Terrie Leigh Relf: What types of writing do you do?
Chad Deal: I write feature stories and the occasional piece of music and neighborhood news at the San Diego Reader, where I have two semi-regular columns: “Here’s the Deal” (bar reviews) and “Crasher” (party reviews).
Feature stories cover a lot of ground but, as an example, my most recent features have been on San Diego’s real-life superhero group the Xtreme Justice League and another was about how the legal climate surrounding small-batch distillers is changing in a way that will allow our micro-distilleries to be sustainable. As long as it’s local, it’s pretty wide open.
As of recently, I’ve been contributing to food and drink site Thrillist. I’m also apprenticing in grant writing.
For kicks, I write poems about the trolley and other mundane objects, travel stories, cheesy memoirs, science fiction, and short stories. I dabbled in cyberpunk erotica a while back, but ran out of convincing adjectives for “penis” and put the story down for a while.
Relf: What are your areas of subject matter expertise? How did you discover these niches? What intrigues you about them?
Deal: I’d hesitate to call anything I do a product of expertise, but I will say that a healthy bit of curiosity, coupled with the drive to conduct thorough research, will get any writer a very long way.
Relf: How do you balance your creative and work time?
Deal: Working from home makes it difficult to draw the line between work and play. I’ve somewhat come to an agreement between my professional and recreational life inasmuch is possible when the two overlap constantly. Biking and walking are great ways to formulate ideas in your head and bounce around turns of phrase before even beginning the writing process. If I get hung up on something in writing, I’ll grab my bass guitar and play around for a while. A ton of my writing involves booze and bars, both as a subject and an inspiration. So those often go hand in hand. I’m always taking notes at the bar, both for work and for creative projects. I’m not a huge adherent to the notion that the two have to be regimented, for better or worse.
Relf: What tips do you have for other writers and/or editors?
Deal: Talk to people. Put yourself out there. William Gibson has this beautiful short story called “Fragments of a Hologram Rose” that revolves around the fact that a glass hologram, when shattered, will hold the original image in every fragment. That story really hit me when I read it ten or more years ago, and I very much see the world that way. Every person, every action, every mood and desire is a fractured representation of our human and even universal commonality. As long as you are insatiably intrigued by the mere fact of our existence, you’ll never run out of material.
Relf: What are your thoughts on the creative process in general and your creative process in particular? Where do your ideas come from? What inspires and Intrigues you?
Deal: I’m very interested in why people do what they do. I think the bulk of my long-form journalism has come from a hunger to understand others and maybe, very loosely by extension of that, humanity as a whole.
Daily life is brimming with weird miracles, as cliché as that may sound. I’ve walked past the same building a hundred times, but then one day, when the sun is just right and a car honks for its own reasons and the stink of summer sewage nearly bowls me over and the overwhelming happy/sad of everything electrifies my neurons like a psychedelic and there’s this mood or awareness of something subtle but all-encompassing, fleeting but also eternal, and it gives me the fucking chills! That’s where a lot of my poetry and memoirs come from. They are inherently sentimental. I don’t know how else to honestly do it.
Relf: Where have you been published? Upcoming publications? Awards and other accolades?
A story called “Your Most Valuable Possession” published in Humboldt State University’s literary magazine, Toyon, received Mensa’s award for best non-fiction.
Relf: What are you working on now?
Deal: For work, I’m putting a lot of my time into learning the craft of grant proposal writing under the guidance of my mentor, Rebecca Bennion.
For fun, I’m slowly chipping away at a book of poems, word puddles, and memoirs tentatively titled Tortilla Rituals.
Relf: What challenges have you faced as a writer and/or with a particular project? How did you meet them? What did you learn from these challenges and how did it make you a better writer?
Deal: I think my biggest ongoing challenge is to grow out of my influences. Like many writers, I began to find a voice by emulating my favorite authors, not word-for-word, but by adopting their worldview as I perceived it and writing from inside their head. This approach has the benefits of motivating and producing works which the writer will find agreeable, but it’s also limiting. Further, it runs the risk of coming off as inauthentic.
Comparisons can be flattering, but they more often have a dismissive quality. “You guys sound just like Radiohead,” is a great compliment to a fledgling band, but is only reductive to a set of musicians who have gone out of their way to create something unique and earnest.
So really, my goal, which may or may not be attainable, is to eventually write in a way where it would never even cross someone’s mind to say, “you sound just like Radiohead,” or whatever the case may be. That said, I’m not holding my breath that it’ll happen anytime soon.
Relf: What poetic forms do you like to write in? What is it that you love about these forms?
Deal: Like most poetry people, I’m not too keen on rhyming schemes. I really can’t stand Shakespeare. Poetry, for me, is a quick, concentrated dose of emotional energy. It should hit hard and leave a film of superstition in its wake. One form of poetry I tend to gravitate towards is what I call “word puddles.” They have little to no punctuation and come in a big blob on the page. They are meant to be alogical and entirely impressionistic. The style comes from dream journals and William S. Burroughs’ books and a desire to break through form to evoke an essence. Most often, I think they come across as complete nonsense, which means it’s working.
Relf: Thank you for creating the time to participate in this interview series, Chad. Be sure to check out his columns, bio et al.
A San Diegan by birth, Chad hit the books at Humboldt State University to major in English with an emphasis in creative writing. His first published works were poems and short stories printed in the University’s literary magazine, Toyon. One of the pieces, a short story about Burning Man, was recognized by Mensa with their award for creative non-fiction.
He spent several summers hitchhiking around the West Coast (Thanks, On The Road and Evasion!), and continued his travels to Germany, Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia, where he taught English for a stint, before settling in Tijuana. Chad’s writing interests include science fiction, travel logs, poetry, non-fiction narratives, border stories, and cultural news. He is a regular contributor to the San Diego Reader in the “Crasher” and “Here’s the Deal” columns.
His work has also appeared in PACIFIC, Uniekest Magazine, SanDiegoEntertainer.com, Vision, Examiner.com, The Radvocate, and Free the Marquee.
When he isn’t writing, Chad enjoys bicycle touring, drinking beer, cooking, playing music, meeting new people, making documentaries, and convincing himself his Spanish isn’t as bad as he suspects it is.