Jerry Stahl is an acclaimed novelist, screenwriter, and memoirist. He’s also a survivor of addiction, recovery, and relapse. Stahl’s works often focus on themes of addiction, despair, and redemption, and he’s won numerous awards for his writing.
In this exclusive interview, Stahl shares his personal story and offers insight into the writing life, from his most famous works to his future projects.
He speaks candidly about his struggles with addiction, how his writing has evolved, and his advice for aspiring writers. With his unique perspective and unvarnished honesty, Stahl offers a glimpse into his world and the art of storytelling.
Jerry Stahl is an American author and screenwriter based in Los Angeles. He’s been a member of the L.A. writing community since the mid-1980s and has written award-winning fiction and non-fiction, including the novel Bad Acid, the short story collection I Have to Go TO Now, the novel Blood Money, and the memoir Permanent Midnight.
His work has been published in The New Yorker, Esquire, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times, and he’s been featured on NPR and PBS. Stahl’s memoir of addiction, Permanent Midnight, was optioned by director David Cronenberg and starred Ben Stiller and Courtney Love in the adaptation.
Stahl has been nominated for a number of prizes in literature, including the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Pushcart, and the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction.
Stahl’s work has been featured at the Iowa Writers’ Festival and the Nuyorican Poets’ Café in New York, and he’s been a featured guest at venues across the country.
Stahl works best in the morning, writing before the rest of the house wakes up. He’s been doing this for decades, ever since he was a young writer working on his first book. He says, “It’s like an act of utter self-absorption.
You’re not there for anybody.” He will often write for about six hours in a row, or until he’s hit about 1500 words. After that he takes a break, and will often read or go to the gym. He doesn’t always know what he’s going to write when he sits down.
He says, “It’s like going on a hike or a walk in the woods. You have no idea what you’re going to find.” He tries to stay open to the process and to the words that will come to him.
He also takes a lot of breaks throughout the day, and says that if he’s been sitting too long he’ll “start to feel like a vampire.”
Stahl’s first book, I Have to Go TO Now, was published in 1989. It’s a collection of short stories that Stahl describes as “a mix of the grotesque, the humorous and the lyrical.” Bad Acid, which he published in 1994, was Stahl’s first novel.
It was a critical success and has since become a cult classic, with fans including the likes of Johnny Depp, who has praised Stahl for his ability to “sound like no one else.”
Bad Acid tells the story of a screenwriter named Jerry Stahl who is hired to write a screenplay about his own life, only to discover that his life is too weird to be translated to the screen.
Blood Money, published in 2001, is a novel that Stahl calls his “most ambitious book.” It’s the story of a freelance writer who becomes entangled in the world of extortion. It was adapted into a film directed by Joel Schumacher and starring Matthew McConaughey and Stephen Dorff.
Permanent Midnight was published in 1995. It’s a memoir that explores Stahl’s lifelong struggle with drug addiction and his quest to find a happy place in the world. The book is widely considered a classic of addiction literature and has been praised for its brutal honesty.
Stahl has been clean and sober for more than two decades, but he struggled with addiction for most of his adult life, beginning with alcohol and moving on to heroin.
He has said that he started drinking when he was just five years old and that he’s been in and out of treatment for most of his life. He says that although he has been clean for a long time, “Addiction never goes away.” He likens it to a chronic illness: “It’s like diabetes or hypertension.
You don’t get rid of it, you just control it.” Stahl’s preferred method of controlling his addiction is writing. He has said that it’s a way to express the “dark, strange, poetic, seething” parts of himself that he’s been unable to control with other methods.
Stahl’s work spans a number of genres, from darkly comic short stories to thoughtful and poignant memoirs. He has said that he’s “always been interested in trying to get at what’s at the edge of my consciousness,” and that writing is a way to access this murky area of the mind.
While his writing has always been personal, his approach has changed over time. When he began writing, his work was more abstract and surreal, but he’s since moved towards writing in an attempt to “get at the real.
” He says that he’s always been interested in “what’s at the edge of my consciousness,” but that he’s gotten better at accessing it over time. He hopes to continue to get better and to “not be too proud to embrace the humility that comes with that.”
Stahl’s advice for aspiring writers is to trust the process, avoid comparing yourself to others, and not be too proud to fail.
He says, “This is an art that is meant to be exploratory, that is meant to be dangerous, that’s meant to be stupid.” He also recommends having a thick skin, saying that as a writer, “you’re going to get a lot of rejection.”
He doesn’t believe in waiting for inspiration to strike: “Be like a plumber; be like a mechanic; be like a ditch-digger. Get the hose out there and start digging.”
Stahl is currently working on a new novel, which he describes as a “sort of science fiction/horror/thriller.” It’s about a man who, in trying to escape his demons and pursue his dreams, finds himself in a dangerous situation.
Stahl has a second novel that he’s always wanted to write, but he’s been “chomping at the bit” to get to this new novel. He hopes that it will be published sometime in 2020.
When asked what he’d like readers to take away from his work, Stahl says, “I would like them to be transported, to be entertained, and to see their own lives reflected back at them.
” He hopes that his work will be a “therapeutic experience” for readers. He also hopes that his work will be a “light in the darkness” during troubling times. He says, “I don’t know how to do anything else.”
Stahl is proud of his work and grateful for his success, but he also recognizes the role luck has played. He has said that he’s had “lots of near misses” with success and that he’s been “screwed over plenty of times.”
He also knows that it’s been a “long, long road” and that success comes from “being able to rebound from failure.
” He says that even throughout his darkest times, he’s been hungry and “driven to keep going.” He’s been able to keep putting one foot in front of the other and pushing forward. He’s been able to rely on his resilience to get him through.
Stahl wants to keep writing, keep telling his stories, and keep exploring the “edge of his consciousness.”
He says that he’s always been interested in writing, ever since he was a young boy, and that he’d always been “chomping at the bit” to write.
He says that he’s getting better at it the more he does it and hopes to keep getting better. He hopes to be able to write “as long as I’m still breathing.”
Stahl has been writing stories for as long as he can remember, and he’s been sharing them with others for almost as long.
He’s been a writer his whole life, and he’s been reading and writing fiction his whole life. He says that he’s been “trying to understand the world” through storytelling for
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