December 12, 2013

Terrifying, Humbling, Gross: an interview with David Proctor, author of "Gross"

About Meat Locker Editions: In addition to creating books, MLE connects with and contributes to a vibrant independent arts community. We peddle a mobile community library, The Book Bike, which “delivers delight one book at time”; host a reading series, The Underdog Poets Academy; run panels and workshops; and participate in collaborative endeavours with other arts and social organizations to effect change in our community. Find them on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

About "Gross": In this work of short fiction, the reader meets Frank, a celiac baker whose professional and personal failures so consume him that he spirals into a bizarre dietary attempt at control, which inevitably destroys him. His estranged daughter Jackie, struggling to provide for herself while trying to establish her artistic career, is now left with the puzzling contents of the coroner’s report – paint chips, light bulbs, bullet casings – which completely unravels her previous understanding of her father. Bonus feature: a handwritten, removable list of all 144 stomach items!

Gef: "Gross" marks the inaugural publication from Meat Locker Editions. How does it feel being the first out of the gate?

David: I've come a long way from my initial response which was "terrifying." I started out with a great deal of fear and anxiety that they were resting a lot of their hopes for their business on my poorly-defined shoulders. But as our editing process became more and more involved and I was able to see the amount of commitment that they had to making the book the best it could be, I started realizing that they weren't going to let the book be anything less than a success. I feel humbled, perhaps. Lucky might be another word.

Gef: In "Gross", Frank, a baker, dies after apparently consuming some rather odd things. But rather than straight-up body horror, the story looks to take a different approach by way of Frank's daughter, Jackie. How did you come to the inclusion of a coming-of-age story in this gruesome sounding tale?

David: I'm not a baker with celiac disease, personally. Though I find that to be a rueful irony and something that's fun to write a story about, I also wanted to do something that was personal, and to bring myself into the book a little more. I AM a university graduate with an uncertain future. I DO worry about what kind of an adult I will be, and I AM slowly realizing that the people I know best are still complete mysteries to me. These are not feelings or fears that I have alone. These are real problems people my age are encountering. All of these things are what makes Jackie who she is. This kind of gruesome story will always find an audience with people like me, and I think seeing themselves reflected in Jackie's life as an added bonus will resonate more than something thats only gross for the sake of being gross.

Gef: A neat little bonus feature with this story is a handwritten list of Frank's stomach contents. Who came up with that idea?

David: Maddy and Sarah, the illustrious Meat Locker decisions team, always want the book to be more than a stack of paper. They want to push the boundaries, physically and digitally, to remind people how exciting reading can be, and I've always loved that idea. So all credit to them. Seeing the list, especially where it is meant to be found (a specific point in the story) fills out how you experience the book. Maybe it even encourages you to go back, read things again. It's sort of multimedia, while still being in the same media. I'm not sure which one of them came up with the idea for the coffee stain on it though.

Gef: Meat Locker Editions seems to have cast a wide net with their activities, hosting workshops and panels and reading series, even operating a mobile lending library. How has the experience been thus far working with them?

David: Again, humbling. They do what they do because they care about reading, and care about the literary community at large. To have the first chance to be the voice of such an organization is incredible. Especially because they are concerned with amplifying women's voices in the scene, to lend myself to that cause is a beautiful opportunity, and something I'm very passionate about. They took calls late at night when I didn't know how to end the book, they called me on all of my usual writerly bullshit. They put more time into putting this book out than I could imagine. I envy the next person that gets to release something with them.

Gef: What else do you have in the works, whether with Meat Locker or elsewhere?

David: Gross has a number of fun readings getting lined up, but for me I'm currently finishing up a post-grad in Video Game Design. Once that's done I have another book that I need to start working on that I'm incredibly excited about. Trust me when I tell you I know who I want to put it out.

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