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Dan Fante Interview

"Somerset Maugham said if you ever want to exorcise a demon, write about it."

An Interview with Dan Fante, author of Chump Change and A gin-pissing-raw-meat-dual-carburetor-V8-son-of-a-bitch from Los Angeles.

Dan Fante’s journey has not been an easy one. According to a bio on  his Italian website, “Dan Fante was born and raised in Los Angeles. At twenty, he quit school and hit the road, eventually ending up as a New York City resident for twelve years. Fante has worked at dozens of crummy jobs including: door to door salesman, taxi driver, window washer, telemarketer, private investigator, night hotel manager, chauffeur, mailroom clerk, deck hand, dishwasher, carnival barker, envelope stuffer, dating service counselor, furniture salesman, and parking attendant. He hopes eventually to meet a fat waitress and learn to play the harmonica.”

 

Dan is the author of three novels: Mooch, Chump Change & Spitting Off Tall Buildings.  He’s also written a collection of poems entitled A Gin-Pissing-Raw Meat-Duel-Carburetor-V8-Son-of-a-Bitch.  A collection of short stories, Short Dog, is due out next year.  A special thanks goes out to Al Berlinski of Sun Dog Press, for helping to set up this interview.

 

RD: Tell me a about yourself.  What’s your background?  

 

DF: Well, for years I was a phone guy. A telemarketer. Before that in New York City I drove a cab for seven years and then became a chauffeur and a bad drunk. All the time writing poetry and detesting it. I moved back to L.A. in the seventies to open a limo company. It became successful and that's when I picked up another nail - cocaine. The combo of blow and booze finally kicked my ass in 1986.

RD: Your father (John Fante) was a writer of some renown. Was it difficult to follow in his footsteps; or did you even think about that?  In your book Chump Change, the main character has a stormy relationship with his father and one wonders if this is purely fictitious or not.  How does/has being the son of a famous/infamous writer impact your writing?


DF: I'm asked that question frequently. The answer is simple: When I was a kid and a young man my old man was a failed novelist and screenwriter. Actually, honestly, he was a fix-it journeyman hack screenwriter, forget novelist.  He was unfamous.

RD: When I first got the idea for this interview, after reading A Gin-Pissing-Raw Meat-Duel-Carburetor-V8-Son-of-a-Bitch from Los Angeles, I mentioned it to someone and they remarked, “Bring a six-pack.”  Yet I know you are sober and clean for a many years, right?  But from the title of this poetry collection, one has to assume that you’ve had some days of pure hell-raising.  What was the inspiration for the title of this collection and what made you decide to switch from fiction to poetry, this time?

DF: I was in Italy doing a book tour. My habit for years has been to write every day for two hours. I have a lethal mind that must be kept occupied and in Italy I was without my computer so, out of frustration, wanting to distract myself, I began to write poetry. I gave myself the task of writing a hundred poems in a hundred days. I didn't make it but I did knock out about sixty. That's where the idea for the book came. The title comes from the last lines of the first or second poem in collection. I haven't had a drink or a drug in almost 17 years.

RD: Wow! Speaking of inspiration…Was there a single point or event that inspired you to become a writer in the first place or was it a slow transition? I know you’ve done telemarketing as a means to survive, but when did you realize that writing was your passion?

DF: When I was a boy of ten or twelve I saw a production of LONG DAYS JOURNEY INTO NIGHT By O'Neil. That was it for me. My secret ambition was to become a writer but then life and shit began getting in the way and insanity and simple daily survival prevailed.

RD: I’ve always had a fascination with the way an idea becomes a reality, even if only on paper... tell me about your own creative process.  Does it ever surprise you?  Do you find that it’s easier or harder to "seize the moment" when creativity strikes?  How do you capture and retain these inspirations?  Some people have a set writing schedule that they follow religiously, do you?

 

DF: My process is rather simple. I get an idea. An idea that persists and begins to dog me becomes something I write about.  I write without fail two hours a day, six days a week. I haven't run out of ideas yet or ways to express myself. When I do I guess I'll stop.

RD: The protagonist in your book, CHUMP CHANGE, is a really messed up guy who keeps trying to succeed in appearing to succeed.  This is a common scenario for the functioning alcoholic/druggie.  You obviously did your homework when you wrote this book – it’s very convincing. 

DF:
Somerset Maugham said if you ever want to exorcise a demon, write about it. The Bruno Dante character has fascinated me for years. Of course many aspects of him ARE me. But in my plays I'm also attracted to extremes. I love exploring what a character will do.

RD: Have you been able to make a living (modest or otherwise) from writing? 

DF: My novel MOOCH will soon be a film. I'm writing the screenplay now. I'm hoping that the gravy train has finally stopped on my block. I mean, it's nice to get paid for what you'd do for free anyway.

RD: Got any new projects planned?

DF: My new book of short stories, SHORT DOG, will be released by Sun Dog Press in a couple of months and I'm about to start on the CHUMP CHANGE screenplay. After that I'll write a memoir on John Fante and clarify the so glaring bullshit about my old man and his life.

 

 

Look for Dan's latest book Short Dog (Sun Dog Press) - it's a collection of short stories.

Untitled

 

Saying I love you was not careless

for me

not frivolous

lots of gongs and horns have gone off    before

and many wars.and years

have passed

where booze and blind need drove me 

stalked me

then excused me

from sanity

and good judgment

 

here's the truth: most of the time it was my dick that was the problem

Now I don't care if I'm hot or cold

I expect nothing back

you can love me not love me

because-see

it's taken thirty years

but the voices-my madness-are gone

and

I've been given the gift

of

an inch

of

plain sight

 

Dan Fante

 

(from A gin-pissing-raw-meat-dual-carburetor-V8-son-of-a-bitch from Los Angeles, Collected Poems 1983-2002)

 

 

Exploring the Creative Process since 1996