Ismet Prcic, the author behind Shards, recently visited the KQED studios to record an episode of The Writers' Block. Get to know him a little better with this Q+A, in which he talks about escaping his war-torn homeland, the In Living Color character he would like to dine with, and much more.
You narrowly escaped having to serve in the Yugoslav army and made it to America, but have said that your mind, in some ways, stays over there. Tell us a little more about that.
Ismet Prcic: There's no escaping trauma; I don't care if you're the fastest human on Earth. Sometimes people with addictive personalities and substance abuse problems believe that it is their environment that makes them drink, smoke, snort; that if only they could move to Seattle where they don't know anybody they will be able to get back on track and stop drinking, smoking, snorting. But once in Seattle, within a week or two, they are back to the business as usual because whatever they are trying not to think about by drinking, smoking, snorting is a part of them; it has nothing to do with where they are. It's the same thing with trauma. People on this planet endure and survive horrible things in their lives and the "lucky ones" find a way to escape, or are plucked out of danger zones and set up in peaceful suburban neighborhoods in the West and are expected to be fine, to pick up where they left, to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, to forget the past and look to the future. But what is forgotten is that trauma already changed the physiological and mental constitutions of these "lucky ones," that what we expect them to do is impossible. You can't see with bleeding eyes; you can't think with a broken mind. And you for sure can't pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Try it?
Reading Shards, one would never think that English is not your first language. How did you become so adept at our idioms and the like?
IP: Reading helped. Being involved in theater helped. Watching a lot of Late Night TV helped. Comedy is a gold mine for anybody trying to learn a new language. Comedians have their grubby little fingers on the pulse of any culture. It's tough going for a while. Everyone around you laughs and you ape them but, in your mind, you curse yourself for not understanding. But over time you do start to get most of the jokes, start to understand why they killed or bombed. Then you're golden.
source: The Daily Mail
If you could invite 3 people (dead/alive/fictional) to your dinner party, who would they be and why?
IP: Originally, I would have said Tom Waits, David Lynch and Joe Strummer, but they say it's better not to meet your heroes because your version of them is always better than the reality of them. So, instead, I would choose to leave these people alone and invite Jeffrey Lebowski, the Homeless Guy from In Living Color played by Damon Wayens, and either one of the principals from Ab Fab, serve them some slivovitz for starters, and see what kind of trouble we can get ourselves into.
You're on stage at a karaoke bar. What are you singing?
IP: "Rock the Kasbah" by The Clash or "A Pair of Brown Eyes" by The Pogues.
What kind of kid were you and what did you want to be when you grew up?
IP: I had a tough time in elementary school. I was a shy, fat kid but due to my involvement with theater I realized at one point that -- lo and behold -- life is a performance and that you can be whoever you want to be. Reading a particular quote by Salvador Dali blew my mind. Somebody asked him (and I paraphrase here) "How does one become a genius?" and Dali answered "You just act like one." In the summer between eighth grade and the start of high school I developed an uncouth, garrulous and joyful persona. It changed my life.
Growing up I always wanted an avenue to express myself artistically. Life has been good to me in that regard. I have no choice but to do stuff that I love, which was an early, conscious decision on my part. Nowadays, it feels like fate.
If you could visit any other time period and place in history, which would it be and what would you do there?
IP: I would love to have been a sheep-herding highlander in Scotland in the 1500s.
source: Style Weekly
If you could live inside one movie, which would it be?
IP: I would say The Big Lebowski, if it didn't mean I would have to move back to Los Angeles. Instead, I would pick one of those slow zombie movies in which you can run circles around the living dead. I love when danger is slow-moving and when there's a lot of down time.
What are you working on right now?
IP: I'm working on a script with my friend Malik about two guys from Imperial Courts projects in Watts, Los Angeles. I'm writing another novel, the second in a perceived trilogy that starts with Shards. Every once in a while, a voice screams for me to put it down on paper and I write a short story. I'm keeping at it.
Listen to Ismet Prcic's episode of The Writers' Block . And be sure not to miss each episode as it becomes available by subscribing to The Writers' Block podcast!