Dunes Review Interview Series: Raffi Boyadjian
Raffi Boyadjian was born in Frankfurt, Germany and lives in Los Angeles. He is a graphic designer by trade, a composer by heart, and a conspiring writer.
His story "Hate and Switch" appears in the 2018 spring/summer issue of Dunes Review.
What do you prefer to write: prose, poetry, or both?
I prefer to write prose, but have written poetry… of varying quality. I’ve tried limericks, but given up when I couldn’t find a good rhyme for Phuket.
When did you first begin writing? What first inspired you to write?
As a teen listening to Depeche Mode, Tears for Fears, the The, etc., I thought I’d try to write original lyrics to songs I haven’t written yet. Most were cringeworthy, but they sparked something in me. In my senior year of high school, after reading my creative writing assignment, my English teacher offered to waive all of my assignments and homework for the year if I wrote her a novelette. I think she saw something I didn’t, and I was a fool for not taking her up on the offer.
Do you need to be inspired to write, or is it a job, a routine?
I do need to be inspired to create a story outline. My story outlines tend to be a bit meatier than most (I think), in that I will also outline secondary and sometimes, tertiary details. After I have an outline I’m happy with, I can make myself sit down later on and fill in the story. The challenge is finding the time (having a full time job and a 4 year old). I try to not force myself to write, as the writing will reflect that, but I often force myself to edit.
What is your writing process like?
I don’t have a specific process, per se. I tend to gravitate to putting ink or lead to paper over typing into my computer. I like the tactility of it. It feels more real than typing into a computer. Having said that, once I finish the first round of a story, I’ll type it up in Word. After enough time has passed to remove my immediate and initial emotional attachment to the story, I will edit it on the computer. I like to write in quiet places, which is a rarity in my house.
I don’t have a schedule. I wish I could scrape together enough time to regularly schedule writing, but it’s hard. As much as I love coming up with ideas and fleshing out stories, I love my daughter more. Currently, she demands more of my time than the ideas swimming around in my head (stories AND music).
Do you usually write for long stretches, or in bits and pieces here and there?
When I was an unencumbered bachelor over 15 years ago, I wrote almost every day. It wasn’t forced. I wanted to because the ideas came freely. I wrote for months and months and then it stopped. I don’t know if I lost the Muse, or if life got in the way (I suspect, both), but those were halcyon days of output (again, of varying quality); of my music as well. Nowadays, I’ll write bits and pieces here and there. I think I have about a dozen story outlines either in my head or written down on scraps of paper (and a few in my computer) that I’ll have to nurture when I find the time.
Do you think of yourself as a writer? Why or why not?
I don’t. Sadly. It’s interesting that, even though I’ve written quite a few short stories, a scrapped novella, two full screenplays with a buddy, and several poems, I don’t think of myself as a writer. It IS something that I really enjoy doing but I guess I take a pragmatic view; have I made a living writing (or earned ANY money for that matter)? No. Then I’m not a writer. I do hope that changes, though.
What's the first thing you do when starting a new piece of writing?
I’ll outline a story and the characters, including the arc and the resolution. It’s not so much a diagram as it is bullet points.
Usually, the characters go at the top of the page. Below that is a short blurb about the narrative path of the story. Below that will be bullet points denoting significant actions in the story.
Do you listen to music or must you have silence while you write?
Other than the drum and bass I’m listening to while I answer these questions, I have to have silence when I’m writing (even outlines).
Because music is such an integral part of me, I’m easily distracted by a great melody or rhythmic pattern. My brain immediately locks onto a pattern when listening to music, and then it’s over. I can’t write. The only time I like listening to music while creating is when I’m doing graphic design.
What's your least favorite thing about writing?
It used be the editing process. The idea of getting rid of something I labored over felt anathema to me. It took some time to realize that it was absolutely integral to the process… and usually more than once.
Now it’s trying to force myself to write when I stumble on a windfall of time, but I’m not feeling the process. Even though I’ve got a bag of ideas to dip into, I can’t draw out emotion that isn’t bubbling up on its own.
Do you let other people read your works in progress?
I only really let my wife read my stories when I’m in the process of creating them, and only when I’m near the end of the process. She’ll often offer up some ideas on how to change something which I’ll ignore initially, because we always seem to dismiss the opinions of the people we love the most and our egos get in the way. She’s usually right though.
How do you feel about sharing your writing with readers?
Ultimately, my stories are for myself. I have to like them. If I don’t, I just stop. I have to please myself; being my toughest critic.
Sharing my writing is an exercise in vulnerability. You splay yourself out emotionally, because we often attach self-worth to the reception of our creative output. It’s a challenge to be receptive of and hear any feedback that we may construe as negative, without scuffing that overactive ego.
Having said that, I’ve generally gotten positive feedback to my stories and encouragement to keep writing. I’m grateful for that.
Can you tell us about a piece you are particularly proud of?
I’m particularly proud of “Hate and Switch”, which is the piece included in Dunes Review. I like my stories to run the gamut of emotions. It’s a rarity if my stories don’t have either overt or an undercurrent of humor with a smattering of distress. Sometimes that recipe is flipped. “Hate and Switch” is humorous with a smattering of anguish.
I’m also proud of an excerpt from that scrapped novella called “Honey Baked”, which will hopefully see the light of day someday.
If someone were to write a book about your life, who would you want that author to be and why?
Me. I was there. I (kind of) remember what happened.
Which writer(s) would you most like to meet, and why?
For years, I dreamed of meeting Kurt Vonnegut (one of my favorites. I’ve read everything by him). In addition to being a fantastic writer, he seemed like a wonderfully decent man. I was crestfallen when he died. Though I haven’t read all of his books (yet), I feel the same way about Neil Gaiman. I probably wouldn’t even want to talk about writing. Just hang out over lunch and talk about things, maybe music.
What is your favorite thing to do when you're not writing?
Being with my wife and daughter. Writing/recording music is a close second, and sleep, a close third.