Trevor and I met in the Twitterverse in August last year. You can find him on Twitter here. And, while sometimes Twitter People are Nuts, Trevor is creative force to be reckoned with. He’s also the author of Year of the Rooster, a novel published in 2010 by Rebel Satori Press:
Johnny Means used to make a living. Now he has a Life. Sick and tired of the revolving door, the same old jobs, the same feeling of faceless anonymity at work, the mind numbing grind, Johnny is in the mood for mutiny. And he’s going to do something about it. He wants his revolution. He’s had his wake up call, and now he’s going to send a message to The Man. With the rawness and grit of an untreated wound, Year of the Rooster explores one man’s powerlessness and his passage to the heights of power. It taps into the psyche of the masses. The boredom, the pressure to consume, ignorance of the subconscious… and the lies we tell ourselves to distract from the ugliness of reality. Year of the Rooster dismantles the illusions of security, predictability and anonymity that pacify humankind. It exposes common incarcerating binds of society. Greed. The Cubicle Effect. Our contentious relationship with money. Stalked by the unbearable heaviness of Being, Johnny Means hunts his own prey: The Meaning of Life.
Other Year of the Rooster Reviews:
“. . . you’ll feel like wanting to take a bath after every chapter. Yet, amongst all the hopelessness, fear, resentment, desolation, death and destruction, there is a sort of purity. By way of friendship, conversation, and their reckless antics, the characters come to realize who they are and what all this (life) could possibly mean. The truth reveals itself in a very surprising and unexpected way.”
“A guaranteed page turner you won’t be able to put down.”
“. . . an awesome read that will suck you in from the first paragraph.”
Trevor’s book is visceral, gritty, and clever. He isn’t afraid to take chances. And, his blog is just beginning to take off, with posts that center around writing. Go check it out! Recently, Trevor agreed to an interview for Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins, and so it’s my great pleasure to introduce him and his work to all of YOU.
Me: Hi Trevor, welcome to Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins!
Trevor Starlord Smith (so sayeth his social media handle): Hi!
Okay, right off the bat, I feel like I should probably ask . . . is your middle name really Starlord?
I’d love to say yes, but it was insisted on by my six-year-old when he realized I could name myself anything on Facebook. He has a writer’s mind.
That’s cute! How many kids do you have?
One. A six-year-old version of Robert Plant.
This Robert Plant? From Led Zepplin?
Haha, yes. But my son is 60 years younger and no goatee.
That’s hilarious. How are they the same?
Long curly hair, huge personalities, charming as all hell and loved by the ladies.
Nice. So, you’re in Hamilton, Ontario (Canada)?
Yeah. It’s a city of acquired taste but it gets a bad rap. I like the honesty and grit of the place. Was in Toronto before that for the most part. But moved to Hamilton after some time travelling.
I’ve never really heard much about Hamilton, to tell you the truth. It’s by Lake Ontario, right?
Yes. Hamilton is directly south of Toronto off Lake Ontario. A great deal of Torontonians flock here because of the affordable real estate. If you weigh the cost of living with quality of life you can decide pretty quick if it’s worth living in a place. Toronto is out of control as far as I’m concerned.
Where I’m from originally is a little town nestled in southern Ontario between highway 7 and highway 401 called Campbellford. I lived there until I was 18. Had to get out. Just wanted to experience life too much.
Let’s talk about your book, Year of the Rooster.
Haha, if I had the choice I’d change the title.
Summer of the Dog. Year of the Rooster had its own meaning at the time. I was born in the Year of the Rooster and was finishing it in the Year of the Rooster. For some reason it fit. I don’t know, maybe I should leave well enough alone.
I like both titles, actually. How is Year of the Rooster relevant to the story?
That’s the thing, it’s not. I suppose it just felt important at the time to the process. Which makes the title more about the act of writing than the story itself. Kind of like Tropic of Capricorn I suppose.
So–what used to seem appropriate doesn’t really work anymore?
You can get away with it with a novel. But as I’ve been transferring it to screenplay I decided the title should be more relevant.
You’re transferring Year of the Rooster to a screenplay? That’s ambitious. I suppose, given your background in film, it would be a natural transition. You do prop and set building right?
Yes, I do art department work. I love working in film. It’s very satisfying. On shooting days I do Art Deco and whatever else is required.
What are you working on now?
Just finished a film called Mobile Homes. I think it will be good. Then I went straight to a CBC special series called The Story of Us. It’s a Canadian history piece. That will air this summer, for Canada’s 150th anniversary.
Wow! That’s interesting.
I also worked on a CNN special series called Race for the White House. It was actually the highest rated, most viewed CNN series premiere. Kind of a big deal, haha.
Sounds like a wild ride! You’re a tattoo artist too, right?
Periodically, yes. Picked it up a while back and every so often my friends and family convince me to do art on them.
So, with all that going on, how do you find the time to write??
Film and TV gigs last for a certain period of time, could be 6 weeks, could be 6 months. But mostly I have my weekends and down time between to write.
I would almost compare your writing style to Chuck Palahniuk (author of Fight Club and Choke). Would you say that’s a fair association?
I love crazy characters with bigger than life personalities and strange quirks and traits. That comparison was made by Random House when they read it, too. I take it as an enormous compliment.
That must have been a huge pat on the back, coming from Random House.
It really was. It was a huge boost for me because (Palahniuk) is definitely one of my all-time favorite authors.
Has he influenced your writing, would you say? Or is it just a coincidence that your styles are similar?
He definitely influenced me, along with Hunter S Thompson and Irving Welsh. But it was almost a validation of my own voice when I went to see Fight Club in the theatre.
Hunter S. Thompson’s work is pretty amazing, but I don’t think I’ve read Irving Welsh.
I would definitely recommend it. Along with Mary Woronov’s two novels; Snake and Niagara.
How much of yourself do you see in your main character, Johnny Means?
He was an amazing vehicle to expunge frustrations with the establishment through. It’s fun to use a character to take it to an outrageous level to make something entertaining though. I had to work hard to keep him charming though, because the things he does aren’t socially acceptable.
Like dog fighting?
A lot of people ask if I’ve been to a dog fight and the answer is no. I did however grow up in the country and saw my fair share of fighting between neighbor’s dogs.
Did you begin with a theme in mind, or did it come to you later?
I decided to use the dog fights as a metaphor, and also a way to shake people awake. You can write all the human on human violence you want, but you start killing dogs and suddenly you’ve got everyone’s attention.
And, you are GREAT at drawing people in. I like the first line, but the next paragraph is killer.
Thank you. One day the entire opening first page sequence came to me while walking down Queen Street in Toronto, at the corner of Augusta to be exact. And I was forced to stop, pull out a pen and paper and write it out.
Just like a light went on. I love those moments. How long did the story take to complete?
Much longer than I would have liked. In total I’d say about 4 years. Since then I’ve learned how to write quicker in my own way. It wasn’t my first complete work, but I knew as it was tumbling out of my head and onto paper it was special. At least I thought so. Funny thing as a writer, if you write something you believe in someone else likely will too.
I liked the advice on your blog the other day. About getting published by not worrying about getting published. Is that what worked for you?
Yes. While writing YOTR I did research into how to get published. Basically the end advice was vague but direct. Write your absolute best, keep it to 50 thousand words. So that was my goal. I was cocky. As I wrote it I assumed it would be published and didn’t worry about it. Put it out of my mind.
A little cockiness is mandatory in writing I think. Self-doubt can be crippling in this business. Obviously it worked, because your book is great.
Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed it! (The thought process) was foolish and naïve when I look back on it now, but it worked. Eventually I realized that if the idea of getting published is at the forefront when you write it will inevitably affect you and influence your writing. And almost always in a negative way.
Are you working on another book?
I actually received an author’s grant from the Ontario Arts Council for my second one which I completed about a year ago. Since then I’ve started another as well.
An author’s grant is an opportunity a lot of authors would love. Was the process of getting it tough?
At first it was embarrassingly easy. First application ever, I received it. Since then I’ve applied and been turned down. But hey, they have to share the wealth with a lot of talented writers out there.
What a great opportunity! So, what’s been the most satisfying moment of your writing career?
Most satisfying moment for me is always finishing a novel. But finishing YOTR was huge for me. Getting signed for publishing was the most satisfying. I just felt validated for all my hard work. And it felt like credibility. That, and the author’s grant definitely had me dancing at the mailbox.
Haha, I bet. YOTR was published by Rebel Satori Press, right?
Yes. They were a writer’s dream, really. I was fortunate that my brother found them and suggested I might fit their publishing style. Rebel Satori left the editing up to the author. I’d finished the novel and put it down for a while, then in Fiji I decided to finally give it a once over to polish it up properly. Still missed something like two dozen typos!
Oh, I bet that was a kicker. Those typos can sneak up on you.
Speaking of typos, what’s with texting autocorrect? That shit can get dangerous.
Autocorrect is VERY dangerous. I have never in my life tried to spell ducking.
Lmao, me either.
Writing and publishing has changed dramatically in the last ten years. How has it changed the way you look at your future projects?
I’m seriously thinking about self-publishing my next few pieces, and doing it all through my blog
Like Andy Weir and The Martian?
Possibly. I’ve been seriously thinking about simply releasing it as a PDF on a pay-what-you-can format. Or simply releasing the PDF for free on a donation basis. Then charging only for orders of the physical book. I also considered releasing a page a day on Instagram. The industry has changed so much even since I was published. It reminds me of the music industry back when it started to fold.
Oh, wow. It’s true, there are so many ways to get your work out there these days. Keeping an open mind as far as publishing may give you an unexpected advantage.
You said you’ve found a way to write a little faster now that your debut novel has been completed. Does that involve outlining?
It does, however I love the organic effect of writing without really planning too much. I found for my second one that keeping the theme and message prominent was very helpful. It gives your characters a focused goal. I like my story and characters to surprise me. I write out a shitload of notes before I engage. I like the idea of a wall of yellow sticky notes. That could be happening very soon!
What does your writing space look like now?
It looks a lot like a living room with three computers, two cats and a six year old playing video games. Eventually I’m planning on moving into a spare room upstairs and making it my own.
Haha, my five year old always becomes incredibly hungry when I sit down to write. It’s clockwork.
They have impeccable timing.
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
I did from when I was about 13 or 14. I could just feel the need to write a story. Which I did. It was nonsense but it got me started. Who am I kidding, it’s still nonsense!
All right. It’s almost time to wrap this up. So let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Spice Girls or Pussycat Dolls?
That’s a loaded question. The answer depends on how many whisky I’ve had.
Haha. What type of whiskey do you drink?
I like Jameson. But there’s a local distillery from Stoney Creek I enjoy. 40 Creek it’s called. They make a few interesting blends that are reasonable on the pocketbook.
Well, I just want to say thank you for agreeing to this! It was a great insight into the mind of a writer. I hope my readers have enjoyed it, and will go check out your work for themselves.
And thank you for making time for this. It was great getting to chat!
Talking with Trevor was a lot of fun. Did you know he’s also a consecutive participant in the Scribble on Cocktail Napkins Sunday Scribble Challenge? His entry this week ROCKED IT. The prompt was to get your reader to root for a villain in as few words as possible. This is Trevor’s entry:
Willem is a killer without conscience. He feels no guilt for the atrocities he commits against the innocent. He barely understands it himself. His preferred tools are an AK-47 and a machete. Today alone he killed three women and seven children between the ages of two and eight years old.
Tomorrow he will die acting as a human mine detector.
Willem is a 11 year old child soldier in Sudan.
Ah-may-zing. YOU can write an entry to the Challenge, too! Check it out here: #SCC2, and don’t forget to vote!