Trial and Error

Interview #1: Vincent W. Sakowski

Author Vincent Sakowski (who appears in the fiction section this issue!) has taken the time to undergo The Dream People inquisition in this, our first step in the Underground Author series. You may be familiar with Vincent's work due to his many appearances online and in print publications. Already known for his distinctive writing style and surreal social commentary, Vincent reveals in this interview the many hidden facets of his creative genius.


I -- The Conversation


John Lawson: I've got a knife to your throat, tell me something interesting!

Vincent Sakowski: I'm a musician as well—not that I play too much these days—can't find anyone to jam with anymore either—everyone I know has gone "respectable" or something. So, interesting that you dropped being an engineer. I rather enjoy the studio.
It was hard even back when I was playing in a band—trying to get together to rehearse, find gigs, etc.—especially for the band I was in, as we were playing probably 75% of our own tunes, and even the cover tunes we did were very obscure. We broke up just as we were really starting to gel, get gigs etc. We do have recordings of a few of our tunes, but little else. Just a memory now.

jl: Man, that's rough...I hate to see that happen, but I guess it's always the way. So, what kind of music were you doing?

vs: Well, we all came from different backgrounds. The band was together, but needed a bass player—I played guitar, but my bro-in-law, Alec, asked if I'd play bass, so I said sure. Ummmm, they were a Christian Rock band, BUT I wasn't. So mostly our tunes were more about the human condition, etc. etc., though some of the boys had a little more holy in their lyrics. As for me, I snuck in what lyrics I could. Musically though, like I said we were pretty diverse and all of us could play a number of instruments, so we'd switch for certain songs. e.g.) on everyone's songs I played bass, but on my songs I switched to guitar. And we could switch around like that. Again, musically, while we all had a common rock root, we each brought something different. I brought a progressive/acid element, Alec brought folk, Kevin brought jazz, and Colin brought pop. So we had quite an interesting mix. Sometimes jamming on two chords for ten minutes, other times dropping into free form jazz, others working on our tunes.

jl: Wow, so you have a very diverse background! I'm impressed.

vs: Thanks. I'm also an artist, dramatist and more—I "dabble" a lot.

jl: I see. So, creativity is just ingrained in your nature. What type of artwork are you/have you done, if I may be so bold?

vs: I've worked a lot with clay, also, with water color and ink. I've devised kind of a hybrid where I paint on paper, etc., but then do ink on glass over top. The "ink on glass" comes from a Ukrainian tradition, but usually it's only done on its own—so I thought combining them would be cool. I don't spend much time doing art these days though—I'd like to, but I just don't. So mostly, if I get an idea, I sketch it in ink, then file it away. Sometimes though too, I've taken those images and implemented them in my fiction—such is the case in UNPLUGGED.

jl: Let me clarify something—do you mean using an image as inspiration for a scene, character, etc., or as in illustrating your own work?

vs: Well, in the case of SOME THINGS ARE BETTER LEFT UNPLUGGED, it was picture for inspiration. I would have loved to have had UNPLUGGED illustrated as it is such a visual novel, but Eraserhead Press being a small press such is not the case. Same thing with THE HACK CHRONICLES—my plan was always to have it as a graphic novel—with several pictures or more/story sometimes with the text interwoven with the imagery, so I still hope to do that one day. In an instance with UNPLUGGED, there's a scene later in the book, where the man and the sentinel are together in a mountain range, one of my sketches was of a volcano going off, but what it was blowing out basically was people—or parts of them anyway—blood, bone, etc. etc., so I used that image in the book. You'll see when you get there.


II -- The Possibilities

jl: Yes, a lot of people seem to be struck by the incredible images you plant in their minds...I think more than one reviewer was blown away by the prospect of a volcano spewing people. And HACK nothing else, it is totally a unique reading experience, or more had the feel of a graphic novel/comic book/film/TV show. It was a very intensely visual experience, I felt, only you cast the images on the screen in the mind, the way fiction is really supposed to work. Have you considered TV or screenplays?

vs: TV, etc.—yes very much so, it's always been my plan to get my work on the screen—particularly the big screen, since my material is often bizarre, geared for adults and so forth—not really the best for TV. So, I've started on a screenplay for UNPLUGGED—but it's problematic because there are so many scenes where there's no dialogue—just visuals, some action, etc. So I have to figure out how to convey that without simply just cutting and pasting the novel onto a screenplay. HACK too, would make a great movie, I think—I'd love to get that on the screen—with someone like Lynch, or Ridley Scott at the helm. Of course, if I can't do it myself.

jl: Wow, that'd be a sight to see. Yes, I agree about HACK...maybe a Universal Pictures summer release some day.

vs: Yes, hopefully. I think while you can write whatever you want, especially in the small press, a lot of people/most people aren't going to see it, but get it up on the big screen, and bam—people don't seem to mind the weirdness as much then either. I.e.) with HACK, many say how intense/relentless it is it's imagery, breakneck pacing, etc.—but put that into a movie—and granted it would probably be just as exhausting, but I think people, would feel like that they just got off the best/weirdest roller coaster they've ever ridden.

jl: If you mentioned those words to a producer: breakneck imagery, relentless, weird roller coaster, I'm sure they'd buy or option. The problem is getting in the door. But it could be a great vehicle for David Fincher ala Fight Club.

vs: Yes, one of the things I've been trying to do with the promo of UNPLUGGED for example, is find info on all the artists that I've enjoyed, been influenced by, etc. so that I can possibly send them a copy. And yes, part of that is a bit mercenary, a bit of wishful thinking, but at the very least, my main intention is simply to "pay back" a little, perhaps entertain those who have entertained me for so long.

jl: Obviously you've already set the stage, so to speak [har har], for a career writing dialogue and action. How long were you involved in the live theater?

vs: Like most kids, I did plays in elementary school, then in high school, there wasn't the best program. Only a yearly musical, a variety night, and a drama night, which consisted of a couple of short plays. And I didn't take part in those plays until Grade 11. (My lack of involved in high school is a long story, which I won't go into now.) But my real involvement in drama, was at the University of Saskatchewan. I started my first year with only three classes: English, Drama, and Philosophy—the only three I knew for certain I wanted to take. It only took me the year to realize that philosophy was a waste, so I continued with English and Drama. I received my Honors Degree in 93 in both. (I took five years to get a 4 year degree—I saw too many friends dropping classes, failing, etc., so I took my time.) Over those five years, I took acting, then in my last year I took a directing class, which I found I enjoyed even more than acting. And in directing, I did several of my own plays—generally one acts, or even shorter. Then I did the Fringe in summer of 93, with a one act: "HISTORY HAS BEEN CANCELLED TODAY" and again in the summer of 95, with a full-length play: THE PROGRESSION OF THE PSYCHOPATH (A Comedy). But here in Saskatoon, unless you're affiliated with a theater, it's very difficult to get rehearsal space, find actors, etc. Plus, I was also doing some rather bizarre pieces, and it's pretty conservative around here, so sometimes the reception wasn't the best. So after 95, I focused more on fiction—too many frustrations with the drama scene here.

vs: Ack, would you prefer shorter/concise answers???

jl: Not at all, we are here to get to the bottom of your crimes...I mean, learn more about you.

vs: One thing too, the important thing with doing drama, is that it heavily influenced my fiction writing, in that I often use a lot of dialogue to carry the story. I think it comes very naturally to me. Also, the visual aspect. So when I go into earlier drafts though, I really have to look at the other elements, the other senses as they are often lacking.

jl: After reading your work I imagine what you say is very true, that your subject matter has been met with some resistance at times. What sort of topics really excite you, or are you more interested in certain writing styles?

vs: Excite me? My fiction—well, my writing in general is very reactionary—i.e.) I see something, have some experience, hear a single line, and something clicks, and I'm off. One thing that does excite me is music. I find a lot of inspiration in that. I usually don't play anything when I'm writing, unless I'm going for something very specific. But otherwise, I think my best work, just originates by a surprise—again something happens, then I have to get it on paper. As for writing styles—when I write, I look for the best way to tell the story. Going back to HACK for example. Way back when I used to write in a much more conventional a la Stephen King style—long prose, big paragraphs, etc. Then when it came to writing HACK after the idea came to me, that style didn't work at all. I tried several times, but nothing worked, so I had to find a new way to write, then HACK was born, but that style is rather extreme, and I didn't want to use it for everything, so I toned it down, and found my voice I think for the first time, and I've been working on it ever since. Sometimes this new style doesn't work either, and I have to find another way to express the story. I really believe there are countless ways to tell a story. The sad, and extremely frustrating thing is most editors and publishers aren't open to them.

jl: That's certainly true. I know that most editors are looking for something "marketable" (similar to a famous writer) so a writer such as yourself must run into some very frustrating walls at times. Do you feel the market for unusual entertainment is growing, in terms of people who are willing to distribute it?

vs: I think so, but it's going very slowly. People need to get kicked in the ass once in a while—with a book, or film, then they go "OH, strange, but I... like... it." They just aren't aware of the possibilities sometimes, especially with the mass marketing, Oprah book club, Chicken Soup, etc. Again, I think the largest movement is in film, mostly because people don't read as much anymore, and the book selections in most stores is so limited that they simply don't see it. But then for example, a book (and later film) like FIGHT CLUB comes along, and people are blown away. I know I was. So, it's happening, but nowhere near fast enough for my tastes. That's why I think it's so important for publishers like Eraserhead, and e-zines like THE DREAM PEOPLE to keep pushing forward—show people all the possibilities.

jl: While I am happy that publishers like Eraserhead Press do exist, it's kind of frightening how few and far between they are. How did you get involved with EHP?

vs: I happened to have a story in Winedark Sea—another surreal mag that died after one issue—and Carlton had some poetry, which I rather enjoyed. Then in the bios, it mentioned EHP, etc. And at that time, I was new to surfing a lot, and especially I hadn't found anyone like EHP before, so I checked out his site, and realized that he and EHP were exactly what I was looking for all this time. So I sent him a couple of stories for The Earwig Flesh Factory. First, I sent him the first story from HACK, and mentioned Winedark. He liked BIG FISH, SMALL TOILET BOWL a lot, but said that "it wasn't extreme enough for EFF," but that he'd like to hang on to it for a chapbook. So I sent him two more stories, plus I told him him that BIG FISH was a stand alone, but also the first of six stories. So, I got into EFF, got HACK as a chapbook, then when Carlton wanted to switch over to novels he contacted me. So it's been a long roller coaster ride with EHP.

jl: Well, thanks so much for your time. This has been very informative.

vs: Not a problem. Any other questions you would like to ask?

jl: No, the fat tabby told me that I don't need them any more. Jennifer will lead you to the execution chamber now.


The End

Back to the Front Page