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Writer vs. Writer Interview: Trak E Smith

Trak E Smith with the pseudonym Trak E Sumisu author of five transgressive novels is our today's guest. He's known for writing for a very mature audience! His works are visceral, guttural, shocking, has graphic depictions of sex, and sometimes unsettling depictions of abuse. That's enticing, let's get to know him better.

Hello Trak. Very glad that you've accepted to join us. Can you tell us a bit about youserf?

After you contacted me, I checked your website and it’s very good. I’ve joined up to receive your newsletters, ordered a copy of feminomaniacs. I’ve written five transgressive novels, the first two of which have been published.

The very first was CPR: Conditional Positive Regard. That novel deals with the dark machinations of a voyeuristic and narcissistic psychotherapist as he tried to come to terms with the feelings engendered by the wife of one of his clients, and the outcome of a terrible tragedy. The second and third volumes of the CPR trilogy are written and awaiting publication.

My second novel: Taphophilia is also a dark tale of Baudelairian neo-gothic love between a jaded photographer and a young model who share a passion for cemeteries and death.

I am currently finishing my fifth transgressive novel: Confinement. It has nothing to do with the current Covid-19 world crisis.

Both CPR and Taphophilia are available on Amazon and one of the reviews describes me as ‘the British Houellebecq’. Quite an honor to even be in the same sentence as the great master of French transgressive literature.

As I write in this genre, I find it facinating to know when did you decide to become a writer in the Transgressive Genre?

I don’t recall making a conscious decision to become a writer in the transgressive genre. There’s a very real possibility that the genre chose me. What I mean by that is that first and foremost I’m a storyteller. I transcribe my stories so that they can hopefully reach a wider audience. Labels are applied to all such narratives and I think if a label had to be applied to my work it could only be described as ‘transgressive’.

For many, this genre is not attractive at all. Tell us, what about Transgressive Genre attracts you?

I’m increasingly attracted to the transgressive genre because more than any other genre in literature it holds a mirror up to life. Not the comfortable, sanitized, somewhat predictable life depicted by television, advertising, and the mainstream media. Transgressive reflections are more honest because they are not perfect.

The transgressive mirror itself is unashamedly tarnished and is invariably cracked because life is unpredictable. Life stories don’t always end well. The people in our lives are individuals and they have their own personalities, their own agenda, and those hardly ever coincide with our own.

Sticking one's head in the sand because it’s more palatable than facing reality is not a reason, it’s an excuse. The transgressive genre rejects such excuses.

I can't agree more. What do you think makes a good Transgressive story?

A good transgressive story needs to have an immediacy that is uncompromising. It needs to be unapologetic and to avoid any tendency to ‘sugar coat’ the reason for our being.

The human condition is a philosophical argument that has raged for centuries and has employed the minds of countless scholars and some of our greatest philosophers.

The question remains unanswered. I think the transgressive approach might very well be the solution. Instead of debating the meaning of life, we should accept it for what it is - warts and all - and stop wasting valuable moments on that we are incapable of altering anyway.

A good transgressive story also needs also to be free of censorship, especially self-censorship. I believe that all censorship is ultimately destructive. While some sections of society do benefit from guidance - i.e. being protected from ideas and images that are disturbing or dangerous - censorship supposes that the rest of society are unable to police their thoughts and actions. Right now, at this point in time, we are all being subjected to - if not, bombarded by - editorial bias and censorship that promotes and allows only one viewpoint. All other views are closed down. In effect, silenced. This is a form of intellectual dictatorship. Transgressive literature strikes a blow against this. It challenges. It presents different - sometimes difficult concepts or viewpoints and enables discussion and as a result learning. That is its strength.

Indeed it's against intellectual dictatorship. Can you tell us about your books, which one is your favorite and why? How long does it take you to write a book? Do you have any writing routines? What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

My first full-length published novel was ‘CPR: Conditional Positive Response’.

It’s a dark, transgressive tale of Matthew Stent, an unconventional psychotherapist, whose own life has taken a back seat to the lives of his clients which are viewed by the reader through a series of voyeuristic, sexualized, and disturbing exchanges until he himself becomes obsessed with Terri, the wife of his latest client. When he is invited by Terri’s uncle - Tobias Greylock, a Machiavellian Wiccan high priest - to a spiritual retreat, events there take an unexpected turn and leaves Matthew’s world in disarray. Combined with a tragedy that overtakes his life, ‘CPR’ is an uncompromising read about nonconformity and culture shock.

Intended as a trilogy, the sequels ‘CPR II’ and ‘III’ are now being proofread and edited prior to publication.

My second published novel ‘Taphophilia’ is a neo-gothic romance that is even darker than the first and details the lives of a jaded photographer with aspirations of being a novelist, and a young, uninhibited model. Both share a fascination for cemeteries, Baudelaire, sex, and death. Inevitably their excesses threaten to destroy them, resulting in an unimaginable event that will alter their lives forever.

It would be difficult to say which of them is my favorite, but I do have a soft spot for ‘Taphophilia’. It’s a mixed media novel, combining elements of photography and poetry to augment the story. This helps to create an atmosphere of brooding nihilism and I appreciated using the varying disciplines that enabled me to enjoy a freedom of expression beyond the text.

All my novels take approximately three to four months to write, which averages out at around 1000 words per day. This is achieved sitting at my table, with my tablet to hand, (I’ve written all my books on a tablet since they were first launched) and a large mug of coffee to one side. Personally, I prefer writing in the morning, but if the muse takes me I have been known to write on and off for most of the day. More often than not the writing drives itself.

That's a good plan. Sometimes I feel I have no proper writing routines. May I know where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

The best ideas and the most valuable information needed for my books are all around me. If I could sum up my main source material in two words it would be ‘human observation’. Every character in every book we have ever read or we will ever write has already existed. There is no greater collection of villains, despots, tyrants, gaslighters, comedians, heroes, masters, victims, and lovers than those we encounter on our journey through life every day. Take time to look around you, listen to the voices, read the stories in the faces and gestures of those people we might normally take for granted. It’s rich and it’s endless, as are the possibilities, and combined with a modicum of creativity the results are boundless.

That's truly the essence of Transgressive Fiction. When did you write your first book and how old were you?

I haven’t always written transgressive works, but I have always written, except for a sixteen-year hiatus while my children grew up.

I wrote my first book when I was ten. It was a science fiction story about an invasion of one-eyed globular floating aliens with one arm. Since then I’ve written ‘novels’ (most of them manuscripts and sadly unpublished) in the fantasy, crime, horror, and thriller genres.

I think the closest genre to the transgressive one is, believe it or not, science fiction and its close cousin, the dystopian novel. Both lend themselves so beautifully to the concept of freedom from normality and the confines imposed on society by established rules.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

One of the most surprising things I’ve learned in creating my books is the natural way in which a story can develop. It’s almost organic. Often I’ll begin with just a basic idea, or a character I feel is interesting in some way and start plotting around that. However, it doesn’t matter how well plotted I think the story is there are elements within it that take on a life of their own. The story itself demands to be free of the confinement I’ve created and in doing so becomes the richer for it.

A writerly friend told me he uses ‘story dice’ to help him determine events in his books and consequently what path his novel will take. That may work for him, but I believe it wouldn’t for me because my stories are largely character-driven.

Story dice won't work for me either. My characters are too rebel to follow what I tell them to do. Do you have any suggestions to help others to become a better writer? If so, what are they?

Yes, I have a couple of suggestions that might help others become better writers. First and foremost, write every day. It doesn’t matter how long you write for each day, as long as you do. I normally write for a minimum of one hour and I specifically set that time aside to do so. I include processes like plotting, characterization, and editing in that broad context of writing, but the most important thing is that I write. The more we write the easier it becomes.

Secondly, invest in a good online thesaurus. I use the Chambers Thesaurus App. It’s invaluable and is vital to avoid repetition in your work, bring a richness to the text, and increase the vocabulary used. Some of these Apps are free, so there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Thirdly, and this especially true for those writing transgressive fiction, write for yourself, not for others. The transgressive genre constantly needs original voices, voices that are unafraid to confront their readers with the stark realities of existence, and stories that are uncompromisingly honest. If you write to suit a specific market your work will be limited by the extent of that market and however long it remains fashionable.

Thank you so much Track for your time.

CPR: Conditional Positive Regard


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