Interview with Howard Brad Halverson, author of The End and The Echo
Howard Brad Halverson
Author of “The End and the Echo” (on The Passion of Abolition press) a novella that bridges the genres of Modern, Fiction, Literary, Experimental, Cultural Criticism, and Romanticism. A recent graduate from San Francisco State University with a BA in English Literature, Howard Brad Halverson is now turning to authorship. Originally from Northern Utah, Howard has also traveled extensively in many different underground music groups or solo and even a semester abroad in Växjö Sweden. Howard is influenced largely by modernism and seeks to maintain a deconstructive approach to all projects. With his fledgling novella, The End and the Echo, expect a varied stumbling through human thought and experience, often complimented with cultural criticism. Howard aspires to continue writing as well as being involved with many other creative or expressive endeavors.
The End and the Echo
Brandon Anderson is caught in the grips of despair when he begins to chronicle his itinerant affair with Gillian, the youth whose beauty enamored him years ago. Drifting aimlessly, their chance meetings mesh into a panoramic of desire, saw-toothed edges hacking at the boundaries of relationships, dark corners of attraction exploding in slow motion.
In the recollections of Gillian that Brandon conjures destiny is questioned; whether true love is the thread coursing through their intimate engagements or if feelings are only the byproducts of cultural patterns. A sense of estrangement sears between the lines, Brandon’s experiences oscillating around idealizations of love and the flagrant betrayal his desire entails.
Q. “The End and the Echo” is your first novella. Had you written in other formats such as short fiction and poetry previously, and what made you decide to write a novella?
A. At Berkeley City College I took a creative writing course with Tom Moniz and he had the class write poetry for assignments. At the time I thought it was stupid but wanted to get a good grade so I did it and afterward started to think that I liked it. So I would sit in class and daydream and scribble down little tangents, more like free verse and try to make some kind of poetic structure with them. There is one series called History Class Girls, written about all these hot girls in the class. I think I really creeped them out, staring at them, but the class was so boring and I couldn’t get the thoughts to come into words unless I look at them for a long time. Later when I had the English core courses at SFSU and was exposed to the whole cannon of poetry and had to do analytical studies on poetry, that’s when I began to really understand what poetry is. I did get into screenplays and wrote a couple shorts. I was working at Berkeley Community Media doing graphic design then and they said since I work there I could train on video production for free and I could have a show on the cable channel. I produced one of the screenplays with a portfolio class at Laney called Part of the Organization. It was very Kafka inspired. I’ll have to get that up on Youtube sometime. I thought I would write the novella wanting to do something that had some length. It was the summer break and I didn’t have a job, so I sat in my closet and stared at the screen all day plucking at the keyboard. When classes started in the fall, I thought it’s finished, I have to focus on school work now. And I just wrote the ending. The file was almost a hundred pages.
A. What does the title “The End and the Echo” mean and where does it come from?
Q. It’s pretty direct. I thought it was authentic but then I heard a Death In June song with lyrics that were similar. Later too, I thought about the Greek myth, but I don’t know if the book really speaks to that same type of narcissistic complex. I used to have a Roland Space Echo, a big box that had a loop of ¼” tape running over five tape heads, a delay machine. That is the sort of concept behind the book, that repeat of memory and memory is the underlining concept. Because how do you know what reality is? Most of what we project into the world is a form of memory. Reality happens. It ends and then it is something else that may be beyond what we try to say it is. But we carry through all the endings with that residual of the happening being over. Only like the delay machine, that residual is somewhat distorted from the actual resonance. The thing is for the character to deal with his emotions in reality, as he keeps thinking about his lost love, but he is somewhat separated from reality because he only has the memories, the echoes.
Q. You intermingle many genres in telling your story. Did that pose any particular challenges for you?
A. I don’t think it is of any genre. It’s only a short book, fiction. I wanted to do something literary and what is literary to me can not have anything like a genre attached to it. I think what you are getting at is how the book can be related to different literary modes or periods. Of course the Romantics are a big influence and I did try to put a lot of what distinguished the Romantics into the book. But still it is very modern as it is very internal and self-conscious and that will sort of separate it from the Romanticism in that Romanticism only begins to separate the idea from reality and modernism is more of a conscious attempt to portray reality. I did fancy myself as being experimental. Later I thought only the non-linear format was unconventional. That too was done to reflect the operation of memory, inspired by Henry Bregson, trying to really portray how memories work. And this sort of purposefully representing the representation lends itself to the whole post-modern conception, that idea of nothing being original; the character is only dealing with his memories, there is no actuality in the text, it is only his charismatic repetition of what was actual. Then I thought more about it and it really seems to be first person narrative. Actually, no. It goes all over the place.
Q. Was “The End and the Echo” particularly influenced by stream-of-consciousness writing styles and what inspired you to approach it as a piece of experimental writing?
A. Yes. I have just been reading Joyce’s Ulysses and I think Faulkner, in some parts of his books, really get at that type of writing and it is simply amazing what they were able to do, although it is supposed to be absolutely unintelligible. But still I think I only get at in spots and haven’t been able to really harness that style as well as others have. The character is intensively thoughtful and that sort of automatic sense, the sense of your thoughts flowing without any structure, was no what I intended for him. The intention was for him to be so self-conscious, even to the extent of becoming delusional. Still, who really knows what they are thinking? And I guess that would be the same for the character, there are some parts where he obviously gets caught up or carried away and is trying to understand why that happens to him. But, is that more tangential than that type of erratic display of things occurring inside the mind? Words are so formal anyway. It is really hard to get beyond their ordinary use, how they are expected to be presented. I think I’ll have to put more effort in future works to uphold such a notion as experimental writing.
A. Central to your story is a romance, although much of it is viewed through the lens of your protagonist’s emotional despair. In what ways is “The End and the Echo” both like and unlike traditional romances?
Q. Obviously, and this a more Romanticist feature of the book, the character ends up alone. I want to really question what love is in general and what better way then show how superficial and untenable some relationships are. Otherwise it’s not so much about romance and love as much as it is about attraction or desire. I don’t want to so much say that love does not exist. I will say that, for a large part, what a lot of people believe in is bullshit. You can see this through the stories. But when the character finds his love, not only a love for himself, but he wants to extend his love to another, he also finds this knowledge upset. To have him in despair is to reveal how he wants himself to be happy and to make someone else happy but that relationship is not there for him. Then, too, something like intimacy is what I wanted to show, to show how a relationship can be or how intimacy can be betrayed. And also a fear of intimacy, of really experiencing someone else and letting someone else experience you. I think these are some issues in general and want to vitally address them more than trying to uphold some idealistic take on love or put forth some formulaic expectation of what people believe love is. Romance has been so clichèd and that’s all it will be. Don’t’ think that I want any of that in there, although, maybe there is some. Hopefully it will be equalized out by everything else in the book.
Q. The advice you gave prior to our joint reading at “Book Zoo” was very helpful to me, as was your sharing of anecdotes which relaxed the audience. What advice would you give to any readers about how to approach public readings, and overall, how important do you think they are for authors?
A. What did I tell you? I can’t remember! I was pretty nervous then. It is nerve wracking doing that sort of thing. If you are writer and going to do that sort of thing, just drink a couple of beers first. Like I said that night, a reading can go pretty bad and I didn’t want that to happen then. The Book Zoo is such a great store and Erik and his people are awesome. I really wanted to give something to those who were going to be there, so I just thought it out. I thought about how I could tell other people about my writing and what examples I could use to show them what I was talking about. It’s such a difficult thing to arrange in this high tech world where you can video blog and what not. Who would want to go see some unknown authors rant about their writing in a dusty book store on a Friday night? I would. But that’s beside the point. It’s that type of event which is naturally awkward unless you’re a librarian. So, like you said, you have to try and deemphasize the awkwardness and you can do that by trying to establish direct relations with the situation. Say something about how you got to this point or how others may have got to this point so that the people there have a firm understanding about that type of situation. And because writing is so intimate for me, let your audience know your are going to be intimate with them and things may be smoother that way. As far as importance goes, they aren’t any more important than anything else in the world. It’s such a different format from visualizing and producing a text. How readings work is to give an audience a writer’s perspective on what they are going to take away for themselves.
Q. What advice, generally, would you give other writers and prospective writers?
A. Read a lot. Make sure you have a good dictionary on hand. Maybe study linguistics in some light because that is what you are going to be doing. Writing is one of the best things in the world and when you go into it, at the point where you say, without any of the romantic trappings, that I am a writer, that realization is difficult because then you understand that you have to be honest as you possibly can. Otherwise you are just using writing technique to exploit other people. It’s a grueling reality, but to be truly creative you must take that perspective if you are going to transform anything for the better, which is what true authors are supposed to do.
Q. Is there anything you’d like to share that we haven’t already covered?
A. Just to let everyone know that they can order The End and the Echo online. Or if you live in the Bay Area, Needles and Pens in SF or Issues in Oakland carry the title. And I’m looking forward to producing more writings for everyone.
Where To Get The Book:
Needles & Pens
3253 16th Street, San Francisco, CA
20 Glen Avenue, Oakland, CA