Sunday, March 14, 2010

7 Questions: Richard Prosch

1. Do you consider yourself a reviewer first who writes or vice versa?

A fair question given the content of my blog. I'm somebody who likes to tell stories, read, write, draw, read, design, fiddle with electronics, read, listen to music, read--with an additional hundred things tacked on for good measure. I've always been a reader, and I like sharing what I read. So reviewing a book or telling a story from my life ("Look at this old family photo I found...") is sorta fun. The question reminds me of something I heard years ago. Peter David, the writer, asked an assembled group of young creatives how many of them wanted to be writers. Almost every single hand shot up. Then he asked them how many wanted to sit down and write. Some confusion there, not so many hands. Rather than tell you I'm a writer, I'll just say that I do write.

2. In a recent blog post, you alluded to a meeting with the venerable Harlan Ellison. How did that come about and what did the two of you talk about?

Back in the '90s, my wife taught at a small college in South Carolina. I was working freelance, and because I had a comic strip running in the Comics Buyers' Guide newspaper, we were friends with editor, Maggie Thompson, who is friends with Ellison. When it came time for the college's annual exploration of media and culture, a regular program, Gina suggested getting Maggie and Harlan come speak together, and we would play host & hostess. They did and we did. Most crystallizing for me is a five minute incident just before Ellison went on. I grew up reading Ellison's stories and think highly of his work. So I managed to get the gig of introducing him the campus, and in so doing wrote this elaborate puffy piece that was more about me than about him. The morning of his first lecture, I show the written piece to my wife who assures me that it's pure drivel, and that I need to quickly retool the thing. "Just give 'em the guy's bio and get off the stage," she says. But it's too late. Harlan is right behind her. She hands him the intro. His face goes slack, and then he starts shaking his head, and all these stories from the media come to mind about Ellison being a mean, unfair guy, etc. And he walks up to me. And shakes his head. And says, "Maggie said you like to write." I nod, and he continues. "Well, first you've got a comma splice here that doesn't work at all. Next you've got a couple split infinitives., gimme a pen." He doesn't say one word about the content. Instead, he takes the pen and proceeds to edit my writing, deftly knocking out grammar errors, splicing incoherent thought together, correcting my punctuation. As he spoke, calm and very polite, I realized I'd been running around imagining myself hanging out with a celeb, with somebody FAMOUS, rather than realizing that I was in the presence of a WRITER. A guy that first and foremost...WRITES. As far as the intro was concerned, I had first been concerned about MY ego, then I was worried I would offend HIS ego, and what I should have been looking at was my WRITING. That was the crystallizing moment.

3. Your bio mentions you co-created Emma Davenport, a comic book. Can you tell us a little about that and if you plan to follow it up with anymore.

In the early '90s I floated around the comic book industry like 50,000 other young people who wanted to write or draw or both. I was fortunate enough to get enough work to keep me moving forward, and in 1993, Emma Davenport, a girl comics fan, became a regular strip in the Comics Buyers' Guide, an industry trade paper. It was a time of great excitement and great speculation in the comics industry as boatloads of creators were casting out with their own properties. Since Gina and I were working together on the strip, we decided to publish a comic book starring Emma. It ran for about two years, did okay financially, was incredibly rewarding in terms of business experience, made us a dozen or so really good friends, and I would never do it again. Not for all the money or fame in the world.

4. You cover many genres on Meridian Bridge but lean toward westerns. Where did the fondness for six guns and horses come from?

Well, first off, I really love the American West and, for a time, lived in Wyoming on the high plains. Of all the genres I read, I actually know the least about westerns. I grew up reading comics, SF, fantasy and detective/crime fiction, though not much noir. I read a few westerns in college and contributed art to a series of historic essays about Nebraska, the Ponca Trail of Tears, and some real-life outlaws, but my renewed interest is fairly recent. In fact, besides being an easy venue to practice writing, I started Meridian Bridge just to learn more about the west.

5. Which film cowboy sits tallest in the saddle for you?

The older Randolph Scott. He's got an understated toughness, especially in SEVEN MEN FROM NOW, with Lee Marvin, who I also like. Oh, and RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY.

6. What one item in your house would you have a hard time explaining?

There's this big, primitive wooden rooster that, each year, almost makes it to the fire. My wife's great aunt bought it from a local artist half a century ago and somehow we inherited it. It's just this awful piece, and yet it lingers.

7. What's next on the horizon for you?

Research for one. I have a couple short stories here that need some solid props in the past, and getting the history right is important to me. I'm particularly happy to be included in the company of the fine writers at BEAT to a PULP with a short crime story to be posted at some point this spring. Along those lines, I'm also grateful to The Western Online, a great web zine that has accepted my short story, "Last Day at Red Horizon." In general I just want to focus on burning some flab off my writing, achieving better consistency. I had an art prof. in college who said the better artist isn't the one who creates the stunning masterpiece, but the one who can continue to create with consistency. That's the target I'm aiming at.


Cloudia said...

You are the real deal!

Aloha from Hawaii my Friend

Comfort Spiral

Evan Lewis said...

Probing questions and interesting answers. Great encounter with Harlan Ellison. I met him once, but all I can remember is saying something inane and getting a book signed.

Laurie said...

Great questions - I appreciate getting to know Richard a little bit more.

Charles Gramlich said...

Good stuff. Really liked the story about Ellison. That's a different light than I've heard other stories about him.

Bee said...

I really like questions #5 and #6, but my favorite bit was the anecdote about Ellison editing Prosch's writing. I haven't heard the term "comma splice" in ages.

p.s. I will be sure to listen to some jazz in Paris . . . and raise a glass to you!

David Cranmer said...

Thanks Bee! Hope you have a safe flight and a terrific time.

pattinase (abbott) said...

A swell guy x2.