Fictionaut loves it LOVES IT when our fair Fictionauters fare well. John Reed, our own, and our own fiction provocateur, is soon to release his first non-fiction title, Tales of Woe, and it is foul. True stories without any redeeming character whatsoever—just bleak, bleak, unremitting, and undeserved. Printed on black paper, with fifty pages of full color art .
Q (Nicolle Elizabeth for Fictionaut): Hi John Reed, thanks for making time for us over at ye olde Fictionaut. Your newest work Tales of Woe (site), forthcoming from MTV Press in August, is comprised of flash pieces interwoven in their gloom, but mostly, interwoven in their deep understanding of and insight into humanity. Woe has us feeling that sometimes, things can turn for the worse, the awful, that there is something wrong with everybody. You can explain it better than I can. What’s the book about?
A (John Reed): Tales of Woe chronicles stories of pointless suffering. Undeserved suffering. Not a thread of silver lining.
Are all of the pieces entirely fiction or are they based in fact? Did a man actually attempt to have sex with a bicycle?
Did you choose the illustrators?
Jacob Hoye, my editor, and Walter Einenkel, the designer, also contributed an enormously to that process. But, yes, I worked with and chose the illustrators. We looked at many, many artists for Woe, and after a while we had a sense of the Woe aesthetic, which isn’t stylistic so much as characteristic. We wanted a wide spread of indy comix type artists—but all of them had to have the quality of fine art, not just graphic art, and all of them had to be “Woe.”
Some of the images got more direction than others.
Why black paper? Was it difficult to work with?
The black paper felt most appropriate, and with current printing and software capabilities, it’s more possible than it used to be. But yes, it was really difficult. It fought us every step of the way. The manuscript costs a hundred bucks to print on an inkjet.
Why (if you do) do you feel the book will speak to flash fiction, short fiction writers, poets and novelists who don’t normally read fables, Edward Gorey-esque works and etc? (I think it will, by the way.)
Catharsis, until recently, was a process by which you watched someone else suffer, and then felt better for it. That, I think, is the appeal (if there is one, we’ll see). That’s the humor as well, gallows/journalist humor.
I thought the project was going to be much easier to work on than it was. The stories didn’t get easier to write; they got harder to write. The more I time I invested in these horrendously upsetting tragedies, the more depressing the material became. I’d expected myself to harden to the stories: not the case. But I did become a better person for working on Woe; how could I not be more appreciative of my own life and loved ones? So, of course, it’s easy to criticize Woe as a freakshow/car-wreck attraction, but the stories in Woe, for me at least, offered something else: a broader perspective on living.
What was the process in working on Woe like? Did you ever find yourself feeling depressed in general from the subject matter?
Some of the stories make me feel sick, even as I write this sentence. They are truly awful.
Were there any extra tales which didn’t make it into the final manuscript?
We cut some material: some text, several images, and one full story. Self-censorship? Maybe. But some of Woe is pretty difficult to live with as is.
Why so much Sarah Palin?
Believe it or not, those centerfolds are not extraneous. I started thinking about Palin before she was a VP candidate. In researching Woe, there were three types of stories that I had to quit using, because they were too easy to find. First: stories about animals. Second: stories about children. Third: stories set in Alaska. We had enough Alaska stories to fill the whole book.