A Conversation with Timothy Willis Sanders


Meet-cute. It’s like a cheesy movie scene or does it just look normal on the surface to everyone else, but to the two people it’s happening to–is it something more? Timothy Willis Sanders deep dives into a single relationship with his new book, Matt Meets Vik. (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2014). The complications that every relationship faces are presented in stark simplicity, with very little commentary as to the overwrought why’s, just glaring what’s. Timothy answered a few questions by email.

I really enjoyed Orange Juice and those stories that came out a few years ago. Have you been writing much since those pieces? Or was it all focused on Matt Meets Vik?

I didn’t start work on Matt Meets Vik until the summer of 2011. I worked on other stories and poems while I was writing the book, but mostly as a distraction. Novel writing is hard, so it’s nice to focus on something else for a bit.


Matt Meets Vik could be true, maybe it’s not. Was this relationship “true” for you or did you just incorporate a lot of elements from other relationship stories you’ve heard about?

A bit of both. Most of it is based on actual events but there are exaggerated parts or parts I just made up.


How do you classify your style? It reminded me of some earlier Tao Lin and the Zachary German book in its forthrightness, though I don’t think you’re as “concrete” as those works.

It’s like gentle rejection of style, I think. I liked what Zachary and Tao did, but felt the approach could be applied in a different way, like less philosophical and more psychological, if that makes sense.


How do you think it adds a more psychological element?

I think I’m more focused on creating an experience or telling a story, rather than making a point about something, or advancing a worldview. Maybe “psychological” is the wrong word, but I enjoy imagining the thoughts of characters and showing how those thoughts influence actions.


Maybe connected to the above, why do you feel the need to emphasize and re-emphasize proper nouns of objects rather than just referring to it as “car” or “phone” on the second reference?

I don’t know. It felt right. The objects in the book felt just a real as the characters to me. I wanted to establish a set of arbitrary-seeming “rules” to go by.


How did the arbitrary-seeming “rules” to go by help you write?

Those “rules” come out of nowhere, but once I follow them, it makes writing the work easier. It’s kind of like an internal style guide that allows me more consistency in voice and tone.


The book is set in 2004, right? Why did that year seem appropriate?

That just felt right too. It was a significant year for me. There was a presidential election. I got a new job. New relationship.


Why was it important to include the presidential elections as part of the setting/ background?

I don’t think it was important, just something happening that caused the character anxiety.


What do you think is the 1 major problem that all relationships have or do you think that each relationship has 1 major problem, it’s just always a different major problem?

I’d guess lack of communication? Hard to tell. Communication seems important in relationships. I feel like when relationships break down, it’s because something is unsaid.


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