Andy: Ready when you are.
Erica: Okay, uuuuummmmmmmmmmmm…uuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhh…
A: Good start.
E: Thanks. I do my best.
A: “Ummm mmm” is my response.
E: Solid response. We’re off to a great start.
A: Just as I expected.
And on that note, today I’m interviewing my CP (and BFF) Andy Weld!
E: So to start, when I panic email you with my manuscript, what’s the first thing that goes through your head?
A: Well, the first thing that goes through my head is probably that you are more stressed than you need to be. If you have taken all the time that you take to produce an entire manuscript, edited it yourself and then sent it to me, I think it’s in a better place than you probably do.
E: And if it’s a mess, are you honest or do you filter your critiques to spare me? (I’m now playing bad cop. Imagine me pointing a lamp in your face)
A: Of the three times I’ve read something of yours, I have not thought any of them were complete messes. However, if there is a part that is messy, I will direct you toward it. I probably won’t be as blunt as possible—it’s your baby—but I’d like to think I don’t pull punches.
E: What do you define as a “mess”?
A: I think I see a mess as a few different things. I think sometimes you use some esoteric references and that can be confusing. Though more importantly, I think messes can be scenes that progress too quickly. Sometimes there is a sense you want to get to a certain end, and you jump to that end. So moving too quickly through scenes is my strongest definition for mess.
E: What about in general? Any pet peeves or tropes that make you vomit?
A: Hmm…generally I’d say books with narrators who I don’t believe. Like when authors make their narrators much smarter than they would normally be. I know that’s an odd one.
E: What do you mean?
A: My example would be To Kill A Mockingbird. I know the book was told from adult Scout’s perspective looking back, but I still felt as though the descriptions through the eyes of young Scout were unrealistically worded. The court scene in particular stands out to me. And I suppose this doesn’t happen too often, and I appreciate stories with unreliable narrators, but I want realistic unreliable narrators.
E: Wait, you don’t like To Kill a Mockingbird?
A: No, I do not.
E: Then now I have to ask, what is your favorite book?
A: The Great Gatsby is my favorite book!
E: Of course. Why?
A: Of course? Well for me it’s about the language and not necessarily the story. It’s tough to not look at Fitzgerald’s plots as being soap operas. However the language he uses to tell them is phenomenal. It’s prose-like poetry. He has such wonderful descriptions. One always stands out to me, Tom Buchanan is described as having a “cruel body, capable of great leverage.” And I think he says so much with that vivid yet open description. I also like Fitzgerald ‘ s exploration of the hollowness of wealth and what it means to yearn for the past. No one in that book is happy and that’s important, everyone wants to be someone else.
E: So, you like miserable people, eh?
A: Well, I’m not sure that I like miserable people, but I think he gets to a deeper point of people constantly wanting to be in a different point in their life, whether it’s past or future. Though The Great Gatsby really argues that point is in the past.
E: Speaking of the past (warning: smooth segue coming up), we met writing comedy. How do you think comedy writing differs from novel writing? How are they the same?
A: Smooth move. I think a huge difference would be length, and maybe that’s an obvious thing to say, but when writing comedy you can focus on the short term. Sure, you have to establish characters and settings, but that can be done with a line or two. Writing comedy means the punch line is at most a few minutes away. Another difference is absurdity. I know there are absurd novels, but an audience is much more forgiving of a comedian or a sketch taking an absurdest turn suddenly than a novelist. I suppose this too comes down to length. You might have thought more on this, as I’ve never written a novel and you’ve done both novel writing and comedy.
E: Well, I think this is true of all writing, but it has to be tight. You can’t have any fat in comedy, otherwise your jokes are going to wither up and die. And the same is true with novels. In my opinion, the really successful ones are very thoughtful with their words. There’s not too much weighing it down and burying the basic essence of the story. It’s kind of like good food, too. In the best meals, all of the flavors are balanced (which only occurs to me because I’ve been binge watching Top Chef).
A: I think that’s a strong point. So maybe they are more similar in that regard than I had initially thought. I think because of its short form, but comedians are also free to experiment more. I could write two sketches in wildly different styles in an afternoon. I don’t think that can be done with novels.
E: I think the whole postmodernist novel movement would disagree with you. Well, not the writing two novels in an afternoon part.
A: But that’s what I am saying, postmodernists can experiment, but the time scale is totally different.
E: True. Agree to agree.
A: I like that expression. This is reminding me of some of my favorite memories in Zanzibar because I would get drunk (this conversation is noticeably more cohesive) and talk books with this other American expat.
E: That sounds like a Hemingway novel. Ok, are you ready? Are you ready? Are you ready, Andy? RAPID FIRE!
E: Favorite genre?
A: Um, classic American expat 1920s and 1930s. Is that a genre?
E: Least favorite genre?
A: Hmmm, Romanticism.
(Fun Fact: Andy and I have opposite favorite/least favorite genres)
E: Favorite book as a kid?
A: The Hobbit.
E: Harry Potter or LOTR?
A: Hmm… LOTR, for plot, though not a fan of his writing.
E: What’s your superpower?
A: What I have or what I want?
E: Want. Do you have superpowers? Are you hiding things from me?
A: No… of course not… I want to be able to manipulate the coefficient G in the gravity equation, which would basically make me telekinetic and able to fly
E: Fancy! Fictional best friend?
A: Umm…umm…Sean Spencer!
E: Books, Weld! Books!
A: Ahh, then let’s go with…Amory Blaine when he stopped being a dick.
E: Fictional enemy?
A: The pigs from Animal Farm
E: Fictional crush?
A: Oh this is lame, but Hermione, or maybe Daisy Buchanan.
E: Book you wish you could read again for the first time?
A: Oh here’s a silly answer, but I’d love to read it again the first time: The DaVinci Code.
E: What book would you want to live in?
A: As a normal person or protagonist?
E: Either? Both? D: all of the above!
A: If it’s protagonist, Animorphs. Background player, Hitchhiker’s Guide. Assuming I survived the destruction of Earth.
E: I think you should always assume that.
Andy Weld is a recent graduate of the Johns Hopkins University, currently living in Washington, DC. While working on African Affairs in the Senate, Andy fills his free times with antique maps, the guitar, and trying to convince people to play Monopoly with him. Furthermore, he sings in a local a cappella group, writes stand up, and is trying to get a sketch comedy group off the ground. He has been a friend of Erica’s for more than 5 years now, ever since she inadvertently let him take an a cappella t-shirt from her that she technically wasn’t supposed to give away. You can follow Andy on Twitter and Instagram at @iamandyweld.