An Interview with James Curcio

Where are you from? 
I grew up in the northeastern united States — Philly, New York. I think a lot of people feel disconnected from the larger cultures and tribes these days — nation, state, even religion. And a lot of subcultures form, as people try to find or create some kind of community. Usually with mixed success, but that’s really what I know from my personal experience so it’s what I wanted to write about — the culture of the outsider. Party at the World’s End is on that way a very American, counter culture myth.
What inspired you to write  Party At The World’s End (Book 1 of the Fallen Cycle)? 
Although I don’t consider it a true sequel, the style is too different, it still follows from my first novel Join My Cult! That was published by New Falcon, publisher of Timothy Leary, Robert Anton Wilson, various notables from the counterculture or psychedelic fringe.I learned a lot more about what I wanted to do, what I shouldn’t do, identified things I wanted to improve at as a writer, and so on from JMC!, and that’s really how this book started. But that was ten years ago. In the process I’ve serialized individual arcs as small press releases and through crowd sourcing. I wrote a screenplay version with co- writer J F Stackhouse which for optioned but ultimately never shot. I used that screenplay to inform one of the major rewrites of the previous edition. It’s been through a lot of editorial and rewrites to be sure.
Eventually I started to build up ideas –symbolic images, characters, story elements — that go beyond the scope of this first book, and that’s when I decided it was time to really consolidate all that serialized stuff — Fallen Nation, 404 Documents, Words of Traitors — get it in one volume. Then I could really dig into the next book with a clear conscience.
Do you have a specific writing style? 
I think every book has different demands. You want to try to adapt everything, your process, what you read and watch, to that end. But that said, we’re more or less the same person and that can’t help but express itself. I think authors reveal a great deal of their subconscious–especially with fiction. So there’s an element of writing the same book over and again on a deep structure (in the sense Korzybski meant, I think), even if the surface is completely different. So much as style is a reflection of who we are, I’m sure I do have one. But it’s not conscious. Which is all the better — conscious style usually amounts to fashion.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I’m not a fan of pat interpretation, or preaching. There are many ways you can interpret a breathing story, and that’s the way it should be. A story exists in a unique way in each and every head it inhabits. That’s the singular magic of narrative, whether that carrier medium is film or book or video game. So I’m sure people can gather messages from this book. But I’m not going to say ‘this is what it is.’ It’s like a line from Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. I’m just the author, what do I know?
How much of the book is realistic? 
The question of fiction and non-fiction is a deceptively tricky one. We all assume we know what we mean by one and the other, but the more I’ve studied narrative and myth, and the more I’ve written, the more I’m really not sure where we can draw the line. A great deal of Party at the World’s End comes from the people I’ve known, subcultures I’ve encountered, dreams I’ve had, as well as some derivations of established myths and characters — Lilith, Dionysus, Jesus, Loki, Ariadne, Artemis, and so on. It’s a very Jungian treatment of symbols, really, because the narrative brings the reader to question whether dream and waking are in any sense more real than one another. Everything we think and feel winds up being on the same ground as symbol– equally real, equally unreal.
So we’d best be careful what we believe in.
What books have most influenced your life most? 
That’s a tough one. The first books I read, I mean literally, was the Lord of the Rings trilogy. That is a kind of living mythology that has obviously influenced a lot of modern culture (although I’d say only its surface and not much of its substance lives on in the movies.)
Haruki Murakami has probably been an influence on my writing, not by way of emulation, but in helping me to recognize that it really is alright to let a narrative define its own rules, especially when it comes to beginnings and ends. For instance, in Norwegian Wood, he ends with the protagonist reaching out to a potential lover over the phone. He asks a question, and it is never answered. Many modern American authors would never do that. There is a real sense that you need to tie everything up for the reader with a bow on top. I think a narrative owes everything to the voice of its characters, and very little to conforming to any other expectations.

What book are you reading now? 
Right now I’m reading a lot of nonfiction, mostly to mentally prepare for the next Fallen Cycle book. Violence and the sacred, American Nations, Empires Apart, Introduction to Systems Theory, stuff like that.
I’m also about halfway through Mishima’s Confessions of a Mask. Taking my time with that one
What are your current projects? 
I’m working on the second book in the Fallen Cycle– that is, the follow up to Party at the World’s End. It’s tentatively titled Tales From When I Had A Face. I’ve been working on the notes for about two years, and working on establishing a visual style that will work for the book as well. It’ll ultimately be something between illustrated novel and graphic novel.
I’m also talking to the other members of Hoodoo Engine (an industrial metal band) about working on our third album.
I also have been getting into keeping aquariums. It’s kind of like a constant meditation on death that’s not quite so hard core as what Tibetan monks do. But that’s not really creative.
Do you see writing as a career? 
It’s one of the major works of my life. I’ve written 9 books so far and I’m still definitely learning. But as they say, “don’t quit your day job, kid.”
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book? 
You can revise forever. And I did a considerable amount of revisions of previous editions before I was mostly satisfied with it. There will likely be forthcoming editions where any copy errors are fixed — it’s had 3 proof editors and 1 line editor, but as every author knows, typos are worse than roaches. However, the broad strokes are finally set in stone. That took a decade of work, so I’m pretty happy to not have to look back on it anymore.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? 
I’m challenged by what challenges every serious writer– how to have time and energy to really dig into your stories and give them what they deserve, and at the same time maintain the kind of presence that promotion demands. Like most writers, I’d most prefer to interact with other artists and occasional readers at conventions and otherwise have the ability to turn off the outside world and work. I think signal to noise is an even more serious challenge to authors now. There are so many things vying for our attention every moment of every day.
Your responsibility as an author is to try not to waste your readers time with your work. But that’s only a small part of what actually sells books.
Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)? 
I have done a fair share of conventions and festivals in the promotion of my art and writing. Dragon Con remains my favorite, at least for the experience. The average convention doesn’t have quite enough debauchery for my taste.
Who designed the covers? 
Aside from writing, I’ve worked most my life as a designer and music producer. So the cover and internal art was put together by myself, although I collaborated with several people on some aspects of it.
You can find more about Party At The World’s End at