Author Spotlight Interview: Mark Blickley

Mark Blickley is the author of My Better Half, this week’s Story Spotlight. Mark was gracious enough to let us pick his brain for this Author Spotlight Interview.

Photo: courtesy of Jana Hunterova.

Mark Blickley is a widely published writer of fiction, nonfiction, drama and poetry. He is the author of Sacred Misfits (Red Hen Press) and recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Scholarship Award for Drama.  His most recent play, The Milkman’s Sister, was produced last fall at NYC’s 13th Street Repertory Theater. His text based art collaboration with artist Amy Bassin, Dream Streams, was featured as an art installation at the 5th Annual NYC Poetry Festival and published in Columbia Journal of Literature and Art. Their new collaboration was just published as a text based art chapbook, Weathered Reports, Trump Surrogate Quotes From the Underground (Moria Books, Chicago). Last summer their video, Speaking In Bootongue, was selected for the London Experimental Film Festival.  A new play, Valadon: Reclining Nude, premieres in NYC this December. Blickley is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild and PEN American Center. He teaches writing at York College (C.U.N.Y.).

Q & A

AR: What was your inspiration for My Better Half?

MB: I was riding the #2 subway from Brooklyn to Manhattan and across the aisle from me was a guy holding up a life size cardboard cutout with the photo side facing him, away from my view.  Figuring it was a movie star, I kept wondering which celebrity I was sharing my train ride with.  As I exited the train I peaked over at the image and it was Jim Carrey.  As I walked up the steps leading to sky, I suddenly questioned why I was so sure it was a movie promo cutout.  Suppose it wasn’t a celebrity? Than I thought what if it would’ve been a cutout of the passenger holding it?  From there I wondered what kind of an asshole would carry around a life size cardboard cutout of himself, and the answer became “My Better Half.”

AR: Have you ever carried a cardboard cut out of yourself around town?

MB: No.  But I’ve decided to adapt it into a one-person play and so perhaps the actor who gets the role might be able to experience that phenomena.

AR: What led you to writing?

MB: When I was seven years old I won a school poetry contest for my magnum opus verse, “My Turtle.”  The instant Public School celebrity I got for this literary achievement included gifts of coins, candy, gum and comic books, which made me think it’s pretty cool to be a writer.  I didn’t publish my next piece until exactly 25 years later because of the time I took off for sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll.

AR: What is your favorite medium to write?

MB: Scripts—plays and screenplays.

AR: What medium do you struggle with writing the most and why? Prose, Poetry, Plays, etc.

MB: For me, content dictates form though I do find it far easier to write scripts than prose or poetry. I consider myself much more a storyteller than a wordsmith. My imagination tends to be driven by character and plot as opposed to being language driven, which seems to be what fuels so many fine prose writers and poets.  

AR: What kinds of stories do you like to read?

MB: It’s kind of weird because I write mostly fiction and plays, but my reading tastes the past several years has definitely been nonfiction. I’m particularly fond of biographies and history. Today I just finished reading a wonderful book by Sherill Tippins, February House. It chronicles the time period 1940-42 within a house on 7 Middagh Street in Brooklyn where a cadre of explosive artists,–W.H. Auden, Carson McCullers, Benjamin Britten, Jane and Paul Bowles, Gypsy Rose Lee and others–undertook an exciting urban experiment in creative communal living.

AR: Do you have a favorite author that you find particularly inspiring?

MB: There are so many authors I revere, but I suppose John Steinbeck would top the list.  His storytelling skill, combined with his poetic language, continues to hold me in awe. However, if you consider a film writer/director as an author, the single most inspiring piece of work I’ve experienced that most encouraged me to seriously try and become a writer would have to be François Truffaut’s film, The 400 Blows. Viewing it at age 29 changed my life.  It taught me that one could turn childhood trauma into a positive work of art.

AR: If you could have personally witnessed anything, what would you want to have seen?

MB: Great question!  I think I’d like to have witnessed the initial 1931 meeting of the Group Theater in New York City.  I’m enthralled with the artistry and idealism quarterbacked by the great Harold Clurman on a team that included Eli Kazan, Stella Adler, Bobby Lewis, Clifford Odets, Cheryl Crawford, Sanford Meiser and so many other extraordinary theater artists.

AR: If you could wake up tomorrow in the body of someone else, who would you pick and what would you do?

MB: I’d like to wake up as baseball superstar Mike Trout. What I would do is hit for the cycle, steal a couple of bases, and rob an opponent of a homerun by making a spectacular catch into the seats.

AR: Do you have any upcoming projects that you’d like to talk about?

MB: I’m working on completing my novel, Danger: Falling Rocks. One of the two protagonists is a frog named Broc. I’ve published six chapters from this work-in-progress, but have procrastinated completing it for too many years and have decided that this summer I am determined to finish it.  Also, in December my absurdist comedy, Inertia In Motion, premiers at NYC’s 13th Street Repertory Theater, directed by my theater artistic soul mate, Joe Battista.   

AR: Thank you Mark for your time today! Those were excellent answers!

You can find more of Mark’s work at the links below.

-Aphotic Realm Editors