Wright to Writer: A Naked Civil Servant for the 21st Century

Updated: Nov 4, 2020

Filmmaker and producer, Fenton Bailey, best known for RuPaul's Drag Race, Party Monster and Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures, quizzes author James Maker about his book, AutoFellatio: A Memoir.

Photo credit: Mathu Andersen

What is your writing process?  Write by hand or computer? A particular time and place? 

When I write, I write in the mornings. I'll have an idea and will want to be at my computer by 5AM.

5—7AM are 'magical hours' when the world around you is still quiet, stretching, and beginning the day. For me, the writing part is over by around 12PM. Then lunch. The afternoon is an hour or two's editing. By 3PM, that's a full day's work. I 'clock off'. Every writer has his or her rhythm and it corresponds to their natural habits and biorhythms. Experience, in my case, has taught me that writing in the evening produces, in my opinion, second-rate material. 

Seasons can affect a writer, as they can affect anybody else, depending on one's geographic location. Living in the London (England) area, I love to be outside during the summer months and resent being 'chained' to a desk. One would not feel this in California, where the weather is more year-round sunny and clement. I wrote my autobiography, 'AutoFellatio' (Inkandescent)  whilst living in Spain, with the later chapters being written after my return to the UK after ten years. In my mind, writing is very much a 'winter project', but I feel that this is probably very understandable to anyone who has suffered from Seasonal Affective Syndrome (SAD), or depression. Keep busy during the winter.

Apart from the jotting down of notes, I never write in long-hand. I discovered the typewriter at age 12 and I love the keyboard. Mechanography gives rhythm, that word again. In that sense, and despite my 57 years, I'm quite 'modern'. I associate writing in long-hand with a quill, ink, a failing light, a scarcity of candle, a small cup of rough wine, and a window with a cracked pane. Authors who profess to write in long-hand are anathema to me: odd individuals.     

What writers or books do you love and why?

Generally, I like the works of mid-twentieth century American writers. They have made much more of an impression on me than French theorists, who are much triumphed in European (and possibly American) universities. There is this great, tremendous spirit in 20th-century American writing which is expansive, invigorating, energized...virile. This vast landscape into which many Europeans poured (many others too, of course, but I speak as a European) and which was wild and brutal, and which was rapidly civilised by agriculture and the transformative progress of concrete. 

Top of my list is 'Last Exit To Brooklyn' by Hubert Selby Jnr. followed by 'And The Evening Sun Turned Crimson' by Herbert Huncke. Both of which were greeted as inadmittedly transgressive texts. The former is much more famous than the latter. I feel sure that I was probably the only tourist to visit Key West to see Tennessee Williams' former home on Duncan Street — ignoring all signs to celebrate Ernest Hemingway. Truman Capote is the most eloquently concisive writer that I have ever read. I think Bret Easton Ellis' 'American Psycho' is an absolute literary masterpiece that is, at heart, a study in profound ennui and status-oriented hyper-neurosis. The murders, themselves—although graphic and seemingly 'misogynist'—are nightmarishly cartoon satire. I like the British author, J.G. Ballard, who produced some of his best work in the mid-1970s, often involving the theme of dystopia, and I like Ronald Firbank (an English author who was published in the early part of the 20-century) for his wit and ability as a 'dissembler'.   

If you weren’t a writer what would you be?