'GRAVES' - INTERVIEW WITH THOMAS MOORE
BY JESSE HUDSON - June 2011
JESSE HUDSON: The visceral emotions communicated in this text seem to be conveyed through a circuitry of short, fierce, and tightly composed sentences and images that communicate directly and immediately with the reader’s gut. I’m also struck by a perceived connection between the title, 'GRAVES', and the style in which the text is composed, a series of packed paragraphs that seem to contain mournful requiems for the characters of which they speak. I’m curious as to how much the style of your text was crucial to the idea behind the novella and whether or not you tried other, different styles before finding the right one.
THOMAS MOORE: Yeah, I tried out a ton of different things when I was writing 'GRAVES'. Originally I had the idea that the book should be made up of around 100 hundred separate sections that were all going to be made up of one paragraph each. I liked the idea of having a short but dense piece of text on each page. I fiddled around with certain parts for a while, but it didn’t map out how I’d intended it to be, although a few pieces still remain from that, albeit in very different versions. I wanted the sentences to be more clipped and sharper than some of the stuff I’d done in the past, and again some of that stuck but a lot of it ended up being fleshed out.
With regards to the title, that’s definitely close to how I was thinking about things, yeah.
I felt like the style and the form of the text was vital to how the piece worked overall. When I originally started working on 'GRAVES' I’d just finished working on my novel, which is very emotionally charged and leads the text off in a lot of sprawling and out-of-control directions, and so I wanted to try writing something different that felt almost flat in a way, like the emotions were there but disguised under this smooth, almost matte-style surface.
As I reworked certain pieces a few times I came to the conclusion that, for whatever reason, having all the different sections written in the sparse, flat tone didn’t seem to carry the weight of what I was trying to do. I ended up re-writing some of the chapters in an almost over-the-top emotional style – more so than I’d done in the past, actually – and that’s where the more visceral stuff came in. I was interested in how having the extremely emotional parts of the novella next to the slower, more restrained parts created this overall mood that was closer to what I was trying to get at in the first place. From there I spent a long time trying to work out the right balance and also how to use both of the different styles with the content that I wanted to work with.
I ended up editing 'GRAVES' more than anything I’d done previously, which was helpful and informative to my writing for sure, even if it was frustrating at times as I’m not the best editor or most patient person when it comes to that kind of thing. Generally, I’m a very instinctive writer and so retraining myself to be a lot slower took some time. There were rewrites and tweaks right up to the very end of the novella when Michael was kind enough to give me some outside input about certain sections of the book.
JH: Were you aware when writing 'GRAVES' that the final product would be done in collaboration with Kiddiepunk? If so, did that knowledge in anyway influence the text? If not, what about the text makes you feel as though Kiddiepunk is the ideal collaborator? I’m interested in knowing how you feel about the symbiotic relationship between the text and the cover (as one example) which, of course, is done by Michael (Salerno).
TM: No, I didn’t really have any plan or idea about what 'GRAVES' was for when I started writing it. I write all the time, I’m compelled to do it constantly, and things don’t feel right if I don’t. I was going through a fucked up time emotionally for various reasons, and when I started working on 'GRAVES' it really felt like I’d found the thing that I needed to focus these emotions into in order to gain that vital, neutral space – that grey area – that I find writing gives me.
I’m in touch with Michael very regularly and I’d shown him a few bits of 'GRAVES' during 2010, but that was it. It wasn’t until I was visiting him in Paris during February of this year that he suggested putting it out via Kiddiepunk.
To have something of mine released with the Kiddiepunk logo on it is such an exciting, cool thing for me. I’ve been collecting Kiddiepunk releases for a few years now, and they’re always such gorgeous items, whether it’s the zines, the music, whatever.
As for the artwork, I knew that Michael would get it right. I loved the cover that he did for my poetry book, 'Hospital', and I’m thrilled with what he came up with for 'GRAVES'. He has this astute sense of perception and is great at capturing the heart of something and translating that into art that matches it exactly.
I first found Michael’s artwork in around 2006 or 2007 and was just completely blown away by the beauty, the darkness, the emotional scope and crushing power of it. There really isn’t another artist who can make me feel the things in the same way that he does with his work. And the stuff he’s been responsible for with Kiddiepunk is the same.
With regards to the text, a lot of my writing and approach to writing has been influenced by his stuff just because he creates such inspiring, magnificent stuff, so I’m sure that his work had some impact on certain sections or moods in 'GRAVES'. I feel a real kinship with his stuff, both in mood and subject matter.
JH: 'GRAVES' is an incredibly emotional text, one that seems to communicate these emotions from somewhere underneath the text, instead of piling them on the surface. The anonymity of many of the narrators seems to counter some of these emotions by maintaining a distance between the reader and narrator(s). How important do you feel emotions are to this piece? Are you more interested in the narrators as abject, despairing entities or as vessels that can contain a particular message for the reader?
TM: The main focus I had when I was writing 'GRAVES' was the mood of the piece. I had this atmosphere that I’d tried to work on in a few earlier pieces of writing, mainly poems, and I wanted to expand on it and really nail it better than I had before. Like I said above, I wanted the emotions to be more subtle or less obviously present but ended up going down a totally different route to that which I’d originally intended.
It’s cool that you picked up on the use of the narrators and characters. I had no interest in forming traditional characters or fleshing the people in the book with traditional traits or anything like that. The mood was paramount and everything else was just a tool to try and build and then enhance the mood. Some of the characters in the book are more easy to pick out and some are almost invisible in as much there are definitely certain parts of 'GRAVES' where the reader won’t have a clue who is talking and who they are talking about; but I knew that if I could build the mood and the overall atmosphere of the book properly then it wouldn’t matter, and things would still make sense emotionally and tonally. And it was through experimenting with different ways of presenting emotion that I found out how to achieve this properly.
JH: I’m fascinated by certain items contained in 'GRAVES'. For instance, the use of photographs, mirrors, videotapes, webcams, computers, and the scene of a man creating collages created from video game magazine clippings and child pornography. These images create, for me, echoes in the text, scenes where the writing unfolds itself like a Russian doll to reveal more and more layers of emotion. Almost like there is an infinite world of these people, these abused, emotionally destitute people. As you say, “There’s no stopping disappearers.” And yet the reader is allowed to see the narrators after they’ve disappeared. Until the end, at least. Is there anything in particular that influenced your theme of disappearance? Such as real-life cases, for example. If not, would you say that disappearance serves as a metaphor or something else along those lines?
TM: Again Jesse, I’m really glad that you picked up on this stuff and asked about it. Thanks for giving my stuff such a generous reading. The word ‘echoes’ is a good way to explain what I was trying to do with certain things in the piece.
I’m obsessed with themes of representation, imitation, fakeness and memory. I can never explain it properly, but I can see a real bond and relationship between those sorts of things, and I like aiming at that stuff in my writing as a way for me to try and work some of it out. I never do, but I get a real emotional kick out of trying to sink myself into that stuff and trying (and also failing) to work it out.
I like how with memory, people’s brains reconstruct certain events in a way that they then trust and believe to be reliable, but really it’s just that – a reconstruction that isn’t the real thing, even though it has all this powerful emotional and personal baggage attached to it. And then with the various representations of things: a photograph isn’t the real thing, it’s a photograph of the real thing, the same thing with all the other stuff – the videos, the webcams, the character making real objects based on scenery from a video game. In terms of aesthetics, I just happen to think that that stuff is really beautiful too, there’s something really gorgeous and moving about faded VHS tapes, grainy pictures from a webcam, and so on. Because I’m so fascinated and confused by all that stuff, I used it as the content to help me drive and shape the mood of 'GRAVES'. I have to have content that keeps me hooked in order to work on the other stuff and the more formal stuff that I wanted to work with.
So anyway, I wanted to space that stuff out across 'GRAVES' so that there was this sense of familiarity, like the photos or the videos had been left behind, or lost, or forgotten. I wanted them to be like ‘echoes’ or like clues to what might have happened, like they’re the only things that were left once the characters and their memories have gone. I suppose that in a way those items occupy the space that characters would take up in a more traditional narrative – but in 'GRAVES', instead of characters, there are VHS tapes and photographs.
Rather than being based on real-life events, the disappearing thing was about the sense of loss, and was more of a device that helped me play with the tone of the piece. I wanted 'GRAVES' to feel haunted, like this really emotional, overpowering event that was already gone and out of reach.