?
Daily fictional stories and a small blood splatter of memoir, written by a guy who has lived and is living an untethered life.
What inspired you to start a Substack?
I became aware of Substack after having a less-than-enchanting experience at another web-based writers’ platform. Substack seemed like the opportunity to prove myself as a writer without compromising my ideals to wring out more pennies.
I hope people who read Roulette Weal feel like they are either spying into lives they would never otherwise interact with or feel like I’ve spied into their life and captured it accurately, scars and dust and secrets.
How do you manage to write a short piece of fiction every day?
The daily writing commitment was something I did impulsively. I hoped it would give potential readers the idea that they were getting value for their buck. I had written a book of 100-word fiction (Humans, Being: A Story a Day for a Year), so I knew I was capable of 100 words per day at the very least. But digging through my brain for story ideas like some kind of neurological American Pickers uncovered a few barns’ full of intriguing thoughts I wasn’t aware I owned.
I’ve had a few days in which panic set in, but it wasn’t for a lack of ideas; it was for a lack of ideas that I could commit to the keyboard in the time I had available to me.
My process is walking and talking ideas into a voice recorder, then writing late at night when my only distraction is my cat staring at me thinking, “Make salmon money, relatively useless human.”
How would you describe your writing style?
People tell me my style is a slightly more chaotic Elmore Leonard, with some garnishes of Pete Dexter and Hunter S. Thompson, maybe a rivulet of two Johns: Steinbeck and Irving. I don’t give style a lot of thought. Telling an honest story is always the objective. Readers will notice I don’t belabor physical traits. I’m introducing readers to a person they will only know briefly, not telling the FBI about the suspect who walked into a bank with a bomb strapped to them. If the character’s behavior resonates with a reader, their mind can fill in what they think that person looks like.
Have you ever felt creatively blocked? What do you do to find inspiration?
I come from a blue-collar, union world in Detroit, and worked in an auto plant. My mom was on strike from her job a few times when I was a kid. One of my favorite quotes about writing is “No one ever got plumber’s block.”
Writer’s block is probably self-doubt. Start writing. One sentence, a line of dialogue, the description of a building. Something will grow, I promise. If it sucks, apologize for it sucking, and rewrite it or move on.
Inspiration is all over the place. If you can’t find inspiration, your problems are deeper than not being able to write a short story. A century ago, people in America were rioting over citizens wearing straw hats past a certain date on the calendar. They were harming other human beings over a garment, and a date created by a dead pope. If people can conjure incredibly strong emotions over hats, it shouldn’t be hard to make a reader find some empathy for the elderly neighbor who names the sparrows or the kid with the prosthetic arm who is a faster grocery bagger than the other baggers at the store.
Who’s another Substack writer you’d recommend?
I like a few of the sports and film blogs on Substack, but I gotta recommend Jim Latham at Jim’s Shorts, who comes from the land of microfiction that gave me my first notoriety, and recently Valentina Petrova’s Life Intelligence really shook my tree fort with intelligent, easy-to-follow breakdowns of psychological phenomena that derail people from their goals and their happiness.