Justin Jorgenson Interview
What compelled you to write a book about the interior decorating pictured in the background of male personal ads? Where did you come up with the idea?
I was very inspired by the magazine “nest” and the book “STUD: Architectures of Masculinity.” In western society men have an uncomfortable relationship with decorating I was interested in. Also, it was 1999 and I wanted to document what our actual interiors looked like at that moment. Webcams were getting big and I started grabbing shots from those, the kind people would leave on all day. But the image quality was low and then I hit on using online personal ads. The images were higher quality, the setting just as candid, and it had the added bonus of a person in a ridiculous pose.
Do you know Chuck Palahniuk on a personal level, other than the fact that he is promoting Obscene Interiors on his Rant tour?
The first time I met him was at his Haunted book event here in LA. I gave him a copy of my “Obscene Interiors” then seven months later it showed up on a list of his “Top Ten Books of the Past Ten Years” in Blackbook Magazine. I guess that was his way of saying “I liked that funny book you gave me.”
It is obvious that you know about Chuck Palahniuk, based on the recap of Guts in your blog. Do you have a favorite book written by Chuck?
I’m actually most attracted to his nonfiction work. I know in some ways all his work is nonfiction, which is why I like it. I’m very interested in the true stories we all have that seem untrue, and they only seem unbelievable because we consume so much popular fiction (TV, Movies) that obscures, sanitizes, or simplifies the human experience. People do crazy shit and I want to know about it. Every movie and TV show I’ve worked on had far more interesting stories happening behind the camera than in front.
What inspired you to start writing?
Reading bad books. After holding one too many I put the book down and picked up my keyboard. I said, “I can do better than this.”
Are there any more books in the making?
Yes. Maybe more “Obscene Interiors.” And another one about Feng Shui that’s very silly. Those are the fun gift books. I’m also writing a long story about a boy from Fargo who wants to move to LA and design theme parks. It opens in LA with him as an adult having sex that will leave his partner dead. Then it jumps back to his childhood to before he knows he’s gay, before his mother discovers her multiple sclerosis, and before his father dies of lung cancer. It’s a memoir.
What is your all time favorite book?
Honestly, I’m not well read. But I like buying books. The original printing of “You Shall Know Our Velocity” is my favorite book as a physical object. I take it off the shelf sometimes just to feel the particleboard cover. The original “The Wizard of Oz” was the first “real” big-person book I ever read. It was 209 pages and one of the biggest and heaviest books in my elementary school. It was my first “the book is way better than the movie” experience. Also, I greatly admire the honestly of Dave Eggers, Joan Didion, and Amy Hempel in their work. “Lucky” is an excellent memoir. And I’ve recently started reading Stephen Elliott. He likes being dominated by women.
What is your favorite band?
I don’t have one. I just like individual songs. But I listen to “The Hours” soundtrack all the time. And the Fred Falke remix of Test Icicles’ “What’s Your Damage” is really good.
Do you have any tips for writers?
I’ll tell you the tips I tell myself (or the ones my writing group reminds me of every Wednesday). No one gives a shit about your commentary. (Unless you possess exceptionally unique thoughts on the subject, or God forbid, “whit.” But you probably don’t. So cut the commentary and get back to the story ‘cause that’s all we care about.) I came to this realization while playing pool slightly drunk at a gay bar. Oprah would’ve called it an “ah-ha! moment.”
Typing on your laptop in a coffee house tells me you’d rather be known as a writer than known for your writing. I know there’s exceptions. But it reeks of the artist who wears his paint-splattered jeans to an art opening. We get it. You’re “creative.”
Fuck being coy. Don’t hold back important info. Tell me where we are and what’s going on. It’s a story, not a date. Being coy in prose isn’t flirting, it’s annoying. On a date we put up with it only because we can’t skip ahead to the page where we get laid.
After you’ve written something terribly clever, call your boyfriend and read it to him. If he’s well trained he’ll say, “Justin, that is by far the most clever turn of phrase you have ever constructed.” Then pat yourself on the back and delete the paragraph and rewrite it.
Don’t waste the reader’s time. If you’re not entertaining, then be educating, preferably be both. I like coming away from a story knowing some real-world facts I didn’t know earlier, like that soap could become a bomb. The reader is giving you their time. Pay them back somehow.