Today, I want that my readers continue discovering the works of two Italian, Canadian ( and American) writers: Tony and Nicole Nesca. They are independent as the publishing company they founded : Screamin’ Skull Press. During this week, I have also published a review and a press release about them. But today, I have done much more: I have published a very interesting interview with these couple of married authors. I suggest that you read the interview carefully, because it contains many upsetting truths about modern literature and mainstream publishing. The interview with Tony and Nicole is as a sort of heartfelt confession about what it means to be a writer today. For this reason, I also suggest that you buy their books quoted (and linked) inside this interview. Good reading!
Dear Tony and Nicole, you are an unusual couple of independent writers: independent, but also married. United for life and also for work, because I know you are the owners of an Independent Publishing House called Screamin’ Skull Press. The Company is based in your hometown Winnipeg, Canada. Can you tell me about the reasons that led you to create your Independent Publishing Company?
Tony : I started Screamin’ Skull Press in 1994 because I was tired of hearing from publishers who said ‘love your work, but it just won’t sell’, and I realized rather quickly that I would be waiting a lifetime for something that wasn’t going to happen…in today’s literary world anyway…I was very tired of genre writing, very tired of everything being a copy of everything else, superheroes, vampires, zombies, I wanted to write literature from the guts and heart – and I absolutely wanted to write uncensored and uncontrolled by anyone…
Nicole : Tony had already started Screamin’ Skull Press when I met him, but it was a one-writer operation – himself. But I felt the same way as he did – I wanted to write something different from what is happening today, something that I felt personally, not something that was simply copying what everyone else was doing…I wanted to write poetry and literature in that counter-culture way, against the norm, not following it.
Your literary genres run from novels and short stories to poetry, but with a common feature: a sense of freedom and rebellion against conformism and hypocrisy of society and literature, then translated into an edgy and sharp writing that nearly resembles a scream. What did you drive to develop this deep and intense voice in your writing and where do you get inspiration to write your works?
Tony : I was driven by the need to write honestly and differently and, as already stated, uncensored – I wanted to keep a rock and roll, street feel to it – if I felt like writing about drinking and smoking, or about sex, or about just living broke and washing dishes and trying to be a writer, or about the Italian town I grew up in, I was going to do it…my writing is what you call “autobiographical fiction” – meaning, I write about my life, but I fictionalize it and turn it into a story or poem – I write in a quasi-stream of consciousness style, free-flow, free-form – sentences can go on for pages, free and alive, but always with an uncluttered musical flow – or at least I try to. A fan of mine called my writing “word music”, and think that says it all.
Nicole : Well, I was, and I know Tony was as well, heavily influenced by music as well as literature – Bob Dylan and Neil Young are long-time heroes of mine and a great influence on my writing, especially my poetry. I’ve also been profoundly influenced by the paintings of Frida Kahlo and Salvador Dali. I’d be remiss at this point if I didn’t mention the literary influences of Neruda, Hemingway, Nin, Miller, etc., etc. I just wanted to do it loud and my own way.
According to you, why modern publishers often reject the kind of literary genre you love writing?
Tony : That’s easy – because modern publishers are out to make money and to sell books – and to follow trends and to pander to a mass audience – if they don’t think your book can appeal to the mainstream, they won’t publish it…not to mention that we live in a politically correct world where prudishness and “moral judgement” run rampant. Everyone wants to be as squeaky clean as they can be…that doesn’t fit in with how I write – in the 60’s or 70’s, I’d be making bags of money (laughs)….keep in mind however, that I have been published in a ton of Indie Literary Magazines throughout the years, Nicole as well….it’s just the big boys that have turned us down.
Nicole : I write counter-culture prose and poetry – that is NOT what publishers today want – they want vampires, zombies, space adventures, wizards in forests, etc…like Tony said, anything that will please the mass audience….sorry, but I am not interested!
After a rejection by a publisher, have you ever thought to leave or forget writing?
Tony : In the old days, 1000 times over – now, I don’t send my work to publishers – not interested in what they have to say at all – I am interested in promoting Screamin’ Skull Press as much as possible – if success, financial success, comes at all, it will be through our press. And if it does happen through another press taking us on, one of us, or both of us, it will be with our writing as it stands, no changes.
Nicole : Never – I have never sent my work to the big publishers anyway – I knew right off the bat they wouldn’t be interested. But I have been published in several anthologies and underground magazines…that’s cool, I dig that.
Have you ever thought to change your literary genre only to be printed by a traditional publisher?
Tony : Never.
Nicole : Not once.
What do you think about the current conditions of contemporary literature?
Tony : I honestly can’t count the ways I dislike it, words are not enough. This is a sterile, and culturally bankrupt time we live in…music, film, and literature have hit an all-time low…pop stars, video games, cartoons and CGI effects rule everything. There are no more writers that want to express what it means to be alive, or what they see as being alive– let me correct that – there are some good writers, but they are not being listened to, they remain unknown…selling out has become a way of life, a part of the acceptable narrative. To write the word down with feeling and reckless abandon, to write how one might paint, without any thoughts to anything else but the inner need to say what one is saying – or to just rock and roll and write wild and crazy and the hell with it – this just isn’t being done – there’s no demand for it.
Nicole : Look, how many more times are we going to see a movie with a scene where a dinosaur is running after someone and reaches out with its jaws to eat that person, just to miss it at the last second? How many more times? How many more times are we going to see yet another superhero do that scene where he jumps off a roof and lands with one knee down, slowly raising his head dramatically as the smoke dissipates around him, know what I mean? How many more space ships, how many more action heroes? And yet, the crowd still eats it up, they still scream and lap it up – and books are no better – they are about exactly the same subject matter I just described – do you remember Patti Smith, Dorothy Parker and Anais Nin? Where is the modern day equivalent?
Why do you think your works could be greatly appreciated in Italy and Europe than in another Country?
Tony : Because Europe has always been more liberal, culturally and politically, than North America. It’s true, most of my favourite writers are American, but they all sold more books in Europe than back home, they all made it in Europe first. There seems to be an easier acceptance to a more individualistic style of writing over there.
Nicole : Because Europe has always been 100 years ahead of North America culturally speaking…except for music, rock and roll mainly, I prefer most European forms of art to North American ones, especially literature and film.
What is the message that your books can convey to the European readers?
Tony : Only that you can still write with a sense of freedom as long as you do it yourself and ignore the mainstream publishers – there is still a space, albeit a small space, for people to write creatively and uniquely – and who knows – if there were more of us, if we can spread the word, then maybe we can start a much needed counter-culture, literary rebellion. Oh, and buy our books (laughs).
Nicole : If you like poetry, street-poetry, and novels written with the poetic in mind, then our books are for you – buy our books (laughs) so that we can make some money and come to Europe, especially Italy, for a book tour. I’m Italian-American and I’ve never seen Italy, sigh….it’s time.
Can you briefly quote some of your titles and plots (or verses) that could be more suitable to the Italian and European audience?
Tony : Well, all of mine for sure – but my novels, ABOUT A GIRL, LA GIOCONDA, DISHPIG, are a good start. Also, my short stories based in Italy called, CALABRITTO and COSIMINO IL VIGLIACCO are perfect for an Italian audience. They appear in a book of mine called BULLETPROOF SMILE. I was born in Italy, you know….
Nicole : My books, THE SEXUAL REPRESSION COLLECTION, KINK and CANNED are perfect for Italian and European audiences – the rest of them as well – I have European sensibilities, no doubt – and it shows in my writing, even though I am proud to live in Canada, and proud that I was born in the U.S.A
What can readers find in your books: Originality, talent, passion, or what else?
Tony : You will find a lyrical, yet gritty, form of literature that has almost disappeared off the face of the earth. A rock and roll rendition of prose and poetry.
Nicole : I think my writing has blended my love for the singer-songwriters with literature – original, gritty, but heavy on emotion.