Tag Archives: NyQuil

Interview: Jon Konrath

vol13-cover-front-6x9According to his latest bio, Jon Konrath is a failed musician, former dishwasher, and horrible human being. His newest release on Paragraph Line Books is Vol. 13, a twenty-story collection of absurdist near-future post-apocalyptic ruin. In this interview, John Sheppard talks to Konrath about his new book, writing, and life.

Tell us about Vol.13.

Vol. 13 is a a collection of twenty stories. A few were already published at Strange Edge, Horror Sleaze Trash, and in Mandatory Laxative #14. It’s been a while since I’ve done a story collection — the last one was Thunderbird, in 2013. This is my thirteenth book, and the cover is a rip-off of the fourth Black Sabbath album. I like short stories that are a little longer than flash and are about personal experiences, but completely run through an absurdo-surrealist filter, twisted around and broken. It’s hard to describe it any more than that, which I realize is stupid when I have to sell the thing, but it’s more about what the book feels like than what it’s about, if that makes any sense.

Is there a specific time of day that you sit down to write? Any rituals, or quirks? How long does it take you to write a book?

The two hours after work every day are blocked out for writing. I have to write in those two hours, and I have to get in at least 500 words. When I don’t do this every day, I become extremely irrational and intolerant of everything in my way. There’s nothing I hate worse than some idiotic eye appointment or whatever that requires me to skip a day.

The only real ritual is music. I usually find something that goes with the book and listen to it repeatedly to the point of absurdity. Like when I was writing Atmospheres, I was listening to the Sleep album Dopesmoker, which is a single 63-minute song, and I’d play it twice a day, every day. I also started recording my own ambient music in Logic Pro with a 99-dollar keyboard, even though I only know about 15 minutes of music theory. But I listen to that repeatedly, and maybe someday, I’ll release it, even though I have no idea what I’m doing and maybe it all sucks. (There actually is one track of it released, which I used for a short movie called The Internal Dementia of Atmospheric Uncertainty, which you can see here: https://youtu.be/RmuBhwF61Eg)

Vol. 13 was actually culled from a larger book project that’s been going for about a year. It’s just over 40,000 words, but the bigger volume is another 140,000 words, and makes absolutely no sense at this point. I originally wanted to make it a three-volume thing, but ended up pulling the twenty most story-like things and releasing that. I think when I know what I’m doing, I can finish a book in about six months, but I never know what I’m doing.

What would you say is your favorite part about writing? What was it about writing that made you think, “This is what I do”?

A lot of writing for me is the worry and tediousness around the “scaffolding” of actually writing, like the plotting, structure, editing, marketing, and everything else. When I’m actually writing, without that distraction, it’s very meditative and makes me forget everything else, which is like the perfect drug for me. It took some time to get to this point, but I think when I first hit my stride during my second book (Rumored to Exist), I knew that’s what I’d do.

There’s always a lot of self-doubt in writing, like when something reviews poorly, or doesn’t review at all, and there’s always sales numbers, comparing your work to others, and all that garbage. It’s especially bad when I finish a book; this heavy post-partum depression always sets in, because I’m sick of the last book after re-reading it a million times, and I have no idea what the next one will be. And those are the times when any sane person would question why they are a writer, and maybe consider quitting. And I never can, because I don’t know what I’d do if I wasn’t a writer. Even if the books didn’t sell, even if they passed some law banning writing and I had to hide these manuscripts in my basement, I’d still be writing, still chasing that high.

Do you feel that there are certain subjects or genres that you will not write in or about? (I’m trying to imagine a Konrath romance book and am failing.)

While I’ve done some autobiographical creative nonfiction, I don’t think I could do it again, for a few reasons. One, I think when you write about yourself, the popularity of your work is really about the popularity of you, and I’m a horrible person, so I can’t market myself. And if you run out of material, you have to leave the house and go live life, and I’m too old for that shit.

There’s also the issue of writing about family or ex-girlfriends in the era of google, and I don’t want to deal with some ex suing me for libel because I wrote about the time she broke into my house and lit my clothes on fire. (Not a true story.) I have an 800-page manuscript that’s maybe 60% done that is creative nonfiction about college, and there’s no fucking way it will ever see the light of day, because it’s about 37 lawsuits waiting to happen, even if I change the names.

I wouldn’t rule out romance or cowboy fiction or anything else, but I wouldn’t do it straight, and I wouldn’t do it to sell copies. It would have to be totally fucked up and fit well within the Konrathian universe.

Do you ever try to write books that don’t sound like Konrath? The Memory Hunter, for instance, is the least Konrath of the Konrath books. Did writing that book help you grow as a writer? Would you ever want to try writing something that tightly plotted again?

The Memory Hunter was a fun experiment to see if I could write a completely straight book that followed the typical plot used in every book south of Chandler. After Atmospheres, I got some shit about the whole nonlinear, plotless thing, and I think the assumption was that I couldn’t write a “real” book. And I did, and some people liked it, but it didn’t sell, and it was ultimately disappointing to me.

I think I could write something that plotted again, but I think the process showed me that anyone can. Go buy the book Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder, get a pack of index cards, and if you’ve passed freshman English and can devote a few hours a day to it, you can write a book like that in three months. But something plotless like Raymond Federman’s Double or Nothing, good luck. I’d rather do something hard that nobody will read than something formulaic that sells.

What do you do when you’re not writing or working? Do you find yourself writing in your head when you’re doing your extracurricular activities?

I’ve always got some stupid hobby that I do for two weeks and then give up. Right now, it has been playing guitar, and I’m horrible at it so far, but it’s a good distraction. I like to travel when I can, and I walk every day. Sometimes the writing pops into my head when I’m walking, and I jot down notes on my phone, but I wish I could do that more.

You’ve lived all over the country. How have specific places and times affected your writing? Do you ever find yourself wanting to go back to those places?

Pretty much everything I write has a location taken from my life. Some of them are obvious; my first book was set in Bloomington, Indiana. The Memory Hunter was set in a weird version of Seattle, where I lived after college. New York comes up a lot, almost by default these days.

Nostalgia is a horrible thing for me, and I waste too much time when I’m depressed going back to the past, which is one of the reasons I can’t do that creative nonfiction thing. For me, it’s less the place and more about the era of my life, if that makes any sense. So like I would not really want to go back to New York now, but I’d go back in 2002.

There are also places that are conducive to writing that aren’t necessarily backdrops for the writing itself. Like I’ve done a disproportionate amount of writing at this Applebee’s in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. It’s not that I want to write about greater Milwaukee, or that I choose to vacation there. It’s just within walking distance of my in-laws, and when I’m there in December, it’s a good place to hunker down in the freezing weather, shame-eat tons of bad food, and type away on the laptop.

What’s next for you and Paragraph Line?

We’re about done with 2016 – aside from this book, we released your book, which everyone should go check out. John Sheppard – Explosive Decompression – it’s a great sci-fi book, a dystopian future, moon bases, robots, and a cloned-brain protagonist from last year’s After the Jump. I had fun working on that, and now I’m regrouping and looking forward to more in 2017. I’ve also got cough syrup season starting up, so I’m going to begin training for that. And I’m getting into the holiday spirit, listening to the Mariah Carey Christmas album every day, as we all should.

Jon Konrath’s latest, Vol. 13, is available in print and e-book format on Amazon.com.

Available Now: He by Jon Konrath

We’re proud to announce Jon Konrath’s latest book, He. 6x9-frontcover-he-180-20150804

According to Konrath:

It consists of a hundred short microfiction pieces. Each piece begins with the word “He.” Like my book Atmospheres, the pieces are related, but if you flipped the book open to any random piece, you could read just that and read it and then LOL and put the book back next to the toilet and finish your business.

The links:

The book is on Kindle Unlimited, so if you have that, you can read it for free and appease Jeff Bezos’s race to the bottom of authors being a worthless resource lining his coffers. It is also on Kindle Match, so if you buy the paperback from Amazon, you can download the book on Kindle for free.

Review: Wick MediNait

IMG_0127I recently had the pleasure of visiting Nuremberg, Germany, to speak at an autoerotic asphyxiation conference and present my latest paper, entitled ”
Prologue and Illness in Autoerotic Asphyxiation: the Objectification of Modern Technology in Feminist Iconography of Hypoxyphilia.” I enjoyed my stay greatly, aside from some minor issues with customs involving my erotic viewmaster reel collection. Asparagus was in season, and I spent a large amount of money on gummy bears, which I plan to soak in liquid MDMA and bring to baseball games.

While in the motherland, I decided to sample my favorite beverage, Vicks NyQuil. Of course, in German, the term vicks refers to sexual penetration, something the company quickly found out after their cough drops were first introduced on the market in Europe. Instead, Proctor and Gamble uses the brand Wick, and their night-time cough medication is named MediNait.

My first stop in any new country is to a chemist or pharmacy, to determine the availability of any over-the-counter codeine products. Unfortunately, codeine is listed in the Betäubungsmittelgesetz as a controlled substance, requiring a prescription. However, because I am a bit of an enthusiast, I purchased a 90ml bottle of MediNait and decided to take it for a spin. Unfortunately, I had mixed results.

First, the good news. The product does look as inviting as its stateside counterpart: a smooth, translucent green syrup. The outer packaging retains the same motif as its American version, meaning the type and iconography of the design lends the same smooth, calming reaction to those of us hopelessly addicted to cough syrup. A pleasant surprise was that inside the box, the product is actually shipped in a real glass bottle, which is perfect for refrigeration if you prefer drinking yours cold.

Unfortunately, the breakdown of the formula is disappointing for enthusiasts. The US version contains 30 mg of Dextromethorphan HBr and 12.5 mg of Doxylamine succinate per 30 mL dosage; the German version weighs in at 15 and 7.5, respectively.  Of course, it’s a fierce argument among aficionados as to whether the Dextromethorphan or the Doxylamine is giving you more bang for your buck in the cocktail, but the fact that it contains half the Dextromethorphan is telling.   A slight bit of good news is that the Paracetemol content — known as Acetaminophen to us Yanks — is at 600 mg, 50 mg lower than the US version. This isn’t a selling point to those of  us who don’t care about our livers, but if you’re watching your Tylenol consumption, this is something to consider.

The taste of the German version is quite punctual, however. To my palate, it did not have the syrupy sweetness of the American version. It was much more medicinal in flavor, not a bitter or strong overtone, but much more sharp and dry. I’m not a ten-year-old that needs the taste of bubble gum and candy to down cold medication I’m abusing for its hypnotic properties, so this is a welcome change. It tastes so horrible, you know it’s working. Unfortunately, at this crippled formulation, it isn’t.

Also an issue was the price. I purchased a 90 mL bottle for 14,48 € at an Apotheke in the DB train station, which at current exchange rates, is close to $20 US.  Compare that to the  going rate here, which is $10.49 for a 12-ounce bottle at my local CVS.  That’s 355 mL, or close to a dollar a dose, versus the German price of 6.66 USD per dose.  Yes, it’s a nice nod to our Lord Satan, and none of us actually drink a single 30 mL dose, but this is still highway robbery.

I’d advise European travelers to purchase their product domestically and break it down into four-ounce travel bottles, which can be carried in a quart-sized ziploc bag on a plane.  (OTC medication is exempt from the TSA three-ounce rule that applies to toiletries.)  This was an unfortunate blemish on an otherwise stellar trip, but hopefully one you can plan for before your next visit.

In Pursuit of Art: Drinking NyQuil at Pharmacies by David S. Atkinson

You can look down me as elitist if you like, but I really am a purist. Art does not have room for compromise. Compromise dilutes art, cheapens it. Cheapened art is garbage, worth nothing. My art? I’m a NyQuil swilling wino.

Sure, guzzling un-purchased NyQuil at random store pharmacies may not be as respected as oil painting or mime, but this isn’t the renaissance. Michelangelo was of another time. Contemporary society is synthesized in the display put on by hoboes snatching cough medicine and drinking whatever possible before being thrown out. That symbolizes the degeneracy of western civilization, everything in a nutshell.

We show you yourselves.

The basic elements of the form are pleasingly simple in their minimalism. Bums sneak in and snatch NyQuil from the store shelves. Then they drink it as they rowdily misbehave until tossed. But…that’s just the framework. The art is in the improvisation, the individual interpretation that each artist brings to the display. No two should be the same, even by the same artist.

Granted, performances aren’t required to be unique. The form is technically satisfied if cough medicine, not having been paid for, is chugged and ejection results. That’s all that has to happen…but that alone isn’t art.

As I said, I’m a purist. I have standards.

Though I steadfastly maintain that there is nothing for which to blame me in this, you really can’t blame me anyway. I studied under the legendary Zelkin, perhaps the greatest syrup-swiller of all time. Who else could get a Safeway quarantined by the CDC? After that sort of beginning, you really can’t expect that I wouldn’t be exacting.

Though, the art isn’t what it once was. These are not the days of Zelkin either. I work with Chuck these days, and I’ve fallen into a rut.

Mind you, Chuck is of the old school too. An artist. However, we just aren’t performing to the level we once did. Our work used to be a thing to behold, faxed warnings and legends detailed in poor quality faxes transmitted between pharmacies across the country. Awe.

These days, unfortunately, our routines look disturbingly similar. Chuck gets naked and I blow chunks.

As I said, this worked. Following this formula, Chuck and I have gotten hammered and thrown out of respectable pharmaceutical sections all over this great land. Dallas. Reno. Council Bluffs. Humptulips. We’re among the elect few, preserving a dying breed of cutting edge performance art.

However, was it even art anymore? We seemed more like a commentary on our own decline as opposed to anyone else’s.

Perhaps the change began when NyQuil brought out cherry. It was never regarded as a flavor, it just had a flavor. Black liquorish. It was just NyQuil.

But then there was cherry, and then there was no pseudoephedrine. Sure, you could still get premium behind the counter in some places…but how were you supposed to get that without paying first? Anyway, not enough places carried it. It didn’t work, and almost shut down the whole artistic community. We just had to make do with unleaded, altered as it was, that still sat on main shelves.

Of course, there’s still enough intoxicants in there to trip balls. Dextromethorphan hydrobromide and more booze than some fortified wines. Pseudoephedrine isn’t much to give up, particularly since I never have a cold.

But still…things aren’t what they were. Attitudes have changed as well. People didn’t look on us as artists anymore, more nuisances. No one appreciated a truly inspired performance.; they called the cops instead. It was as if they weren’t really seeing us, didn’t remember why we were there.

It’s hard to be inspired when no one is paying attention. Performers become lax, fall into a formula. Soon, they’re just going through the motions.

That’s where Chuck and I were, two guys drinking someone else’s cough syrup and getting naked or puking.

Speaking of that, Chuck runs by. I see him duck behind the Band-Aid and analgesics aisle. Predictably, he’s naked. His ragged clothes are clutched in his hand and his front is coated with red and green dribblings of the NyQuil he’s already drunk.

Oh, we’re in a Target pharmacy section right now. Somewhere in the greater Duluth area, I believe. We’re in the middle of a performance; I probably should have mentioned that earlier. I’m stained with NyQuil that didn’t quite make it down my throat too.

Seeing Chuck, even though he is just naked again, I’m reminded that this denigration of our art might be more me than him. I talk about purity of form a lot, but I fell into just vomiting all the time easier than Chuck started just going starkers. It was always naked and something else, brilliant things. He pared back after I’d pared back, and even still sometimes he works in flair like he’s trying to wake me up to old glories.

So far, it hasn’t worked.

Sure enough, just as I think that, Chuck rounds the corner. Or, rather, an elderly pharmacist rounds the corner. A nude Chuck is atop his shoulders, bare crotch pressed into the back of the suburbanite’s balding grey head. Chuck is chugging NyQuil and driving the little man like a tame pony.

“Jesus is lord!” Chuck screams, red and green-flecked spittle flying everywhere. “Jesus is lord!”

Chuck’s pharmacist mount cries out in panicked pain, but there’s no mistaking the force in Chuck’s eyes as he locks gaze with me. He’s delivering a mandate, urging me.

Come on! His eyes shout. It doesn’t have to be this way. Act! We remake the world in our image. There is still art if we can but remember it.

And, for the first time in however long it’s been, Chuck reaches my core. I feel the essence in the way I used to, the art. I charge, chasing after.

Well, actually, I duck around the other way. I’m chasing, but I’m heading the pharmacist off at the pass. As he runs down the feminine hygiene aisle, I barrel down at him from the other end. His eyes go even wider as we almost collide, stopping being beyond his control.

“The power of Christ compels you!” I scream just before unleashing my Technicolor spew. My momentum and the force of the gusher blast the old man like a fire hose. Splatter city, even Chuck gets drenched.

It’s a funny time to think about this, but red and green NyQuil don’t seem to quite mix for some reason. You’d think they would, but it always looks still red and green when it comes back up…particularly on a nice white pharmaceutical coat.

You’d also probably think that I wouldn’t get fucked up off the NyQuil since I just hurl it all, but you’d be wrong about that as well. Chuck and I are both flying high by the time we’re sitting in the back of the patrol car.

Yup…arrested instead of thrown out. Nobody appreciates true art anymore; no one can recognize a real artist.

Fucking philistines.

Oh well, this isn’t just for them anyway.