1:1 - Sam Chow

Posted on: September 4, 2014

Interviewed by Logan Theissen
Over the next few weeks, 1:1000 will take you behind the scenes with our core writing and editorial team. We'll show you more about what makes these writers tick (or maybe twitch).

In our latest interview, Logan Theissen talks with Sam Chow. Pardon me, the indefatigable Sam Chow. Writer of excellent stories such as "Tithonous" and "After The Storm." Lover of Murakami, and Raymond Carver. Master of law. Simply put, a Renaissance man for the ages.

1:1000: What are you currently reading?

SAM CHOW: I'm just finishing up The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I wasn't a huge fan of The Secret History, which was her super popular novel from 1992. But I really liked her writing style and after she won the Pulitzer, I decided to give her new book a chance. I'm really glad I did, because so far it's fantastic. It's really a perfect amalgamation of her writing, her seemingly unlimited knowledge of the art world, and classic mystery - the mystery element being the big draw for me.

1:1000: Tell me about your first experience writing or being a writer. How old were you? What were the circumstances?

SC: I've always written, we all have. In school, for work, I usually only ever wrote when it was demanded of from me. Most of my early writing attempts were stop-and-go, and I never really put together a full piece. My first and only full piece prior to 1:1000 was a short story I wrote out of sheer boredom. I was at work - I was a host at my parent's restaurant - it was spring break in Myrtle Beach, and lunch rush had just ended. Everyone was out having fun, and I was miserable, bored out of my mind. And in my misery, I wrote my first ever short story, "The All-American Grill."  I have no idea where that short story is now, lost in digital purgatory on one of my old laptops, but I distinctly recall my sense of accomplishment for having written my first story. Who knew that boredom could be such a creative muse. I think I was sixteen, maybe seventeen, at the time.

1:1000: What were some books and authors that you liked when you were younger? Do you still read them?

SC: Like a lot of growing boys (and girls), The Catcher in the Rye stands out as one of the first books that ever left a lasting impression on me. Since reading it for the first time, I've gone back to it several more times and it still reads brand new to me. I also read my first Haruki Murakami book when I was in high school, and I still eagerly wait for his new books to come out in the States, though I was a little disappointed in 1Q84. Another book that really stands out is The World According to Garp, which was a book introduced to me by my high school history teacher. I think that was the first book that made me realize how eye-opening literature could be and that there was a world outside of the school curriculum. It's one of the few books I've read more than twice.

1:1000: Writers love to talk about habit. What is your writing habit like? Daily? Morning or night? That sort of thing.

SC: I wish I had a writing habit, it would make scheduling it into my day a lot easier. Writing is incredibly sporadic for me, and I tend to write during lulls throughout the day. A little in the morning, maybe some at lunch, or when I just need a break. Having a full-time job that demands a lot of my time makes my writing "routine" incredibly difficult to maintain, which is why I haven't been able to contribute as much as I would like in recent months. But I'm not the type of writer that can set aside a block of time to write.

1:1000: Do you have a particular genre or type of reading and writing that you like? Do you find that going outside of that genre (fiction to non-fiction, etc.) can help influence your writing? For example, when writing a piece of fiction, do you usually read other pieces of fiction in the same vein? Non-fiction? Where do some of your everyday influences in writing come from?

SC: I love reading everything. Classics like Frankenstein and Huckleberry Finn, non-fiction like Homage to Catalonia, science fiction like Kazuo Ishiguro and Ray Bradbury, westerns like Cormac McCarthy, magical realism, short stories...I could go on. I don't really prefer one over the other. As far as writing, I try to explore genres, but really enjoy writing mystery-esque stories (e.g. "The Outer Borough"). My writing does tend to be influenced by what I am reading at that moment, so I try and go back to my regular fixtures for inspiration if I need it. My go-to muses are usually The Great Gatsby and Hemingway and Raymond Carver's short stories. Though, I love flipping through whatever I have available to me too, just thumbing through and reading random passages from a book without context is a great exercise for writing. And of course I find most of my influence from the brilliant photographers that have lent their talents to 1:1000.

1:1000: How did you get started with 1:1000?

SC: Well, my buddy and fellow writer, Mark Killian, is always coming up with kooky ideas. I remember him bouncing the idea of what would become 1:1000 several years before its actual inception. It's great working with Mark because he has a mind for these projects that really force you to exercise your creative muscles. It's really given me an incredible opportunity to work with an amazing collective of writers and like-minds.

1:1000: I'm pretty new to flash fiction. What do you think of it? Do you like it more or less than more long-form writing?

SC: I'm not sure I am capable of long-form writing, given my sporadic writing habit. I would love to write a novel or something at some point, but flash fiction is the perfect medium for me at this particular stage in my life. It's a creative outlet that I crave and I get to work with a group of peers that help me improve as a writer.

1:1000: How do movies/film and music influence your writing? Do you listen to music when you write?

SC: I love music, but I can't listen to music when I write. It's too distracting, my mind tends to wander as it is. When I listen to music, it's because I want to listen to music. Movies, on the other hand, are an endless source inspiration. In fact, I think a lot of my writing is dictated by how it would appear on the big screen. What would this scene look like if it was happening in front of me? I visualize a lot, and it's usually in movie-form.

1:1000: Some people think this is an unanswerable question, but I think it's a good one, so I'm going to finish on it. Why do you write?

SC: Writing has always been in the background for me, it's always been there, even if not always on the forefront. As I kid, I was a huge doodler...still am to be honest. No matter what I'm doing, if I have a pen and paper in front of me, I'm compelled to draw something. And I think it was because I am constantly looking for a creative outlet. 1:1000 is perfect, it's like doodling, but with words.

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