Talk to the greatest creators and they will have a list of people who inspired them.
Even when we find our own way and develop a voice that even inspires others, somewhere deep down are things that came before us. So I thought I’d share the inspirations behind Not About Lumberjacks.
My friend Larry was the first person I know who listened to fiction podcasts. While visiting him, once, he said, “I know science fiction isn’t your thing, but I think you’ll like what Escape Pod is doing with storytelling.”
He was correct.
It was 2005, and one of my favorite things ever recorded had recently come out. But is was so much more than a mashup of Lovecraft and It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown — it was something new to me.
Sure, I’d heard of podcasts, even though they were still in their infancy in 2005. And I’d even listened to books on tape. But the thought of someone recording short fiction and putting it online — and even better: having people show up?
That’s inspiring stuff that was not lost on me.
During that visit, Larry also played some Scott Sigler stuff for me. That was the big thing he wanted to show me: a novelist who had tried going the traditional route, not had the best of luck, and decided that he may as well record his own stuff and release it for free.
An entire novel…for free. Crazy talk?
At the time, and even today, it’s a concept that would make many writers cringe. But there was an appeal to me: if one finds themselves in a situation where they are willing to release their work into the wild, why let another person or group do it for you? Why not do it on your own?
Today Scott Sigler is doing better than most writers. And it all started recording his novels himself and putting them out there for people to listen to.
Hell Comes with Wood Paneled Doors
It might seem strange citing one’s own work as an influence, but I make no secret that I’m a dyslexic who grew up terribly embarrassed to read things out loud. When I decided to record my first novel, it was harder than public speaking and performing. Some lines were read a dozen times to get through without stumbling, which is still something that happens to this day.
But I did it.
And people showed up. (In fact, I don’t promote Hell Comes with Wood Paneled Doors — and haven’t since 2011 when I finished it — but it still gets about 3,000 downloads a month.)
Hell Comes with Wood Paneled Doors proved to me that I could do it. I still occasionally hear from people who thank me for reminding them how much they love their own dysfunctional families, or that listening to the story was a welcome break on their morning commute.
That’s never lost on me…
Tiny Sense of Accomplishment
Sherman Alexie and Jess Walter’s Tiny Sense of Accomplishment is the podcast that makes me drop what I’m doing and listen when I see it’s been downloaded to my phone.
Two good friends — both accomplished writers — chatting a little bit about whatever they want, answering questions about writing, interviewing creative people, and reading their works in progress. It’s their readings that inspired Not About Lumberjacks the most.
There is a rawness when they read their works in progress. I prefer reading fiction than listening to it, which is perhaps a strange confession for someone creating audible stories. But I would have no problem listening to Alexie and Walter read even half-finished stories all day.
Getting On with James Urbaniak
In a handful of days, I’m releasing the second episode of Not About Lumberjacks. I look forward to it because it’s a bit different than the fiction I normally write.
Getting On with James Urbaniak is to blame for that.
James Urbaniak’s podcast is a shared fever dream delivered in first person. A mash-up of his friends’ writing and his voice acting, the result is always a bit strange, often funny, and sometimes even heart-wrenching.
It’s Urbaniak’s show that made me consider taking some old essays and smattering them with fiction. I rarely pull from my own life in the fiction I write, so it allowed me the chance to do something new.
I’m so pleased with the first result that it’s hard not to post the episode early.