Mar 3, 2008


Welcome to another edition of Guthmantics! Our very special guest today is Rachel Cline. If you peek in at her website, then at mine, you'll see why I liked her the minute I saw her website. Bonding by vintage typewriter. I have to also admit that I enjoy her bio quite a bit with statements like, "Rachel Cline is a New Yorker who spent most of her thirties in L.A. She intended to write the great American movie and get paid buckets of cash. Instead, she got fired after three episodes of Knots Landing and went on to create the sanitized airline dialog for David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross. (“It takes brass buns to sell real estate!”)... She is also the author of My Liar, What To Keep and Dig We Must (coming soon). So, without any further ado:

Guth: Tell us what you write, what you have written and how you do it?

Cline: It turns out that I write novels, which is good, because it's what I always wanted to do. My first, What to Keep, is one of those love-it-or-hate-it books as far as I can tell. It's about growing up female and confused and learning how to tolerate being in one's own skin. It's mostly set in Bexley, Ohio, which is the kind of bucolic suburb I used to wish I was growing up in, instead of Brooklyn, NY, where I actually did grow up. (And where you can now throw a styrofoam peanut and hit a writer pretty much anytime of the day or night. The peanut is because you can't really throw it, you know? So it's even more inevitable that you make contact than, say, swinging a cat.)

My new book, My Liar, is about a certain kind of obsessive-competitive bond that sometimes develops between creative women who work together: in this case, the women are filmmakers and their shared turf is the editing room. I lived in LA for ten years (and worked for and with independent filmmakers of the sort who populate the book), so I got to use a lot of material I had been collecting about the city and its peculiarities. That's one of my favorite things about being a writer: observing what makes a place specific and strange. Grocery stores and hardware stores are usually a good place to start, except in Chicago. My boyfriend of 3+ years lives in Logan Square, where between Tanguis and Armitage Produce, the grocery situation is still quite mysterious to me and the only hardware store I could find went out of business last summer... What do you people do when you need a key made?

Anyway, my writing routine is this: 1) Have a job. I can't do shit if I don't know where the rent is coming from--I tried the thing where you just declare yourself a writer and live on unemployment/savings/the kindness of strangers but that resulted in clinical depression. 2) Go to bed at a reasonable hour and in an non-inebriated state. (Long story there, too, but the short version is: the party I always feared I was missing doesn't actually exist.) 3) Wake up two hours before I have to be anywhere. 4) Drink coffee but do not shower, dress, look at the newspaper or email. Write. 5) After 1000 words or two hours, I am allowed to walk away until the following morning.

Do I do this every day? I wish. But when I know what I'm doing--what the scene is, what the story is, or what the deadline is--I hardly have to yell at myself at all, any more.

Guth: What grand things are next for you? What would you, we're talking dream gigs and adventures here, love to be next for you?

Cline: My current project is promoting My Liar (and working for a financial company picking the random bad tags out of their HTML)--I was glad to read your post at New Year's about learning to schmooze without aggida (can I use those two words in the same sentence?) because you strike me as such a naturally outgoing sort. I probably strike people the same way, in print. I really do love a real conversation and learning about new people and places, but putting that in the service of self-interest is something I struggle with. But, (sorry, anticipatory Morrissey quote,) "everybody's got to live their life and god knows I've got to live mine." So that's the plan. Live my life, 'cause no one else will, or can.

Meanwhile, I'm also rewriting the memoir (called Dig We Must) that I originally handed in to my editor a few years ago--during the infamous early 00's memoir-glut. Fortunately/unfortunately I have never been anywhere near rehab, so I'm told I now I need to build a more compelling throughline into it. (The old one, 'this is my life,' has apparently been done to death.) What I WISH I was doing next is research for my next novel, which has to do with the erotic nature of the teacher-student relationship and is set during a cross-country van trip. Kinda Zen & the Art meets Lolita, as told by the girl/passenger. I'm so psyched because the road trip would be tax-deductible. So I guess my fantasy is that I earn enough money this year to make a tax-deductible road trip next summer?

In a different life/world, I think I would have made a great town-square letter-writer. I can see myself under a shady tree in, like, Macondo. Only I'm a guy with glasses and a handlebar mustache. I also wish I could write rock'n'roll songs, and sing them, but not on stage. Just with friends, under a tree. A different tree.

Guth: What Smiths or Morrissey song or lyric best sums it up for you right now?

Cline: I was already out of college when The Smiths started up, so Morrissey still sounds to me like the soundtrack to someone else's blue period--the equivalent of Lou Reed's Berlin, or Patti Smith's Easter in my own life. But I was so much older then, and I'm younger than that now (Bob). And so relieved.

Guth again. Many thanks, Rachel, for swinging by, and do come back and visit again any time. Now, my dear readers, you know what to do. Head out and pick up her books, tell your friends all about them, track her down on GoodReads and LibraryThing and Shelfari and show her some love with your reviews and ratings. And, come say hello when she's in Chicago for Pilcrow Lit Fest, hosted by yours truly.

Want to be a featured author/writer type for this? Well, just send an email to me and I'll tell you everything you need to know.

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