Author Interviews: Vincent Francone and Like a Dog

Hello those who don’t know me. My name is Vincent Francone.

My book is called Like a Dog. It’s a memoir, but I also write poems, which have been picked up from time to time. I’m trying to get a book of the poems published. I may publish it myself if the wheels of the publishing bus do indeed finally fall off.  

You can connect with me via my website and Facebook.

When and why did you start writing?

I started writing seriously in my late thirties. Prior to then, I was playing with poems and dashing off Bukowski and Kerouac parodies because I was a twenty-two year old white male. I quit for a while, then started writing record and book reviews for small online journals.  I had a decision to make when I finished my BA and was heading to grad school: study English or Creative Writing. I decided to give being a writer one more try, so I chose Creative Writing (Poetry) and have been pushing the boulder uphill ever since.  

What inspires your writing?

These days, small things. My dog. A train ride. Chicago. A glass of really good scotch. The smell of morning after rain. Little things seem big to me now, so I try to write about those when I approach poems. When I wrote the book, I was obsessed with work: why we work, where we work, how our jobs begin to take on something bigger than we may have initially intended. I dreaded having a “career” and, as I saw one beginning to form around me, I decided I needed to write about what it means to work, or, I should say, what it means for me to have been employed at a number of places, often to the mutual determinant of me and the employers.  

How would you define creativity?

Creativity is nebulous, malleable, and a lot of other nice 50 cent words.  But truly, I do feel that it something different for different people, which I find liberating. My creativity is my own. It comes out in my way, with my voice, and it would totally not work for someone else, just as my friends—many of them writers or musicians—exercise a form of creativity that I envy. If only I could write like that! But once I accept that creativity is a subjective, odd thing, I can put aside envy, fear, doubt, and let the work begin.

Do you have any writing rituals to get you in the mood for writing?

Sort of. I write early. I used to write at night with a cigarette and a drink, but that only got me so far. Now I get to it in the early morning with coffee and quiet. I write better when the apartment is still, before the dog wakes and needs his walk. After 10:00 AM, there are too many demands on my time.

If you could, what would you go back and tell yourself as a writer starting out?

Make a schedule; make a plan; stick to both. I used to assume I would just sit down whenever inspiration struck and make something great. I didn’t understand the importance of deadlines, especially those that are self-imposed.

What do you believe make for great writing?

I am a fan of humor, and mine can be dark—or, as one former employer put it: “caustic”—and think that humor is underrated in so-called serious literature. I look for writers who understand that the world is pretty sad and, thus, the need for laughter is among the most important things there is. Kafka is hilarious in this way. Vonnegut. Sergei Dovlatov. G. Cabrera Infante. All laugh riots, even when they are writing about deadly serious subjects. And I think poetry is the superior form of writing. In an age when we are beset by political spin and buzzwords passing as commentary and discourse, poetry is the most crucial thing we have.

Which writers have influenced your writing?

See above, but I would add to the list: Ciaran Carson, Italo Calvino, Reinaldo Arenas, Ernesto Cardenal, Mikhail Bulgakov, Jeanette Winterson, and Nicanor Parra. I don’t write like Faulkner or James Joyce or Samuel Beckett or Paul Muldoon or Seamus Heaney or Medbh McGuckian, but they have also been tremendously important to me.

How do you measure success as a writer?

Finishing a manuscript. I was unable to do that for a long time, so it became my measure of success. Publishing a book was also nice, but I realize, a year after the book has been out, that writing and revising something you’re proud of is itself a huge feat.

Have you ever hated something you wrote?

Only everything.

What’s your biggest fear as a writer?

Rejection, but I get over that quickly. Then I build up the fear of rejection again, submit anyway, get rejected, get callus, laugh at the fear, then it comes back, then I begin the process over.

What traits do you feel make a great writer?

Courage.

Describe your latest book to our readers

Like a Dog is a memoir of my life in Chicago as a working stiff. I document my time as mail-sorter, clerk in a used bookstore, and adjunct instructor getting exploited by academia. There’s plenty of booze, slacker quasi-philosophy, literary references, and curse words

What would you like readers to take away from your writing?

A sense of who I am and how I see things, which may or may not be how they see things, but in comingling our worldviews we may collectively grow. Or laugh.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Be open to criticism and stay determined. Giving up is too easy.  Remember what Beckett wrote: “Try again. Fail again. Fail Better.”

Can you give our audience a writing prompt to help get them writing?

You have to live a year of high school over again, but you spend it all in detention. A hierarchy develops—who would be the de facto leader? Or another idea: You go back in time and interview your parents before you’re born. In fact, it’s the night of your conception. You have to explain everything that will happen to them, who you are, what all of your lives will become. They plague you with questions. What do they ask and do they decide not to have sex as a result of your discussion?

What’s next for you?

Subprimal Poetry Art, an online journal, is publishing a poem of mine soon.  I’m having a friend do some music under an audio recording of me reading it.  Here’s hoping a book of poems follows.


deadheat14_likeadog2

Like A Dog

by: Vincent Francone

Vincent Francone’s “Like a Dog,” as in “Work like a dog,” is a great read. A working class guy who comes up on the South Side of Chicago and moves north in a quest a better life, Francone takes us on a dazzling tour of minimum wage America over the last couple of decades. He’s has done it all; “I’ve tried telemarketing, copy writing, editing; I managed a courier center, I conducted background checks on potential healthcare employees, and worked in a stock room. . . .”

And that’s before he goes to university and winds up, like so many other academics today, as a part-time instructor in a string of economically stressed public colleges. Francone’s descriptions of boring and soul-destroying work, the places where it’s done, and the people who do it are beautifully written, wildl entertaining, deeply poignant, and mysteriously inspiring. This is what it’s like to be alive in these times, “Like a Dog” insists, this is the battlefield of everyday life.

These are your adversaries: mindless repetitive work, bored and boring co-workers, feckless bosses, plus your own inclination to work as little as possible, spend every penny you earn right away, and escape from bad job to bad job, without ever climbing any ladder that might lead to better paid if equally meaningless work. Best of all, this post-industrial odyssey down mean streets and corridors to mean offices and classrooms, dingy apartments, and dead end bars is full of gritty life.

Francone is a gifted story- teller with a great, street smart voice. His protagonists and characters are brilliantly drawn.. And in their bafflement and self-destructive resistance to the work regieme that claims them they press back in an utterly realistic way against our recession-bred equation of employment, almost any employment, with salvation. Studs Terkel would have loved this book–John McClure, Phd

About the Author

Scott Mullins is a freelance writer and digital content manager. When he’s not finding ways to distract himself from writing his novel he writes killer copy for companies all over the world. Connect with Scott on Twitter @ScottMullins86 or LinkedIn. He’s always looking to connect with other writers.