Interview with Mathieu Cailler, author of “Loss Angeles”

A common misconception entwined with authors is that they are socially inept, how true is that?

I think an author has to like his/her own company. I’ve always enjoyed being around people, but there’s a purity to being by yourself and creating a world and characters and a plot. In a weird sense, writing is both social—you’re always writing about life, people, etc.—and antisocial—you’re by yourself in front of a screen.

What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand?

I still work on a typewriter for early drafts. I like the sound, and the fact that I can’t check email or Twitter. It has become hard to find replacement parts for, however. Last week, I strolled into an electronics store and asked about a new typewriter wheel, and the man looked at me as if I had just ordered a pound of scallops.

What inspires you to write?

I’m not sure, really. Just someone’s gaze, a laugh, a new environment, a smell, a phrase. I was at the gym the other day and a young trainer was showing an older lady how to use a piece of equipment, and my mind started to wander. I’ve always got one foot in dreamland.

Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?

I do. I write 1000 words per day. Six days a week. I like the comfort of a routine, and the way the pages pile up. Sometimes what I’ve written horrible, but you can edit horrible. You can’t edit nothing.

Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”? How long do they usually last?

I think it’s a mental thing. I can usually write my way out of it. Change what I’m working on. Have the character reflect on a smell or a voice.

What did you want to become when you were a kid?

I wanted to operate a lighthouse. There was one—still is—close to my home, and I would walk by it with my grandfather and wonder about the life of the operator. Then, when I told this to a teacher in elementary school, I was informed that most lighthouses were automated. I was disheartened for some time.

Who are your books mostly dedicated to?

My mom and dad.

It is often believed that almost all writers have had their hearts broken at some point in time, does that remain true for you as well?

What human has made it through without heartbreak? I think my book Loss Angeles was basically a response to the heartbreak I’d experienced and witnessed. What I’m so impressed with, though, are the people who just keep fighting, who just keep living in spite of it all.

Did any of your books get rejected by publishers?

I could wallpaper my home with rejection letters.

What do you do in your free time?

I love basketball and cooking and old motorcycles.

What is your motivation for writing more?

I’ve got things to say and now (thankfully) people who will read these musings—it’s a beautiful situation.

Did you ever have a rough patch in writing, where nothing in the story seemed to fit or make sense?

Weekly. I find that you just have to keep going, keep writing. If you continue to swing the ax, the tree will fall.

How big of a part does music play in creating your “zone”?

I don’t listen to any music when I write. I need quiet. Sometimes, though, I will listen to song over and over and try to mimic its emotion though the written word. Not too long ago, I was working on a poem, and I kept needing to hear Coltrane’s “Naima.”

Which book is the one you keep going back to again and again?

I reread all of Raymond Carver’s stories at least twice a year. He keeps the writing bare and clean, and sometimes I need the reminder.

What advice would you like to pass on to young writers of today that is unconventional but true?

Always be reading something for fun—a magazine, a novel, short stories, the sports page…

Did your first book tour befuddle you, or is being under the spotlight fun for you?

I enjoyed it a great deal. It wasn’t something I expected at all, but visiting many cities and spending time with lovers of fiction was thrilling and humbling. I hope people were able to learn something at the event, too, and I hope they understand how grateful I am for their support.