Screaming Skull - Interview with author Tony Nesca

Tony Nesca was born in Torino, Italy in 1965 and moved to Canada at the age of three. He was raised in Winnipeg but relocated back to Italy several times until finally settling in Winnipeg in 1980. He taught himself how to play guitar and formed an original rock band playing the local bars for several years. At the age of twenty-seven he traded his guitar for a Commodore 64 and started writing seriously. He has published six chapbooks of stories and poems (which he used to sell straight out of his knapsack at local dives and bookstores), six novels, five books of poetry and stories and has been an active contributor to the underground lit scene for fifteen years, being published in innumerable magazines both online and in print.

Where did your 16th book 'Junkyard Lucy' come from?

I had an intense desire to write a group of short stories that stand on their own, but when you read the entire book, all have very subtle connections to each other. Minor characters in one story, appear as the main characters in another, and many of them know each other, or are connected in some way. There was also a desire to stretch my wings creatively - I wanted to write about all phases of my life (with my usual fictionalization of course), childhood, teenage years, adulthood, and also I wanted to touch on the fact that I was raised in two countries, Italy and Canada. I normally write what is considered street-writing, characters and situations that live in dark neighborhoods surrounded by on-the-fringe lifestyles. There is still an element of that in Junkyard Lucy, stories about ghetto-living, but this time I wanted to do more, go deeper. One story might be about an Italian village I lived in as an adolescent, while the next story could be about a couple of twenty-somethings scrambling for concert tickets to see their favorite rock band in Canada. And there is always sex, drugs and rock and roll.

How intense is the sex and death to rebellious youths coverage in your story? What has actually inspired you to write about music and love in this story?

The sex and dealing with death is very strong in Junkyard Lucy, I wanted to deal with the whole gamut of experience, the good, the bad, and the inevitable. As far as music goes, there is a musical element to all my writing, not just in the actual plots, but the very style of writing that I do is musical.

How would you describe the writing style taken for your books?

I believe in playing around with language and the so-called rules of grammar and feel that rhythm and beat are just as important as story. Unlike someone like Charles Bukowski or Hemingway or Raymond Carver I am not trying to put the word down as simply and straightforward as possible, quite the opposite actually. I try to get to meaning and truth by a musical cascade of words flowing and sometimes bursting down the page, and I am just as influenced by rock and roll as I am by the literary greats. My writing has to sound like music, it has to dance down the page in magnificent chaos and happy madness.

When did you decide to start Screamin' Skull Press'? Tell us about your mission statement.

I founded Screamin' Skull Press in 1994 as a cool sounding name to publish my books under. At the beginning it was just 45-50 page chapbooks of stories and poems, then in 2001 I wrote and published my first full length novel called Dishpig. My wife, Nicole Nesca, a great poet and writer in her own right, joined in 2008 and has wrote and published 5 books of her own under the Screamin' Skull banner. I began my own publishing imprint because I knew, after many rejection letters, that I would be waiting forever to see my writing in print. To be frank, there is too much pushed out into the world today that is bland and formulaic. Every other book is a rip-off of another rip-off. The bookstores are packed with these endless vampire stories and dystopian fairy tales. Where is our Anais Nin? Our Hunter S. Thompson? I wanted to write raw, electric work with a free flowing mix of prose and poetry, explorations of sexual freedom, art, death and love.

Why do you need to trade your guitar for a Commodore 64 to get serious in writing? What were the other ways for people to write during that time?

Well, I didn't have to trade my guitar, but I didn't have any money to buy a computer, and I had an offer for the Commodore 64, which anyone old enough can remember, was a horrible machine - I had a small black and white TV for a monitor and entire sentences would go off the screen when I wrote, I had to guess, and hope, that what I wrote was working and didn't have any mistakes, very crazy stuff. But it worked out in the end, and the story has just begun.

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