Mel Bosworth is one of the tireless soldiers of indie lit. He seems to live and breath support for writers and small presses. He writes with romantic abandon. And his novella, Grease Stains, Kismet, and Maternal Wisdom is not only a testament to his skill as a writer, but his love for writing. The Boz and I had a long-gestating conversation through Facebook messages.
RWB: There are a lot of ways Grease Stains, Kismet, and Maternal Wisdom could be described. I think I might lean toward post-modern love story, though I was struck by the subtle similarity to Victorian love stories, in the sheer innocence of the relationship between David and Samantha. When you think about the book, what’s the natural description you associate with it?
MB: It’s a love story, for sure, but it’s juiced with meta-fictional elements as well as magic realism, or magic surrealism. But at the end of the day it’s a simple love story.
RWB: Geography is important in this story. While it takes place in the Boston area, there is the lingering threat of distance. The idea of the long distance relationship acts as an antagonist here. Was that an intention when writing the book, long distance as a possible harbinger of fate for the relationship between David and Samantha?
MB: Yes, I suppose that was an intention. There’s nothing quite like the strain of a long-distance relationship. It makes the time spent together much more urgent, and the looming promise of once again being separated is a great natural antagonist. And for some reason I just thought of that scene from Midnight Express where the girlfriend meets the imprisoned boyfriend for a few brief moments. That scene is sad and intense, and captures, I think, at least part of what Grease Stains is trying to capture, that human connections are fragile and precious, and, whether held apart by great distance or men with guns, those connections are what drive us, what keep us hopeful when times grow dark.
RWB: There’s a lot of music mentioned in the book, and I imagine that’s one of the major outside forces in your writing. What other works, books, music or otherwise, beside Midnight Express and bands like Depeche Mode (that were mentioned in the book) were present influences as you worked on Grease Stains?
MB: Well, I wrote the initial draft of “Grease Stains” many moons ago, and at the time I was reading stuff like James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces and Eggers’ Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Both of those books were great influences on the writing. Frey offered the concise, propulsive punches and Eggers served up the wild prose. As for music, well, man. I was listening to Low, The Pogues, Dead Can Dance, Ween, Iron & Wine, Elliott Smith…all the usual suspects. When I hear particular songs now I’m transported back in time. Music is good like that. Time machine.
RWB: So, it sounds like you worked on Grease for some time. Was it a period of steady revision or was it something you came back to more recently to finish off and start submitting? Or had the submitting been going on for some time as well.
MB: It was something I kept coming back to. The initial draft was probably twice as long as the final draft. When I started thinking about submitting it, that’s when I took out the big cleaver. Chopping 20K words is easier to do when a few years have gone by, although I still like a lot of those words. Hm. Someday the whole mess’ll get out there. Maybe. Anyway, after a couple of hard copy rejections, I sat on it for another year. Then I found my comfort zone online. Started to get a sense of what the hell was going on out here. So I shined it up one last time and blasted it out, e-style. The rest is Greasy history.
RWB: With this one cleared off your hard drive and released to the world what do readers have to look forward to from you, what’s forthcoming, what’s being worked on?
MB: Da future! What will da future bring? Well, the future will bring “Freight,” a novella slated to drop sometime next year from Folded Word Press. Probably late spring, early summer. I’m working on final edits right now. Trying to keep the hair out of its face. Trying to make it road worthy. Because nothing scares me more than having the wheels fall off the car a mile down the road. People get pissed about things like that, and I don’t want good people driving no lemon. Other than that, just trying to keep my foot on the gas. Keeping active out here in the online lit world is a full time job. You know that. We all know that. And a lot of us probably have bags under our eyes and drink too much caffeine. But that’s okay. Because we’re doing something we love. And that’s all that matters.
RWB: You’re a great cheerleader for other writers and small presses. Who/What are some writers, books, and presses that you’re excited about right now as a reader? Which writers, books, presses inspire your own writing?
MB: Right now Dark Sky Magazine is going crazy. And I love to see it. They totally revamped their site, and they’ve got lots of big projects in the works. I was lucky enough to snag a review copy of Ethel Rohan’s Cut Through the Bone from Dark Sky, and weeks later it’s still kicking my ass. Can’t wait to get my hands on that badboy once it’s officially released. And I’ve recently received a copy of Sam Pink’s novel Person. I’ve been sniffing around Sam Pink for a while and figured it was time to dive in. His writing is nothing if not unique. As for writers who get me charged, well, it’s a long list, but xTx, Ben Tanzer, Ravi Mangla, Amber Sparks, Roxane Gay, Christy Crutchfield, Scott McClanahan…they’re all amazing in their own right, and they all have distinct voices that hit me where it counts. They also make me want to work. Which is a good thing. In order to progress as a writer it’s essential to surround ourselves with material that energizes us, that makes us want to fight harder.
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.