Tim P. Walker
If you were allowed to give one argument as to why the world should read your work, what would that argument be?
I think someone else somewhere cited this very quote, but in the 1975 film Hearts of the West, the main character, played by Jeff Bridges, goes around telling everyone that he’s a writer of western novels, to which the Andy Griffith character, who’s a grizzled movie extra, smacks down that pretentious notion. The quote goes: “If a person saying he was something was all there was to it, this country’d be full of rich men and good-looking women… when someone else says you’re a writer, that’s when you’re a writer.”
I can’t honestly make the argument as to why the world should read my work. The work has to speak for itself. All I can do is wrap it up in a pretty package, slap the word DYNAMITE on it, and see if it goes off.
What compelled you to become a writer in the first place?
I was ten years old and living on a steady diet of TV horror/suspense anthologies and J.B. Stamper’s Tales for the Midnight Hour collection when I improvised this story for my Cub Scout group at a meeting sometime around Halloween. The story was about a woman getting menaced by a hatchet-wielding maniac who insisted on referring to himself as the personification of her fear. It wasn’t good. At all. Not only that, but I’m pretty sure I was ripping off some not-even-half-remembered episode of Freddy’s Nightmares that I had only actually watched a minute of. It didn’t matter. The other scouts were entranced and I caught my first buzz.
I’ve been chasing that particular dragon ever since.
(By the way, I’d rank Englund/Freddy Krueger as a better horror anthology emcee than Henry Rollins but not quite as high as a puppet voiced by John Kassir.)
Who are some writers every new/beginning writer should read and why?
Raymond Queneau, specifically his Exercises in Style, which is a book of 99 retellings of the same story, but all told in an array of styles. Sure, it’s classroom stuff, but for anyone who wants to venture down this road, it’s worth trying a few of those exercises for themselves — build a bit of muscle mass and such.
Otherwise, I suppose anyone who fancies themselves a writer would’ve started out as a reader first and foremost. They know what inspires them. They know what gave them the itch. I might suggest that any new writer go back to whatever it was that sparked their interest, whatever they’re most obsessed with, and re-read it and discover what it is about it that clicks for them, that makes the story tick, that makes the characters jump off the page.
What are some writing tips you would offer new/beginning writers?
Rip something off.
If you’re coming up short in the ideas department and need a little inspiration – rip something off.
You could try taking something you haven’t read or seen or maybe something you have read or seen but vaguely remember and rewrite in the way you think it would go or should go. You could take a little germ of an idea from somewhere — a joke you heard, a story in the local newspaper, a misheard lyric — and blow it up into something else completely.
Other than that, don’t underestimate the power of a decent title. In a manner of speaking, slap the word DYNAMITE on something and see if it blows up.
Some books change our lives. Can you share which books have absolutely changed the way you look at the world, the way you approach life? How did they affect this change in you?
Danny Peary’s Cult Movies 2.
When I was thirteen, I checked that book out from the library along with a cassette of White Light / White Heat by the Velvet Underground and the most recent Dark Tower book by Stephen King. At the time I was obsessed with Taxi Driver and Phantom of the Paradise (still am), and here I stumble across this book that says to me, “Of course you’re obsessed. Quite a few people are actually. Here’s an essay on it. Oh, and here’s a few other movies that might tickle you as well.” It felt like an induction to a small club I was already a member of but didn’t know it. Naturally, I needed to seek out every other movie on the list and the books they were based on — A Clockwork Orange, Cutter’s Way, The Wicker Man, and so on. The fact that these films weren’t as ubiquitous as Star Wars or Batman or anything with Stallone or Schwarzenegger made them all the more worth seeking out and obsessing over.
And the connections made with others who shared some of these obsessions… The secret handshakes of quotes… Sure, it’s all trivial, but the older I get, the more I realize that the only fanaticism worthwhile is the kind that worships at the altar of mundane pop culture.
What’s a movie that absolutely has to be seen on the big screen to be fully appreciated (and why)?
To be honest, with the advent of flat screen televisions and widescreen aspect ratios, I’m usually as fully immersed in something on my own couch as I would be watching something in a movie theater.
That said, what can’t be replicated is the actual pleasure of sitting in a darkened room with a bunch of strangers and sharing an experience. Sometimes it’s the awkwardness of someone catching themselves laughing at something that no one else in the theater found funny (Late Night, 2019). Sometimes it’s the look of utter disgust on the faces of folks who clearly didn’t know what they walked into coupled with the joy of knowing that the movie you just watched would without a doubt be future fodder for a Danny Peary book (Army of Darkness, 1993). Sometimes it’s the bits of conversations you catch about the movie or the conversations you find yourself in coming out of a theater. Sometimes it’s the stunned silence (Boys Don’t Cry, No Country for Old Men, The Departed, Hereditary, etc.). Sometimes it’s the theater’s personal touches (the vintage John Waters pre-show smoking announcement at The Senator in Baltimore).
Ultimately, it’s event itself — the air of anticipation as a crowd that’s been watching the same trailer for three months holds its collective breath as the lights go down. Well, I mean, yeah, there’s another ten or minutes of ads and trailers before the actual movie, but still…
Actually, now that I think of it — the kind of movie that has to be seen in a theater to be fully appreciated would be one of those special event screenings like those gimmicky William Castle movies where the seats electrocute you or something like Rocky Horror or The Room where people dress up and yell and throw shit at the screen. Now that’s cinema.
What can we expect from you in the near future?
You can expect that I’m going to be stalking eBay for a decent copy of Cult Movies 2 at a decent price.
Otherwise, I’m wrapping up the first draft of a longer piece. After I accomplish that, it’ll be time to warm up the flamethrower and who knows, maybe what’s left of the piece will be suitable for publication.
Oh, and if there’s one thing I’d really like to accomplish in the near future, it’s to get recognized as an official author by that stupid fucking book review app. Because it’s the twenty first century, and you’re a writer when the internet algorithms say you’re a writer.
Tim P. Walker lives in Baltimore, Maryland. You can find his short fiction in a handful of anthologies and many fine publications such as Out of the Gutter, Pulp Modern, a couple of anthologies, the late great Baltimore City Paper, and Rock and a Hard Place.