We got to talk with Dan Brotzel about his piece “Crowley at the Last” in Issue Seven!
Fiction sometimes comes from a single moment in time that sticks with us, is this the case when you sit down to write? Or do you plan each step? Is it formulaic for you?
For me, stories do often come from a moment, a place or a mood that stays with me. But this one came from my reading about various cults and gurus that I carried out for research on an earlier novel. I had the idea of writing a piece about three different gurus/messiah-types on their deathbeds. How would these people – who had lectured others on how to live and die, convinced others they knew eternal secrets and even that they were divine themselves – actually deal with their own deaths? In the case of Crowley, I decided he wouldn’t be fearful or penitent in some way but typically bombastic and self-aggrandising – as if death should be grateful to him that he was gracing its doors.
During the editing process, do you find it difficult to adhere to a word limit? And if you do, how do you manage to keep it within the parameters?
I love editing! I love to get something down fast, then just trim and trim. You have to be ruthless. In this case, in light of feedback from various quarters, I dropped the other two gurus altogether. It just seemed to work better without them. This piece is a third of the length of the original, but hopefully the better for cutting.
How did you go about writing this piece? Is this related to Tarot cards?
Yes. I’m not an expert in this or anything, and I do worry that Crowley has already had far more attention than he deserves already. But I know he devised a Tarot pack of his own, and I just found that the cards were useful as a way of structuring his thoughts. I read quite a bit about him, jotted down phrases and ideas I liked, and gradually tried to build from all that the thought process of a (rather unusual) dying man.
When doing an experimental piece, are there moments where you’re unsure if you should keep going? What do you tell yourself to keep going?
All the time! But I think the best thing is to see something through, get to the end, and then review it. Sometimes I can fix in the edit, and sometimes I decide a piece just isn’t good enough. But no effort is wasted, because there’s something to learn from every failure.
Do you have any previously published pieces you’re particularly proud of?
This one seems to have done quite well: