Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | February 22, 2011

Interview with Julian Gallo, A Man of Many Talents

I’m pleased, today, to introduce you to Julian Gallo.  He’s not only a poet and writer, he’s also a musician.  I’ll let him tell you the story.

T. Hello, please give us a bit of biography to start.

J. I was born and raised in New York City. To date I published 9 books of poetry and two novels. I also contribute articles and essays to a site called BrooWaha.com. I’m also a musician, currently playing bass for New York City singer/songwriter Linda La Porte.

T. When did you start writing?

J. I’ve been writing since I was a little kid but I mainly did it for myself. I was more involved in music over the years. I came to writing pretty late in the game, really. It wasn’t until that I was 30 years old that I began to write seriously and it was primarily poetry. My first chapbook of poems, Standing on Lorimer Street Awaiting Crucifixion came out in 1996 through a great small press called Alpha Beat Press. That was really the encouragement I needed. Since then my poems were published in over 40 small press magazines & journals throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe. I’ve since gotten away from poetry and started writing fiction. I think it’s because most of my favorite writers were novelists and that was something I always wanted to do. My first novel, November Rust, took a long time to write because I was sort of going into it blind and add to that it was a little more on the experimental side, which of course has its own problems when seeking publication. I never really sought publication for it because I really wanted it to be what it was, without any changes that a publisher might want to give it. So I released it myself in 2007. I came out of the whole DIY thing in the 80s in the music scene and that sort of mindset had a very big influence on me. So I decided to take the same approach with regard to my writing. It’s a way to maintain complete control over the work and allow you the freedom you may not have when dealing with a publisher. But for all the positives going that route, there are negatives too. The main one being getting the word out about it, not to mention that there’s still a stigma attached to authors who self-publish. It’s not an easy road to take, really.

T. Was there a favorite writing teacher or mentor? Tell us about him/her.

J. I never had any real writing teachers or mentors and have pretty much struck out on my own. However, there are a couple of writers and small press publishers who were very kind in offering feedback, encouragement, criticisms, etc over the years. The first being Dave Christy from Alpha Beat Press, who was one of the greats in the small press world. He offered some really excellent advice, especially when I got into publishing my own literary zine for a while. The other is a New York writer named Michael Haugh—a very talented writer—who I learned a hell of a lot from. He’s taught me to look at fiction in a way I never looked at it before and it’s been very educational, despite the fact that we are two completely different writers with very different approaches. He has a lot of knowledge concerning literature in general and it has helped me a great deal.

T. Please tell us about your current book; genre and blurb.

J. My current novel is called Nadería. It’s a departure from my first novel in the sense that it’s a more straightforward, linear narrative. I wanted to concentrate more on the story and less on the “experimental” aspects, meaning, I wanted to strip it down, to make it very simple. I wanted to get away from the experimental devices and just write a simple, straightforward story but at the same time to try to make it interesting. After writing November Rust, I spent a couple of years struggling with what to do next. It took a while but I realized that I was just getting in my own way and the trick was to get out of my way and just let the imagination go and go for the story. It’s about many different things but it mainly concentrates on the idea of “meaning”; how people tend to flounder around searching for this one all encompassing “meaning of life” when there may not actually be one that is the same for everyone; that a lot of things we do in order to find it are trivial and unimportant; that we lose sight of what’s really important to us individually because we’re too busy looking “out there” for the answers to things.

T. Do you have a sequel or prequel in mind or in progress?

J. No, not at all. Originally Nadería was conceived as a sequel to November Rust, which is why this novel is also set in Paris. But at some point I came to the decision that I wanted to just open the windows a bit and write different kinds of stories. I really didn’t see the point in revisiting those characters or trying to see what happened next to them. I recall Julio Cortázar saying once that the novel is just a part of the lives of the characters that are in it. They have a life before the story being told and a life afterwards. The novel is merely a particular slice of their lives. I like that idea so I don’t think I’ll be doing any sequels or prequels but you never know. What I have coming up is very different from both of these books and what I am currently working on is very different from that.

T. What are your writing habits? Are you an outliner or do you write “by the seat of your pants?

J. I definitely don’t outline. I think outlining a novel is restricting. I think it’s better to let the story bring you rather than the other way around. I think outlines are great if you have a very definitive story you want to tell, where you know exactly where it’s going to go from beginning to end. I never did it that way. I usually start of with an idea of some kind or a situation and then just begin and see where it goes. I sometimes plot out some scenes, what I want to happen next, but it’s a very rough idea. Sometimes, once you begin writing it, it may take you to a place that you initially didn’t think of. That happened a lot with Nadería. How it was originally conceived and where the story eventually wound up going was far removed from what I initially intended. However the themes are still there. That I try to keep intact.

T. What are your ideas about the future of digital publishing?

J. I think it’s great. I think there’s no shame in self-publishing. As I said, I came out of the whole DIY thing in the 1980s, where musicians released their own records, started their own labels, tried to forge their own niche in the glut of material that is out there. For some reason, there is still a stigma attached to novelists. Poets seem to get away with it but for novelists, self-publishing always had this stigma attached to it. My reasoning is that musicians self-release their own music, filmmakers self-finance, produce and release their own films and no one bats an eye over it. But I think that’s beginning to change now and digital publishing is one way that’s going to change things, especially for those who chose to go independent. If you’re asking about whether or not I think digital publishing will replace hard copy books, I don’t think so. I think there will always be physical books but it’s yet another option for a writer to consider. With the rise of Print on Demand publishing, the idea of putting out your own work has become much easier than it was in the past, where you’d have boxes and boxes of books to try to move. With this technology, it’s now available as a print edition as well as a digital one. For me, personally, I don’t care which one someone wants to buy. Either one is fine by me. I think the publishing field is beginning to reach the point where music and film reached nearly 20 years ago. It’s all good.

T. Anything else to share?

J. I’m a big believer in following your own muse. Write what you enjoy writing and don’t worry about what’s popular or “cool”. We all have a story to tell in our own unique way. Read a lot. That’s important too. There’s never too much to learn. Keep your mind open and definitely do not fall in with cliques. Do your own thing, whatever that may be, and just be true to yourself.

T. Thank you.

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