Questions for Sean Lovelace

Stymie Magazine nominated Sean Lovelace's story, "John McEnroe Visits His Musical Side" for the 2011 Pushcart awards. You can read the story in our Spring and Summer '10 issue, here. Today we continue our celebration of the new year with a few questions for him. Here's Sean!

Stymie: "John McEnroe Visits His Musical Side" is a fictional story told from the point of view of John McEnroe, the tennis superstar. What drew you to writing from a famous athlete's perspective, and has your re-imaginings of him changed the way you think of John McEnroe when you hear of him now?

Sean: Once, during a Wimbledon match, John McEnroe screamed out, “I’m so disgusting. Don’t watch! Everybody leave.” I found this fascinating, a man who seemed to be womped by something twisted up inside. He seemed to glow energy from hating himself and the sport. The very racket—which in a famous photo he twists and snaps in two. Its stringy neck. I can’t remember why I write about celebrity personas. Possibly because they are pretty and have the best drugs. Or, possibly because they are gods to us, gods we worship without understanding why. Like Roman or Greek deities, each god has its story. I think McEnroe’s is a mythical tale of the self collapsing into the self, the dog chasing wind or the whirring wheel of an Audi, the flipping off into mirror morning, the drives we can’t comprehend, the way we might loath the very skin we’ve found ourselves in…Then again I need coffee.

Stymie: There is a strong physical element to this story, and even the thoughts inside the narrator's head are exploding outwards. How did all of the movement and action help you find the right voice for the character of John McEnroe?

Sean: Well, a professional athlete at that level is contained energy. When in public, when off their court of field or boxing ring, I think many of these people are roiling, pacing panthers—with too much energy for the cage of societal restraint. I used to be an incredibly fast runner back in the day, and I certainly felt this: like everyone was walking too slowly, like I wanted to climb up the walls, like I was about to explode. I use to toss table into drywall the way mortgage-backed securities might toss an economy. Then again, I was dating a Brazilian woman at the time, and this also made me feel like I had a curling jalopy of gallantry in my thorax. Then she dumped me for an Olympian, but I digress. Here, I just channeled the character’s voice as one of a massive force, a floodwater straining against the dam walls of “the proper way to act.” It’s a good question: Once you find the voice, persona fiction is remarkably easy to write. The trick is that the characterization is already done for us: the reader already somewhat knows John McEnroe. It’s very possible I write persona fiction because I am lazy. And often ill of drink.

Stymie: The fictional Eddie Van Halen in "John McEnroe Visits His Musical Side" refers to athletes wanting to be musicians. What do you think writers wish they could be? Sports stars, perhaps?

I think most writers wish they could be something physical, or something working class and concretely useful, like brick-work or hitting a tree stump in the forehead with an ax or nursing. A lot of writers feel guilty about writing possibly being a selfish, useless act. About what exactly is the difference they are making during this short act on the stage? Naturally, they work it out eventually, or quit asking, or follow some other snapstick path. I am a registered nurse (prior career) and often try to run so hard that I grind myself into the road and disappear—that’s my goal on some runs, for pain to consume me in flames. So. These issues persist.

Stymie: This Pushcart nomination is your second, and the latest in a long list of writing awards you've won. What is your feeling about these nominations and awards, and how do they affect your writing life?

Sean: They are sort of embarrassing, an award for writing. But then again I am a professor of creative writing, and, in a practical sense, in a very real sense, my university adores rankings and awards. They like to see these things, and I’d like to be tenured. So.

As an artist, what does it mean? I hope nothing. I hope I smile and say “that’s cool” and can contain a moment of thanks and then get right back to writing. Woody Allen has never seen a film he’s made—that’s the correct idea, yes?

Stymie: What are you writing, now?

Sean: A series of large checks. Sorry, lame joke. What AM I writing? Not that much. Honestly, work is sort of overwhelming me right now. But one cool thing is I get solicited quite often to write something, a story, an introduction to something, an essay on flash fiction—and I never say no! You see, I force myself into commitment. So then I’m screwed: I MUST write. And I always do. I do deliver. This is a lesson, writers of the world. You can actually MAKE yourself write. It’s not magic or muse, it’s actually just work. (Sort of like running…) Just sit down and hit a sliver of a tree stump in the forehead with your eyeballs and finger-gravity and jolly company of synapses. Yes. Sit down and write and words will appear. That’s pretty cool.

Sean Lovelace is just about to drop a fog/book from Publishing Genius Press. He likes beer. And to run, far.

This entry was posted on 1.12.2011 and is filed under ,,. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.

Leave a Reply