Chad Frame Interviews Nick Perilli for the Spotlight!
I had the good fortune to sit down with the elusive Nicholas Perilli, a rare breed of writer-librarian found only in certain pockets of wilderness in the greater metropolitan Philadelphia area. Let’s see what happened!
CF: First, we’ve never met before, right? Please, show the audience there are no wires. Nothing up my sleeves. Go ahead and draw a card from the deck. We’ll get back to that.
NP: Who are you? Who am I? Where am I? Where is my family?! I won’t play your cruel games, you monster!
CF: Confusion and disorientation aside, here’s my boilerplate OS icebreaker question: How does your Italian-American heritage inform your work?
NP: This is something I never really gave much thought to until recently, but I come from a rather typical tight-knit Sunday spaghetti dinner Italian-American family so that’s informed my work more than even I am probably aware. My mother and father were both family-oriented people and made sure my brother, sister and I had lasting relationships with our extended family, so even now that they’re gone we still have the substantial kind of support system that families offer. The mere concept of family often sneaks its way into my short fiction and my novel pretty much revolves around it (and a sort of limbo/purgatory, and ceramic skeletons, and silly melancholy).
CF: It’s funny how these things are almost instinctual, like we never realize our influences until asked. And speaking of which, your writing frequently features elements of science fiction. What are some of your biggest influences in various media–books, films, games, etc?
NP: Oh boy. You know, I hope I’m not run out of literary town for saying this but video games like Chrono Trigger/Cross, the Kingdom Hearts series, the Persona series, this game no one remembers called Radiata Stories and numerous other Japanese RPGs and disks and cartridges I’ve spent long nights playing until I bled from the eyes have probably been the biggest influences on my writing. For whatever reason, video games were my lasting introduction to storytelling as a kid and continue to influence my writing today. I think we’re really just scratching the surface of narrative potential in games, so I’m excited to see where the medium is headed.
CF: I played all of those, actually!
NP: Lest everyone think I just play video games all day, I’d say my major literary influences are Italo Calvino and Ray Bradbury. I also watch what some have called “too many” movies, so I’ll give you three of my favorites: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, The Iron Giant, Before Sunrise. I guess I shouldn’t forget television, either, because I’m sure I’ve stolen story silverware from Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Twin Peaks, and The Twilight Zone more times than I can count.
CF: To be fair, I wouldn’t judge you if you did play video games all day…
NP: I think what I’m getting at with this too-long response to your question, Chad, is that stories across all artistic mediums have influenced me greatly. To quote AMC’s slogan when it started running Breaking Bad and other really good programming in 2009: “Story matters here.”
CF: How did you feel about your experience in an MFA program? Would you recommend this experience to aspiring writers?
NP: I loved every minute of it, to be honest. I know there are a lot of mixed feelings about these programs out there, but for me? It was exactly what I needed to build my sense of what a writer “is,” if that makes sense. At the very minimum, an MFA program forces you to write, write and write until you have a manuscript (or manuscript length work) and a bevy of short stories that you know you’ve poured hours of your life into. Writing is a profession that lives and dies by the writers’ motivation and the MFA program provides that and a structure meant to push writers forward. I won’t say you’re going to come out of it as an incredible writer — that takes far more time than a couple years — but I genuinely think it put me on that long and winding path to actual “success” in the field, whatever that means. Full disclosure: I met my fiancee in my MFA program.
CF: Audience Disclaimer: Your MFA experience may not result in life partnership, but if it does, added bonus!
You’ve written and published a lot of (fantastic!) short fiction. Have you ever tried your hand at longer projects? A novella or novel? Or a collection of short fiction?
NP: Speaking of manuscripts, I’m still plugging away on editing my MFA thesis novel so that’s my longer project at the moment. I’ve toyed around with the idea of a collection of short fiction, but I’d like to get my novel into the hands of agents and publishers before I go much further with it.
CF: I can’t wait to read that! What else are you currently working on? And how do you balance your writing with your Information and Library Science studies and your personal life?
I’m currently at work on editing my novel to make it suitable for literary agent consumption and messing around with some short fiction ideas. I’m also helping to plan my impending wedding and in the midst of writing my MLIS thesis. I balance my writing with all of this by having an inordinate amount of tabs open in Google Chrome and staying up until 3am. While my future wife is not enthused about my late nights, my dog and cat get to have my whole side of the bed, which they enjoy.
CF: I think the dog and cat have the right idea. Naps and room!
And finally, what would you say would be the VHS cover pull-quote for the straight-to-video movie of your life?
CF: Sounds about accurate. Tempt me to cast Keanu Reeves as dystopian future you, why don’t you. Was this your card?
What cards?! I answered your questions, now get me out of this cage!
Nick Perilli is a freelance writer and musician currently living in Philadelphia with a canary. He completed his MFA at Arcadia University with humans. Unwilling to let the real world get its claws in him, he is now pursuing another Master’s, this one in Library Science. Work of his can be found in Maudlin House and Between Worlds Zine. You can follow his tweets at @nicoloperilli.