How did you become a writer?
Between high school and college, I took a year off and taught English in Thailand. I spent a lot of time by myself, and I was very lonely. I was homesick in that way where loneliness and boredom combine to slow time, so I sought ways to rush the days forward. I took walks and made note of everything I passed, I drank myself to sleep, I went to the local Wat and tried to meditate, but the only times I relaxed and felt good—when instead of tricking myself through an hour, I was happy to extend it as long as possible—was when I was writing.
Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).
James Baldwin, Dave Eggers, Ann Packer, Rafael Yglesias, Philip Roth, Somerset Maugham, Kazuo Ishiguro, Robert Stone, David Simon, Lake Owego Camp, my Bed-Stuy neighbors, and the teaching of Rod Keating, Lisa Stifler, and Alice McDermott.
When and where do you write?
I write new material at home, in my tiny office, surrounded by my books, looking out onto Stuyvesant Avenue in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. I edit the pages first on the screen, and then I print them out and edit them by hand on my commute into Manhattan to teach middle school English.
What are you working on now?
A new novel, tentatively titled HEAL ME. It’s about the friends and family of a man dealing with a mysterious neurological condition and the difficulties of living in Trump’s America.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?
Yes. I’m suffering from it now. I’ve lost the thread of my book, nothing feels as though it should inevitably occur, and I’m stuck and miserable. This afternoon, I’ll print the whole thing, read it through, and try to figure out if I’ve made any mistakes or if there’s an obvious and entertaining way these pretend people would act next.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Write every day, if possible. Never leave off at the end of a scene, but go on to the next scene so the next day’s work has already begun. Causality, causality, causality: if possible, each event should feel like the inevitable consequence of previous events.
What’s your advice to new writers?
Find a topic/person/subject that really interests you, and write until you’ve finished the arc of a story. Then go back and spend much more time revising than you’d spent writing. And then, write every day, if possible. Never leave off at the end of a scene, but go on to the next scene so the next day’s work is already begun. Causality, causality, causality: if possible, each event should feel like the inevitable consequence of previous events.
Brian Platzer is the author of BED-STUY IS BURNING, which has received rave reviews in Vanity Fair, NBC, the WSJ, the New York Post, and elsewhere. He has an MFA from the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars, and a BA from Columbia University. His writing has appeared often in the New Yorker’s Shouts and Murmurs and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, as well as in the New York Times, The New Republic, Salon, and elsewhere. He lives with his wife and two young sons in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, and teaches middle school English in Manhattan.