I know, everyone’s all like “where’s Ryan’s best of 2009 list” and frankly I’m way ahead of you. And by ahead of you, I mean next week. And by next week I mean, maybe.
The other day I found a t-shirt I thought I had lost six months ago in the trunk of my car. That’s when I got this stroke of brilliance. And by stroke of brilliance, I mean I slapped myself on the forehead and made Homer Simpson-esque noises. But for all intents and purposes it will be known as The Ryan Method, not to be confused with The Rhythm Method, though they are probably equally as reliable.
So, here’s the thing. The perfect question to ask in an interview: “What’s in the trunk of your car.” I’m so convinced this can tell us everything we want to know about someone’s writing. Or at least about how untidy they are. For instance, in my trunk there are weird “souvenirs” from all of my previous jobs. There is a Rolling Stones windbreaker my boss at the gas station gave me from his days as a limo driver for the stars. There is a shop towel from the mechanic’s shop I worked in (I filched it for checking my own oil). There is a 5-in-1 from when I painted houses (after they screwed me out of some $ I figured there was no reason to give them all their tools back, unfortunately this was the only one I had). And there’s the hardhat from my time doing construction in the Arctic Circle.
What can you tell about me from that? That I worked a lot of blue collar jobs. What does that say about my writing? Well, I write a lot about blue collar lives.
Now, you may be asking yourself, “How can we apply this to other people?” And what kind of person would I be if I didn’t give you some examples. So here are a few “real” quotes from some other writers you might’ve heard of regarding their trunks:
E. Hemingway: “Fishing rod. Tackle box. Fitzgerald book torn to shreds. And a marlin carcass, half torn by the shark that was attached to its tail.”
J. Joyce: “A map, of circuitous route, taking you to the driver’s seat, then to the passenger’s, and back, without a care for the shift stick between.”
F. Kafka: “In the deepest corner, the fuzz of the interior is taking a shape of it’s own. In the dark, when you’re driving you can hear the low moans of its matter falling into place.”
The Ryan Method is guaranteed to work (though we will not refund the time you’ve lost reading this or trying to put The Ryan Method into practice) all it’s crunchy goodness on the subject of your interview. Give it a shot.
Ryan W. Bradley has pumped gas, changed oil, painted houses, swept the floor of a mechanic's shop, worked on a construction crew in the Arctic Circle, fronted a punk band, and managed an independent children's bookstore. He now works in marketing. His latest book is Nothing but the Dead and Dying, a collection of stories set in Alaska. He lives in southern Oregon with his wife and two sons.