George P. Farrell was born, raised, housed, clothed and well-fed in the Bronx, NY. Generally puzzled and baffled by life but always hopeful.
“In my early twenties I discovered writing as a cheaper and better alternative to psychological counselling. Discovered the Catskills was a good place to pursue a writing career and inspecting boats, a reasonable way to put food on the table. I have written six novels and a bunch of short stories, as I traveled along my learning curve, and so far have produced a literary income of forty dollars plus numerous, very-appreciated pats-on-the-back. I am looking forward, with some trepidation, to more of the same.”
You can read George's haunting essay, "Hoarding Memories," in Letting Go: An Anthology of Attempts, edited by M.E. Hughes
Letting Go is an anthology of true stories. As a writer of fiction, did you find it harder to write a nonfiction story?
When I first started writing significantly, it was a kind of navel gazing pre-occupation with the confusing mess I knew as my life. After a few years, I realized (with the help of a wonderful mentor) that this was neurotic orbiting around something I could never quite get to. That’s when fiction began creeping into my voluminous diary. Years later after I abandoned my diary altogether and was deep into fiction writing, I made another realization. The fiction I was writing was just a heavily camouflaged version of my own experiences, albeit much more interesting and a great deal more fun. Fun because fiction dealt with the essences of experience and left out all the stuff no one wants to read anyway. So I guess my answer to your question is I don’t see much difference.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
The New York City sanitation men used to be able to sort through the debris they picked up and put any good stuff they found into a private carton tied to the side of their truck. They called the good stuff “mongo.” Alas, the politicians put a stop to this practice. Writing is like driving a garbage truck through the private roads of your mind, enjoying the solitude, creeping around in there, looking for good stuff. And when I find the mongo, molding it into a scene or a character is the most satisfying of occupations.
What’s the hardest part about writing for you?
Re-writing. I liked it the way it came out the first time. Why bother?
Where do your ideas come from?
My ideas come from within me. From my life, my experiences, from people who made me laugh, cry or simply scared the bejeezus out of me. I am particularly fond of the many oddball people who crossed my path and allowed me to write them up as even odder than they were. The wonderful thing about writing is you can do whatever the hell you want.
How much time each week do you devote to writing?
I have no writing schedule. To me, writing is like a mental eruption. The pressure builds, I become irritable, ornery, and then realize I just need to write something and I’ll feel better. It’s a bit like a drinking problem.
What are you working on?
At the moment I’m doing some sheetrock work in my country house. I’m also working on an autobiographical novel involving some little shit who resembles me and a wonderful woman whose love made a man out of the little shit. It’s a sordid love story.
What has been the most surprising about learning your craft?
Somebody paid me $40.00 for a humorous short story I wrote years ago. I nearly fell off my chair. But the most surprising thing I learned is that writing can heal the most painful of hurts. It’s why I never stop.
Do you think workshops have helped you become a better writer?
A writer I admire, Dennis Lehane, once said that writing workshops help a writer develop a thick skin. I agree with that. And I think that workshops make a writer more objective and less protective of the adorable little creation that is now smudged with the thumbprints of, god forbid, Readers.
Tell us any secret rituals you have for getting started each day.
Sweat pants and a T-shirt. Nice loose stuff. Works for me. Anything that’s too tight in the crotch and you won’t write good stuff. You’ll just irritate your readers.
Any writers you like to read to inspire you to write (or if you're blocked?)
If you are blocked, just drink plenty of water. I must confess I’m pretty regular but if I’m feeling bored I just pick up anything by Elmore Leonard, get a few laughs, some insight into how people really talk, and how to design a twisted plot - and it all begins to flow again.
Who do you trust to read your work while in progress?
No one. They’re all out to get me. Except for Martha and Patti.
Who do you never give your work to read while in progress?
My parents, but they’re dead. So I guess I’d have to say my two surviving brothers. I feel there is something awkward about showing fiction to close family members. When I did so recently, the only response I got was an uncomfortable glance that said: Don’t do that again.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Yeah, there’s too damn many of you S.O.B.’s. Can’t you collect stamps or take up fly fishing? There’s a great culinary school in Poughkeepsie or Rhinebeck, somewhere around there. Look into it. How in hell am I ever going to get my novels published?
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