We electronically chatted with multiple-award-winner Tyler Enfield, author of Like Rum-Drunk Angels (Goose Lane Editions)—a Coen Brothers meets Kurt Vonnegut retelling of Aladdin as an American western—about a book that changed his writing, a philosophical take on creativity, and what he’s working on now.
All Lit Up: Was there a book that changed your writing?Tyler Enfield: Yes, Tropic of Cancer. I was twenty-two at the time, and reading Henry Miller was like straddling a meteor. There was a moment in particular where I actually set the book down: I realized Miller was singing. He heard a backbeat in his head, and he was putting words to the rhythm— lunatic Jazz style. That was quite a realization. It took the ceiling off so many notions I had around writing, what it should look like, what it should do.ALU: If you wrote a memoir, what would it be called?TE: Earthling ObservationsALU: Have you ever had writer’s block? TE: I have. Though I don’t tend to look at it in terms of a block. For one, the phrase writer’s block is self-referential— it implies creativity is ours, it belongs to us, and should therefore do our bidding. I don’t believe that. Without getting too philosophical, I actually believe the opposite: that creativity is part of something much, much bigger than ourselves, and if it doesn’t show up for work some day, that’s really none of my business. My job is to be ready and willing when the call comes in.
Trials of the budding novelistTrials of the budding novelist, part IIALU: Do you have a book you’ve gone back and read several times?TE: Slaughter House Five. I have no idea how many times I’ve read it. It’s just so pleasantly deranged. And genius. And fun. And it’s also amazingly honest and revelatory when you consider Kurt Vonnegut lived through the firebombing of Dresden, and is perhaps the most qualified author to ever comment on the ironies of war.When I have nothing to do, I’ll just open the book to any page and read for an hour.
Drop deeper – Tyler’s adviceALU: What are you working on now?TE: A new story called, Cowboy Robots of the Dead Tomorrow. It’s a little crazy, and craziest of all— it’s inspired by actual events I was fortunate/unfortunate enough to part of. Here’s the summary:After graduating from art-school and discovering she’s unqualified for everything, Chloe Samsa finds herself drawn into the chaotic, surreal, and possibly dangerous world of Izumi Benton, the legendary film-director who’s launching a new project in Chloe’s hometown.The film: Cowboy Robots of the Dead Tomorrow. It’s a retelling of The Emperor Wears No Clothes, set in a nineties-era Hong Kong sweatshop — the entire city recreated down to the smallest detail inside a gigantic movie studio.Chloe is brought in as a costume designer, but soon finds herself living on set, working insane hours in the “Wu Ming Garment Factory”— the very sweatshop around which the film revolves. As the lines between cinema and reality begin to blur, and Izumi Benton looms larger than life, Chloe struggles to make sense of a nonsensical world that nobody seems willing to question. * * *Tyler Enfield lives in Edmonton with his wife and two daughters. His first reader for any new work is always Luna, his dog. If she devours the manuscript in a single sitting, he knows it’s in good shape. Tyler enjoys chess and photography, and travels when he can. You can visit him at www.tylerenfield.com.* * *Thanks so much to Tyler for answering our questions, and to Goose Lane Editions for making the connection. Like Rum-Drunk Angels is available on All Lit Up.