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Interview With Author Ezekiel Tyrus - Short Story Anthology

Recently Eye on Life Magazine had a chance to review and interview a very interesting new author, Ezekiel Tyrus, in regards to three of his contributions in an anthology, titled Acoustic Reads.  It is always fun to meet new people and even more interesting to get to know a new author.  Within this anthology, all of the Eye on Life Magazine team were familiar with some of the other authors in this collection, but not Ezekiel.  We had already interviewed Chris Reilly  and were interested in Zeke's fresh talent.  As you can see from his picture, he's a formidable contender, just in terms of personality alone.  Sometimes that combination of natural raw talent and a unique perspective are all it takes for an interesting read and a new perspective as seen through the eyes of a consummate born storyteller.  You'll get both with this talented author.

Eziekel Tyrus 2012©

Eziekel Tyrus 2012©

Interview With Ezekiel Tyrus - Acoustic Reads

JW:  Tell about your aspirations as a newly published author?

ET:  Well, I wanna sell over one million copies of my upcoming first novel, Eli,Ely .   But isn't that what everybody wants?  I'm approaching this question cautiously because I've noticed that whenever somebody appears too grandiose in their ambitions, be it on a talk show or in print, they comes across so egotistical and cringe worthy. Genuinely, I hope this doesn't happen to me. 

I want people to know my name. I want people to know my work, both Eli,Ely,  the few short stories in Acoustic Reads , and my future writings. I've been a stage performer in the past, with one man shows in both Georgia and California. I may bring some of these old shows back or create new ones. I want to be reviewed, mostly positive, and I want to be analyzed through my work. Meaning, if later in life, another artist cites me as an influence, or describes another's work as Tyrusian , I'd be extraordinarily happy. 

Subjects like regret, heartbreak, the act of plowing through life despite the emotions you are feeling, are important to me. I also like to write about fighting and having a good time.  Currently, I'm working on a short story collection where empathy is a recurring theme.  No spoilers here but I can tell you that suicide is discussed and contemplated in Eli,Ely.

Soon to be published:  Eli, Ely by Ezekiel Tyrus, 2012©

Soon to be published:  Eli, Ely by Ezekiel Tyrus, 2012©

Perhaps, one day, somebody will tell me my novel or my work gave them new insight or perspective to certain emotions they were experiencing but don't worry about me being too maudlin. I was gifted with a great sense of humor and I do think that comes out in all my creative endeavors, even the most serious. 

Essentially, I cherish every emotion I experience, be it happiness or depression and I hope I can make readers do the same. Think about the favorite escapade that you and your best friend did in college, the one that makes you howl with laughter to this day some 20 years later. Think about it. 

Now, think about the thing your father said to you that was so uncalled-for when you were in your adolescence. The thing it took you a long time to forgive. Or maybe you haven't forgiven him. Think about it for a few minutes. 

Both memories are to be cherished and absorbed equally because you are feeling something. I want my readers to experience emotions, to be reminded of their own feelings and to embrace both good and bad because it's the absence of emotion that kills you. Numbness equals death. I want my readers to feel that, too.  (How lofty is that? LOL)

Ezekiel Tyrus and Michelle Gengnagel 2012©

Ezekiel Tyrus and Michelle Gengnagel 2012©

JW: Getting back to Acoustic Reads and your personal short stories, tell me about how you came to write I Have a Dog   (which by the way, was my favorite piece).

ET:  I lived and worked in Tampa in the early to mid-90s. I lived in a neighborhood called 'Suitcase City' due to its transient nature. Not the safest barrio in Tampa, I assure you.  While there, I use to observe this dangerous but degenerating homeless person. The man looked like he had once been an exceptional tough guy both in face and body language.

I once read an old detective novel by Ross MacDonald where he described some old thug as having a face that 'looked like old trouble .' LOL His face looked like it survived about a dozen prison riots. Not to mention, he was a lush, always with malt liquor in his hands and walking around like a thick mean wobbling drunk. I use to drive slowly around the neighborhood just to observe him. I never had the courage to follow him on foot, but I once parked in a 7-11 parking lot, just to watch him drink by the front door. 

One day, I saw this rough looking homeless guy with a dog, a black mangy dog with a cut eye. Sadly the dog looked like it had been once tortured. Believe me, if I thought this tough-looking homeless guy was being cruel to a dog, I would've done something about it, but I know intuitively he was the dog's savior, not tormentor. 

I watched these two lost souls cuddling together in front of liquor stores, by sidewalks, in vacant lots, etc. I watched the man sharing food and water with the dog, gently petting him, walking with each other side-by-side, and protecting the dog from other people; crack heads, winos and whatnot. 

Chattahoochee State Mental Hospital in Florida

Chattahoochee State Mental Hospital in Florida

JW:  One of your other short stories in Acoustic Reads, The Writing Idiot  of Florida  was quite thought provoking, was it based on a real person?

ET:  That used to be a performance monologue I use to perform on stages throughout San Francisco throughout the 90s.  I go back for several generations in Florida, we always heard about Chattahoochee State Mental Hospital which was Florida's first mental hospital and generally considered a deplorable snake-pit.

There was even a movie about the hospital with Gary Oldman and Dennis Hopper.  Though I'm not certain, I've heard Marilyn Monroe's mother died while being a patient at that hospital. Growing up in Florida, whenever you acted silly or crazy, your Mom would say, "They're gonna send you to Chattahoochee State Mental Hospital!"

When I'd perform the monologue, people thought I made-up Chattahoochee State Mental Hospital but no, it's a real place. It still exists but I don't know at what capacity. The Wikipedia for Chattahoochee State Mental Hospital makes for good reading. Check it out.  I don't know where I came up with the idea of The Writing Idiot of Florida, other than I'm a compulsive writer who needs writing, sometimes even more than I want writing. (Does that make sense?)

Acoustic Reads

Acoustic Reads

JW:  Tell me about the struggles you've had getting published. 

ET:  I will take responsibility and say that it’s all my fault that I’ve not gotten published sooner.  

Ray Bradbury wrote, “It’s more important to be a great editor than a great writer.” 

I’ve known that quote for over a decade but only recently understood the enormity of such a statement. I think writers need to know how to revise and edit or quite frankly, all the solitary hours spent writing is a waste of time. My original manuscript for Eli,Ely   was about 150,000 words. Now it’s under 90,000.

I’ve sent my original manuscripts. to dozens of presses, publishers and literary agents and often got polite sometimes encouraging responses. Got one or two rude responses, too.  Other times I’d never hear back from a certain agent or publisher.  I’d go back and look at my proposal and see one misspelling and one typo after another.  Surely, the other party never even considered my proposal because it was written so carelessly. If you want to be taken seriously as a writer, you need to take the entire process seriously. Check your work, revise, edit, and revise some more.

However, I will tell you that after I got one heartbreaking rejection letter from a publisher I greatly admired, Dalkey Archive, I got on my hands and knees and prayed to God for a ‘publishing opportunity’ to approach me.

I’d wrote another novel before Eli, Ely.  It was called, Pricks of Conscience , and I even got representation by a New York literary agent with a famous client list. But the novel went nowhere and eventually, the man dropped me. Reviewing the novel years later, I realized what a mess it was and to be honest, I’m glad it never got published. Today, I don’t think a single copy of that first novel even exists.

In between novels and before Pricks of Conscience , I use to perform monologues and short stories on Bay Area stages including The Writing Idiot of Florida .  In winter of last year, I got approached by John Stapleton via Facebook, telling me he knew my work from various websites.  He was looking to form a small press and that they were going to release an anthology late summer 2012.  I was thrilled when he asked if I would I be interested in sending them a few short stories for such a project.  Evidently, prayers do get answered. 

Don't be discouraged. Keep writing.