BP: Does your writing come to you, or do you go to the writing?
JO’Y: It comes to me, even more so if I have to meet a deadline.
BP: So deadlines actually summon your Muse, if you will?
J O’Y: I hope they don’t change rules, but so far my Muses are generous to me.
BP: I would say so. Now, how do you work? Some writers have a page limit, a word limit; others work with a time limit. Also, I must ask, are you ever awakened by your muses and forced to write? And do you get up or do you tell them to fuck off, I’ll do it in the morning?
JO’Y: I write in sections, and it is the section I know the day before. I have a pen hidden under my pillow, and if I need to write something in the dead of night, I grab my pen and jot down things on my skin, words, signs, broken pieces that come up in me. I have to do it, otherwise I can’t sleep, so I’d better…Is this your research, Brent? These are nice questions, please don’t waste them.
BP: (laughs) No, I am simply interviewing you, in particular. Exploring your work from your own point of view. I must ask what inspired you to write? Was it a particular writer or writers?
JO’Y: I think I’m born with a keyboard on my lap, which is futuristic. I have no choice. I’m a bin, I read everything with a doodle on it, everything inspires me, people, leaves, homey chicken, spacey muse, dust…
BP: So you began writing very early?
JO’Y: Not these days. Yes, I get up and have a bowl of warm water and coffee and get ready to go.
(**Julie O’Yang realised later that I misunderstood the question. Self critique can be enjoyable.)
BP: That’s lovely. Say more. When did you first publish?
JO’Y: In 2001, Dutch. Before that, in China. I’m published since the age of 8. My first book came out in Dutch, however. A genre-bending work, something between a novel & short stories/poetry.
BP: …yes, I find your recent book a very sensuous prose poem. It is just the right length. Which language are you most comfortable with as a writer?
JO’Y: I’m just being practical. I write in Dutch, but the language is too small. In Chinese I’m censored. English is the language I love the most. I have dreams that I have lived on the English Isles in the 18th century, the Age of Enlightenment, of Horror and Romance…
BP: Do you work from an outline? Or do you rather let the writing itself dictate what happens in the story?
JO’Y: I have an outline in my head, I don’t write it down. But I do take risks and follow my guts.
BP: Always a good thing for a writer. I find so many works of contemporary fiction a bit safe. Your own work, on the other hand, is daring and exciting.
I should ask what you think of contemporary fiction. Or current writing of any kind. Are there people you admire, enjoy?
JO’Y: Boring, I find most writers boring. I mean, I have my habits too, we need our armours to survive. Sometimes it’s good to leave your armour at home, however. Dare being vulnerable, that’s the weapon a creative mind could use. It doesn’t make sense to be a flawless clown; you can’t know exactly, so make failure part of your plan. People quit reading. Writers are themselves responsible for the current status quo of Literature. Many writers are dying for changes, but they are just too comfy with their possessions, I observe. On the other hand, I sort of work from the periphery. It’s good to be on the edge, I studied Mao’s strategy (laughs).
BP: Mao! Haha, that’s a good one! I agree. “Comfy”. I have read genre fiction that is quite good, however. Too bad such work gets dismissed. The so called serious writers of today are indeed too comfy. They aim very low and often miss. I think the real action is in film and TV.
JO’Y: In visual art, music and scientific fields, people are more imaginative, and it’s normal for them to take risks and try & find new things and new ways to do old things. However, not in books. What has happened?
BP: Well, I do feel that writing courses at universities rather stunt young writers.
JO’Y: I’m not familiar with that, it’s American way, I think. Factory.
BP: Factoy is the mot juste! Tell me, how would YOU advise young writers, or writers of any age who are just getting started?
JO’Y: Don’t listen to anyone, follow your own instinct. Make your own monster. People will laugh, it’s okay. Dealing with your curse, dealing your cards, that’s all you have. GAMBLE!
BP: That’s what I think a beginner needs to hear. Julie, it has been a pleasure. And I would heartily recommend your work to readers who want something daring, energetic, sexy and deeply felt.
JO’Y: Thank you, Brent! I enjoyed the conversation!
Brent Powers is one of those Great Men that no one has ever heard of. He is the author of Draining Audrey and Pearls in Formation.