A Talk With Troy James Weaver
Troy James Weaver writes books that remind me of the feeling of getting bailed out, saved, given a sudden second chance when there shouldn’t be another one; when I leave the headlights on in my car and the battery goes dead and then just when I think I’m gonna be stranded in the nameless strips mall, some stranger comes rolling through the parking lot and stops, and has jumper cables and makes my car shake back to life so I can go and do anything on the rotating earth. Troy writes electric stories. Literary fiction for people working down and out jobs, or people who want to know what working is. He’s had a few books out now, one from Future Tense (Witchita Stories) and another out from Broken River (Visions), most recently he had a novel come out called Marigold from King Shot Press. All those books are gold.
Troy had led a pretty interesting punk rock life in the Midwest away from the standard MFA route and has worked as a janitor and a floral arranger and stuff like that. I sent Troy some questions to talk more about his writing and his dayjob(s), what happened out of that is below- Bud Smith
Where did you grow up?
I grew up and still live in Wichita, Kansas, which is quite a bit bigger than most people expect. I’m a suburb kid, went to school in a small town called Maize.
Tell me more about Maize. What are the people like. Where do people sneak off to. What would visitors not understand that locals would?
Maize is a very small town NW of Wichita, and now it is pretty much part of Wichita due to the million subdivisions that sprung up over the years. Farms divided the two for most the years I went to school there. People don’t sneak off out there. When I went there, the rich kids would occasionally hang with the poor kids and vice versa. It was all drug-driven at that level, which in its own way is kind of beautiful, this destructive need to feel good. It’s shared by all classes. I was from a most definite working class family. I hardly knew my father growing up because he worked all the time. I used to resent him for it, but now I know what kind of love that truly is. It’s the best kind, the saddest kind. He’s my hero.
I guess that’s what happens. You can relate now because you see how hard you’ll have to work for your family? You have a baby on the way?
For sure, I think that’s a big part of it. There’s this not-knowing aspect of childhood. Then you get older and have to work and feel worn out all the time, and it hits you: the sacrifice.
What kind of kid were you?
I was a horrible kid. Did a lot of drinking and whatnot as a teenager. Totally disrespectful to my teachers, which makes me cringe when I think of it now. Dropped out at sixteen. Immediately regretted it. That’s what got me into literature, though, this feeling that I would never be much more than a failure in life.
I got in trouble at school for mooning the entire Drafting/Auto CAD class, gave them a pressed ham after being sent to the hall for being an asshole to my teacher. That poor dude. I wish I could hug him.
What led up to you dropping out of school at sixteen?
Dropping out was preceded by my brother’s drug addiction and my sister having a child at seventeen. I don’t blame them for my decision whatsoever, and think they are great and wonderful people. I was just confused and was mad all the time, at everybody and for no reason at all. I love everybody so much now. More than I let them know I’m afraid. And it just happened. I stopped going to class. Got mad all the time, fought a bit, and just had a crummy time.
I took drafting and auto CAD too in high school. It’s supposed to help a person be good at reading blueprints or making blueprints but the class did me no good. It was even more a waste than learning French and I read blue prints for a living. What led up to you mooning your class?
As far as mooning the classroom, it came down to me just not wanting anything to do with anything and at the same time wanting those connections so bad I could cry. I often did, when I could. Emo as fuck. Sunny Day Real Estate may be somewhat to blame. I told my teacher to fuck off, got sent to the hall, then pressed my naked buttcheeks against the window.
I’ve always picked up a huge rock n roll affinity from you and your work. What were your early interests before writing?
Before I got into writing I wanted to be a rock star. Do people ever say anything different? Before that I wanted to be a professional angler.
I know what a rock star is. But what is a professional angler?
A fisherman who uses a pole and a line and a gem of a hook, that’s what an angler is.
Gem of a hook, I like that. The professional fisherman thing didn’t work out, what kinds of jobs have you worked?
I’ve only had four. I was a janitor for a week at the school I dropped out of, I worked at a movie theater for a night, I was a barista for two years, and I’ve worked the same floral job for the last eight years.
You mentioned writing Witchita Stories on order slips at work on your lunch break at the floral shop. What were the order slips. And tell me more about the way that went down. What were these order slips?
Well, the order pads are five by three inches, white, blank, about two – hundred sheets per pad, size of note cards
I would sit in my car (RIP) and drink coffee, eat a burger, smoke half-dozen Camel Lights, and scribble away. Marigold also was composed this way.
Vices seem to be my fuel, unfortunately, though I stay away from the drug scene. Too much death in that. Seen hearts break far too often, and for what? A boner, that’s what, you know?
Other people’s vices vs. Your Own what’s better material? For people who haven’t read Marigold yet, what’s it like working in a floral shop? Any funny/crazy stories?
It’s great. I work with the most interesting people in the world. All kinds of people, but a special kind, I don’t know how to say it. It just really takes a certain kind of person to work with flowers. It’s really difficult believe it or not. You’re either helping people get flowers for a wedding or a funeral, that’s the gist. It’s definitely a challenge. The bipolarism of the whole thing is really what makes it what it is.
Do you think the size of the notepads helped dictate the size of these stories?
Yes and no. I didn’t really think about it, though maybe on a subconscious level, I did. I only had thirty minutes and a small piece of paper so I compressed as much as I could on the paper, given the time.
I can’t think of your work without thinking about the type of music you’ve recommended to me. You’ve got a band too, right? Tell me more about your life in music and around music.
I played in a couple shitty nu metal bands as a teenager, then got more into punk and emo shit. I love drone stuff, and that’s what me and my bud Sam do with our project Ponyboy. Droney, weird, repetitive.
Where can people check out your band and listen more to it?
My good friend Dan Davis runs a tape label here in Wichita called This Ain’t Heaven Recording Concern. He really works hard and puts out a lot of killer music, not just regional acts either. He’s put some stuff out from people all over the world. It’s all really, really good stuff too. Some of my favorite bands are on his label. As far as Sam and I’s project, we really just threw some shit together and thought it was cool. We had a chord organ and a piano, we mic’d both and then processed the shit out of it on a computer program. We sent it to Dan not thinking anything other than, You know, maybe he’ll get a chuckle. He messaged me later and was like, Hey, this is great. You dudes wanna do a split? It was really cool. Here’s some shameless self-promotion:
Do you use Spotify? Want to make us a Spotify playlist for this interview?
Yeah, I use Spotify. Who doesn’t, these days? But I also buy physical albums. I’m a fan, a collector, etc., and I love something I tend to obsess about it. Of course, here’s some stuff I have been listening to lately:
What are some of the jobs you’ve worked?
I worked as a janitor for a week, got paid cash under the table, worked with these older dudes that liked to drink on the job. I hated it. I worked at a movie theatre for a night, had some words with the kid who was my boss, never went back. My current job is cool, I really like it. I work for a wholesale floral company. My branch covers most of western Kansas and northern Oklahoma. I started as a driver. Then I moved into sales, been in sales for four or five years.
What are you writing now?
I’m working on two things. A book about a gainer, a three-hundo plus pound woman who eats on Webcams for money and self-satisfaction. And I’m also working on a book about a bunch of ghosts.
Troy James Weaver is the author of Witchita Stories, Visions, and Marigold. He lives in Wichita, Kansas. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Read an excerpt from Marigold here