I read ‘DISCONNECTED,‘ about three days after meeting Dillon VanOort and read it in less than an hour. I had no clue who he was, or whether he was a good writer. Within the hour, I had an answer to the latter question. This dude can write. What was the book? A screwed up love story told through IM chat messages. Hilarious. Biting. So true. Love for the Millenials.
Tell us a bit of your background. Who are you? How did you get into writing?
I’ve always been crazy for stories as long as I can remember. I grew up on movies, watching as many as possible and spending most of my days in a comic book shop down the street from where I lived. As a kid I would write knock-off Star Wars short stories. I just liked writing, but I never took it seriously until right before college. That’s when I saw FIGHT CLUB for the first time and it blew my mind. It was the most thought provoking film I’ve seen to this day. I watched it at midnight and when it finished around 2 AM I watched it again. I was the most inspired I have ever been in my life after seeing that movie. I stayed up the rest of the night thinking about the movie, thinking about life and thinking about movies and books. I decided then I wanted to be a writer. So, skipping ahead a few years, after college, graduate school and a few internships, I made my way to Los Angeles.
As one of three brothers, did you enjoy being the artistic one? Did you always want to be a writer?
I didn’t particularly enjoy being artistic, although I never considered myself artistic, more just into comic books and movies. For that reason I was never truly into sports as much as my brothers.
‘DISCONNECTED‘ is a hilarious, quick read, but you definitely have issues with liking the main character. You love him and hate him simultaneously. Tell us where Clark came from?
Clark, and the book, is comprised of characters based on many of my best friends, and stories they’ve told me over the years. Most everything in the book is something either I’ve experienced in some form, or something someone close to me has experienced. I relate to it for that reason. Clark can be likable at some points, and at some points not likable at all because I wanted to show how real people deal with relationships; most people deal with relationships and failed relationships with immaturity because they don’t think clearly, they think with emotion. I wanted to show Clark dealing with emotions and often the decisions that arise are self-interested (sometimes selfish), self-loathing, and self-sabotaging.
Oh Clark. We’re more technologically separated than we’ve ever been, but we are physically close to our technological objects. Like sleeping next to your iphone or ipad. Do you think it’ll get worse for us humans?
I’m not an expert in the science of growing trends in technology and physical contact, I only know what I experience. And from what I experience I imagine humans will become more reliant on technology and more dissociative in the process. It has its advantages of course; I can see my brothers face or talk to him online, and he lives on another continent. But, at the same time, it makes it easier for people to cut off physical contact with one another and that’s where DISCONNECTED comes from. When I wrote the book I was working a busy job where I didn’t have minutes in the day to call family members or go out with friends and I spent the majority of my time communicating to everyone, literally everyone, via instant messenger. I was cut off, but at the same time I was connected and same with all my friends. And one day I just thought, “a book comprised of instant messenger conversations would be kind of funny.”
What were your inspirations for the characters in ‘DISCONNECTED?‘
It happened at one of my previous jobs where, for the most part, I only communicated with people through instant messenger or email. One day I was at work and arguing with a friend over instant messenger. She wasn’t happy with the outcome of that conversation so she told a few of our mutual friends what happened, at which point seven instant message windows opened with various people yelling at me online. Then my computer crashed and I though to myself. “something like this would be a really funny book.”
As far as the story in the book goes, it’s completely fictional. The characters are based on friends of mine or experiences that I’ve had or they’ve had and have told me about.
Good stuff. So, how/why did you actually write an entire book in IM format? Was it annoying as hell?
The story was actually easy to write and I did it in about two weeks. The format for the book, the instant message boxes, the time stamps and smiley faces too much longer. I worked on that for about six months trying different styles and fonts before I was happy with the format.
Also, long did it take you to write an IM book? Geez. Why IM? Is a TEXT book next?
I wrote DISCONNECTED in two weeks. Formatting the book, however, to get the right “look” of an instant messenger conversation, took a few more months. I used the instant messenger format specifically because I wanted to convey the idea of disconnection. Using a love story based in instant messenger conversations I decided was the best way to do that. I think I’m done with that for now though, I don’t see a “texting” book on the horizon for me. I communicated everything I wanted to about society’s need for dissociative connection with DISCONNECTED.
You’re written a bunch of other screenplays, pilots, books. Where do you get inspiration for your new projects? How long does it take for each idea to go from seed to fruition?
Inspiration, for me, comes from a variety of places. Sometimes from a situation in my life, sometimes from thinking about a concept or idea I read in a book or pulled from a movie. And for reasons I’ll never be able to fully comprehend, the time it takes to complete each project is different. Sometimes I can get started the next day and finish an entire book, like DISCONNECTED, in two weeks. Other times it takes months. I once had an idea for a book and didn’t start writing it until two years later, because it wasn’t complete in my head.
Where can we pick up a copy of ‘DISCONNECTED’ and most importantly, are you going to write a script based on this?
DISCONNECTED is being sold through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. As for script, let’s see what happens.
What projects are you working on now? Give us a sneak peek.
Right now I’m working on a new novel that should be done within the next month. After that I’m adapting a separate novel of mine to a screenplay. But that’s all secret, so no sneak peeks.
Advice to aspiring screenwriters/bookwriters out there?
The only way to fail is to stop trying. I’m sure someone else has said that, but I’m going to steal it.
Favorite Movies Ever?
Fight Club. The Green Mile. The Shawshank Redemption. Braveheart.
Last meal on earth?
Macaroni and cheese.
Quote you live by?
“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” – Kurt Vonnegut