We’ll be talking to a VERY young emerging American writer Laurance Kitts. He is twenty-one, but has already self-published Self-Loathing and Other Forms of Cynicism under the name Laurance Friend, which is now being rewritten and fine-tuned at the moment. He also has a book of poetry, titled The Rising Sails of Hope: Poetry from the Endless Abyss, which alone would be quite an achievement, but he also has stories published on the net, studies at the college and actively writes for freedomactivists.org. You can find him at laurancekitts.com, which is not just a homepage, but also The Slit Your Wrists! E-Zine, where he encourages young artists, painters, writers and musicians to display their work. You’ll have the chance to read his transgressive-noir short story Tommy Boy here …
Hi, Laurance. Can you tell a bit about yourself?
Well as you have covered, I just turned twenty-one. I live in a town that is internationally unrecognized other than its day of fame when Joplin, Missouri became host to a very impolite guest in the form of an F5 tornado. I’m a student at a place called Missouri Southern State University, although I’ve been on a two semester hiatus recently. There’s kind of a toss-up between English or Communications being my main major, but time will figure it all out for me. Most notoriety of mine is not based from any book, but rather my personal website. The Slit Your Wrists! E-Zine portion of the site was added mostly because I was tired of talking about myself and have begun to increasingly notice the lack of representation for upcoming talent.
At such a young age you do so many things, but seem to be quite focused at the same time. How do you manage your productivity?
Young? I’ve been living this whole time just to get this old. It should count for something!
I would say being a very driven person is the simple answer. Unlike tons of people around my age, I see the bigger picture. Seems to me so many of them think that school is the answer to succeed, but they don’t build a network or reputation to match the piece of paper. Or worse they squander talent to temporarily impress people of whatever crowd they are around. Currently there’s not much taking up my time, but when I’m enrolled full-time to school and working, the quantity of my writing lessens. It’s always been something I’ve done in my free time though.
Where do you get ideas for your stories, poems, …? What makes you write in the first place?
They come from all kinds of places. Stories are typically inspired by conversations, dreams, or real life situations. Poetry on the other hand is mainly based from emotions. Most of the poetry I write doesn’t always follow structure and appear more like songs.
As young as the fourth grade I had this notebook full of songs and constantly tried to get bands together. I think it was the expression that drew me to it. The idea that somebody out there is hearing (or reading) the way I feel and inside they feel the same. Tom Waits once said something along the lines that he played music because all other art is just trying to be music. And he was right. It all follows a similar formula. It’s all a story with its own atmosphere.
You are very active on Facebook – many posts appear on a daily basis, some of them are actually quite little literary masterpieces. How is your work and promotion of it benefited by social media?
I’m sure others would disagree with that statement, but thank you. It has built a network somewhat. There are some people that have me on Twitter or Facebook strictly based on the mild hype my website has made. Most are friends and acquaintances from all different parts of my life though.
The greatest networking tool I’ve come across in the writing world is a website called LitReactor. I’ve made several friends in such a short time hanging around on there. The feedback from other writers is the best part of that though. I recommend it to readers and writers alike.
How would you describe your style?
That’s a tough question. I don’t know if I have developed one. When first starting out, I looked to older writers such as Hemingway and Salinger for the way they could tell sad or horrible things in such a classy manner. Lately I’ve learned much from more modern writers such as Chuck Palahniuk, Richard Thomas, Craig Clevenger, Phil Jourdan, and Brandon Tietz. Most of whom I have talked to, been given feedback from, or read essays on the craft from, on the previously mentioned website called LitReactor.
As for genre, I’m all over the map. The novel previously known as Self-Loathing and Other Forms of Cynicism is more or less a romance story with a psychological twist based on true events. Then there is an anthology I’m working on with other writers called Shock & Appall that will be filled with horror stories. One of my stories in there for instance is called Jenny Christ which revolves around a southern Baptist elderly woman going crazy and abusing her daughter Jenny in the name of God, and making her pay for humanities sins. Even the flash fiction piece you will be presenting called Tommy Boy is just something I wrote for fun and shock value. I’m definitely not settled into any certain niche at this time.
What is your opinion on the writer’s mission and where do you see yourself as a writer in ten years?
The publishing world is changing. You look around and the only books you hear about are commercial fiction. Meaning it was written to be a crowd pleaser. It appears as though Hollywood has forced itself into the writing world now more than ever. People need to write for an already existing audience or chances are they won’t be read at all. It has made the writer’s mission more complicated in my eyes. I’ve met so many unpublished people that in some other generation their work would be revered rather highly. The number one best selling genre in most stores is Thriller followed by Romance and it is all a rehashing of previous work, but publishers and stores are going to milk it for all the money they can. The days of old are gone, but I always see myself writing. Even if I’m never a bestseller or made into the next blockbuster and working as a janitor. It’s just something I enjoy regardless. Within ten years I’d be happy to have several stories published in major literary journals and at least one mid-sized press published novel.
What issues do you mainly cover in the activist area of your writing? Any non-fiction book at the horizon?
There’s a broad array of things in that field I am passionate about. Outside of fiction one of the many things I do in writing is journalism. Mostly my fight is for the improvement of society not just in the United States but the world as a whole. That involves anything against war-based politics, factory farming, mistreatment of wildlife for corporate profit, and abuse of people around the world. There are many grey areas in these things and most media only covers it from one point of view. I try to put in the research and give readers either a combination of views, or sometimes even find the actual truth between it all.
I wouldn’t say non-fiction is something I haven’t thought about doing, but currently I sway more toward fictional writing with political undertones to make people think.
Who are your literary heroes?
One of my greatest inspirations is JD Salinger. As far as heroes, the list is rather huge but to be short I’ll only name a few. I adore most things from the Beatnik generation such as Charles Bukowski, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and the better late than never Hunter S. Thompson. Then classics of different ages like Edgar Allen Poe, William Shakespeare, Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell, and Aldous Huxley. Even some modern writers of many different genres such as Chuck Palahniuk, Brian Lumley, Etgar Keret, Stephen King, and Jack Ketchum.
If you didn’t write, you would …?
Most people don’t believe me when I tell them this but when I first started college it was for Criminal Justice. I had this big dream of one day becoming a federal agent in the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I just had another dream eventually, I suppose. It takes some of the same strengths for that line of work that it does to write about some of the things I do. There have also been thoughts of becoming a psychologist and maybe someday I will. However, there are many jobs in writing such as screenplays, journalism, song-writing, and storytelling that makes me confident about it.
Do you have any advice for young (and not so young) writers?
Join a workshop, read essays on the craft, start networking, study the writers you look up to, and if you can, go to school. You’re also not going to get anywhere without some critics. And in the beginning the best critics you can find are ones you respect.
The biggest mistake I made and has taken lots of time to learn from is that this line of work takes more time than you could have ever planned on. I originally scribbled out a first draft of a book and self-published it. It’s only been maybe eight months since then and already I look at it and wonder what the hell I was thinking. As much as I want that story to be out in the world, it may very well be something that doesn’t have a finished product for years. That same story is on its third draft now. Nothing happens overnight and it’s something most people learn very early and quit.
The greatest advice I could give you is that no matter what bad things people say, don’t take it too personal and make it a point to prove every last one of them wrong.
Thank you, Laurance.
Thanks for having me.