Fiona writes: I first came across Matthew Licht’s work when I was struck by the beautiful cover on his new collection from Salt (below). He was kind enough to do a ‘story swap’ and I’m looking forward to settling down with “Justine, Joe & the Zen Garbageman”. We’re happy he’s joining our creativity interview series.
Welcome, Matthew. What drives your creative work?
Satan’s a hard master, but not a hypocrite. I get ideas. Sometimes they just come, or else I see something that makes me wonder. How did those two old guys walking down the street meet each other? Why did someone think it was a good idea to stack his little terrace with used auto tires? Sometimes I’ll hear the punch-line of a joke and try to figure out the build-up. Sometimes a name is enough to drive a story. Ideas are a fantastic gift. Got to be grateful, humble and respectful upon receipt. Horrible feelings follow on the heels of ideas undeveloped.
What would you say to yourself if you could go back in time and meet yourself at the beginning of your creative career?
Don’t blow the only chance you’ll ever get to be the drummer for a traveling circus.
How do you keep creating when things get difficult?
Re-write. There’s no law says you can’t re-work stuff that’s already been published, either. Translate. Draw. Strenuous physical activity is hardly pointless. Go out and look around, listen to people, look at them, follow weirdoes, especially weirdoes who don’t seem like weirdoes at first glance.
How does your creative work affect the rest of your life?
I’ve lost some friends.
What is it like to send your work out into the world?
No pointing in hoarding your stuff, or being shy about it. Sometimes rejection’s the best thing that can happen to you. Anytime anyone asks me for a story, I’m extremely happy. Anything to get the words out there.
What was the best advice anyone gave to you?
Aim high. Shoot hard. Don’t look back.
Cartoonist Daniel Hellman put this mantra in the illustration he did for a story I wrote that led to 5 blissful years as managing editor at JUGGS magazine.
What helps you to pay attention to the world?
I don’t pay much attention to the world. Maybe I’d like the world to pay attention to me, but so far the mofo stubbornly refuses.
Matthew Licht drove the delivery truck for a VIP liquor store in Beverly Hills, and might be the only person to go from World’s Second-Oldest Copy Boy at the New York Times to Managing Editor of JUGGS magazine. He is the author of The Crazy-House Gag, The Withering Fire, North of Hollywood Left, NY9E Legends and the detective trilogy World Without Cops. His last short story collection with Salt Pubs., The Moose Show, was nominated for the Frank O’Connor Award. A new collection of stories, Justine, Joe & the Zen Garbageman, is due out soon, from Salt Pubs. His novel WestWays was recently published by Christoph Keller Verlag et al. His current obsession is with anything on two wheels, as long as no motors are involved. His stories have appeared in Ambit, Reality, Litro, Slake and in the e-zines Tom’s Voice, Fictionaut and Angie’s Diary.