Wednesday, 9 June 2010
EXCLUSIVE: FRANK HINTON, CREATOR/EDITOR OF "METAZEN" SPEAKS TO TTQ!!!
Francesca Hinton, aka Frank Hinton, is a 27-year-old female who resides in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is a graduate of St. Francis Xavier University, and currently teaches there on occasion to pay the bills. She describes herself as both tame and timid, and also claims to suffer from pantophobia (the fear of everything). She enjoys reading metafiction, author-Joy Williams, listening to Ween records, and smoking in her free time. She is best known as the creative genius behind the online literary journal, Metazen.
We at The Toronto Quarterly were recently granted an exclusive one-on-one interview with the enigmatic Frank Hinton in order to better understand her ability to quench our thirst for literary voyeurism.
Visit the Metazen website:here
TTQ- Where did you grow up and go to school?
FH- I grew up in Halifax. It was fun because it felt safe even though people died in our neighborhood all the time. I saw lots of crazy things. I went to school at St. Francis Xavier University. I did a lot of big things there. I got drunk for the first time, had sex for the first time and did drugs for the first time. St.FX is good for all of those things. After all of that, it's a good place to attend classes too.
TTQ- Do you remember when and why you wanted to become a writer?
FH- I think there are a few things that sort of happened to push me towards trying to write 'full-on'. I wrote a story for someone I had a crush on and showed it to a friend and my friend said it was well done. I wrote a poem for the class about heather on the beach and my principal read it over the announcements to the school. My friend also wrote a story that was brilliant and I wanted to be able to write like them. I once didn't get accepted into a fiction class because I wrote an entry story about the professor having sex with me.
TTQ- Who were your biggest influences on you growing up and why?
FH- My dad had a copy of What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver at our cottage when I was a kid and for a long while it was the only book there. I suppose I read it out of necessity, and when I was fifteen or sixteen I re-read it and enjoyed it. So, Carver is an influence. I liked feeling like I was closer to the scenes than the narrator in his stories, and how bland suddenly became important to me. I read a lot of Japanese authors like Haruki Murakami, Kobe Abe and Yoshikichi Furui. I don't know why. I always thought Japan was cool. I used to play a lot of Japanese video games and I felt that because those video game plots were so amazing that some of their fiction must be amazing too. Now it's just a habit. I also like Jonathan Goldstein. I think he is the writer I'm most influenced by, and I've read everything by him. I listen to his radio show every week, and read all of his newspaper articles too. He's the hottest girl in my literary high school and I'm just the awkward dweeb vying for his attention.
TTQ- How did the idea of creating your online journal Metazen come about?
FH- It was March Break (2009) and I was drunk and alone. I thought it would be cool to have a blog where I could post my drunk writing. So, I got drunk every night during the March break and I would write something new to post on the blog each day. That's how it all started. I left it for a few months and nothing much happened. (was she sobering up?) Then I decided to come at it from a different angle. I'd been meeting a lot of other writers online and started asking them for their stories, and it grew from there.
TTQ- What is Metazen's mission statement?
FH- Metazen's fiction works both before and after viewing porn online.
TTQ- On the Metazen homepage, Frank Hinton is referred to as being a "sad man, a pathetic man," when in reality you're an attractive female. Why the double-identity?
FH- I kind of like ambiguity. I think if people know you're a girl or a boy you get pegged right away. I like the idea of an author that lives on a gender pendulum.
TTQ- How often do you add new content to the Metazen website and what criteria is used in determining what gets published and what doesn't?
FH- We add a new story every day, or new poem(s). We get a lot of submissions and the decision making process is simple. I send out submission pieces to my group of editors to consider and I read through some myself. If we like the story, if it sticks with us, if it has a lot of hooks, if the coterie is right, if the author attaches a nude .jpg file of themselves then we will probably publish them. I like impact-fiction.
TTQ- What is your opinion on the current state of literary journals in Canada, and do you read or subscribe to any?
FH- Ah, I probably read more American online journals. I read Geist and Carousel though, and I used to read the Antigonish Review a lot when I was at St.FX. I don't know what the 'state' of literary journals is. I think the state of journals as a whole is changing. Things are moving online; literary communities online are getting a lot more networked, and electronic reading is starting to become something normal. And I like that, of course.
TTQ- Are you planning on publishing Metazen in print form one day?
FH- We've talked about a book or an anthology. Nothing is set in motion yet, but it is one of our long term goals. I'd love to start reading manuscripts though. I think it is our next logical step. I'd want to do something unique though.
TTQ- How large is your team of writers and editors at Metazen and are you planning on adding more to the fold in the near future?
FH- There are three of us right now. There were four. Myself, Christopher Allen in Germany, and Julie Innis in New York. We're going to be adding some new editors in the coming months. We're growing pretty rapidly and I feel like we're all overworked. I'm all about growing.
TTQ- In your opinion, is the publishing industry heading in the right direction, and do you see a more digital era of publishing ahead, and is that a good thing?
FH- Yes, it's a good thing. That only means more options. I think we talked about this before too. With music we went from the record, to the cassette, to the CD, to digtal MP3s. With publishing it's changing from paper to online/digital. There's only really been one major shift. It probably seems scary to most, but it's exciting to me. I see a lot more things changing too. Reading experiences will change. Look at some of the e-books online, and some of the hypertext stuff people like Steve Ersinghaus or Susan Gibb are doing and you get an idea of what's to come. Movies, games, and music are all advancing art-forms via technology, so why not the written word too? It's all advancing in a good direction, and people will soon figure out a way to make money off of it.
TTQ- What other writing projects are you currently working on outside of Metazen?
FH- I write a lot, although I don't put as many things out as I once did. I finished up a novella earlier this year, and have a few short pieces floating around. I'm working on a novel right now about authors that are characters in one another's stories. It sounds kind of like trite metafiction, but it's not. I like metafiction, but I don't want to write the kind of metafiction where the point is to find out that the story or the characters are simply aware of themselves as fictional. I think that's been done. I think Stranger Than Fiction closed the book on that kind of metafiction. I want to write about worlds where it is just part of life that you are fictional. The fact of being fictitious is already out there. Something like that.
TTQ- Tell us about the last "inspiring" book you read and would highly recommend to others.
FH- In all honesty the best book I've read has been Scorch Atlas by Blake Butler. It is unlike anything else I've ever read. It is difficult and easy to read. It is depressing and funny. Butler just writes these incredible sentences like, "Tucked in the half-smashed ruins of some sand palace, she found a transistor buried up to its antennae. She dug it out and cleaned the speaker. She wiped the corroded batteries and licked the dials white, straightened the wires with her teeth. Soon she had the half-ruined thing alive, burping static broken by occasional squeals of incoming sound." I mean he's graphic and destructive and so sensitive at the same time. Every sentence feels perfect. I rarely feel that.