Smoking With DJ McDougle

Read the Story March 15, 2004

So, are you one of those stereotypically crazy Southern writers, or are you crazy in a more untraditional sense?


That I think I’m crazy in a unique way most certainly colors me stereotypical. It must be said though that “crazy”, where I’m from, could mean brilliant and extremely cool or it could mean “her shirt don’t match her pants and she’s wearing two different kinds of socks” which is also brilliant and extremely cool. Unless you get the sock thing wrong. It’s thickness that counts with socks. Otherwise, you’ll be lopsided all day.

Are you as superstitious as your character in this story is? Do you have any writing superstitions? Many writers feel eating massive amounts of Cheetos can inspire great work. Do you think there’s any truth to that?

Wow. I’m surprised that the Cheetos thing has gone public. That’s been one of the most preciously guarded secrets for years. Since it’s apparently out now, I guess it won’t hurt the mystique to add that baked-to-a-delicate-crunch works better for the subtle story while quick-fried (as you would expect) tends to lead to works with more tension and suspense. It’s also the reason many writers have dark-colored keyboards. But me—I’m too superstitious to be superstitious. I mean, what if it’s bad luck, you know?

A hilarious miniature women tangent in a tightly written flash fiction piece? That rocks! Was that planned or do you let these things come to you?

You think it rocks? Cool. It was planned somewhere I guess. Probably by the miniature scribes who’ve taken over the woodpecker abode in the nearly-dead sweet gum tree by the porch. Probably communicated it to me through the implant. I say probably but really it’s almost certain since I know they aren’t the least bit telepathic.

What about flash appeals to you? What about it challenges you?

Flash appeals to the reader in me because it can be so vivid. You’re smacked into “a life” so totally and yet so briefly—you come away (or at least I do) with a strong memory of people you don’t even know. It’s like having a photograph come alive for just an instant and in that instant, some essence is flashed *into* you and then it’s yours to keep.

The challenge in writing flash, for me, is to completely not think about it. That sounds weird. But there’s something between the under-conscious and the fingers that can do really neat stuff. It takes stepping aside for a moment and letting it happen. Kind of like listening—really listening—to a little kid talk about anything. There’s good stuff in there sometimes when we take time to hear.

Know of any incredible books we just must read?

I’m hooked on Stephen King’s Gunslinger stuff. Got Wolves of the Calla for Christmas but I haven’t actually read it yet. Not because I don’t want to but because now that I know the series will most probably have an end, I just don’t want to rush into anything. The years spent waiting for the next installment (since what—1978?) have been some of the finest this compulsive reader has spent. These are the only books I can read slow. And it’s just because I don’t want the story to end. It’s good stuff.

About the Author:

DJ McDougle lives in the Rural South and spends too much time feeding the birds.