Fred Colton and I arrange to meet for drinks. I come fifteen minutes early so I see him before he sees me. He spots me with ease. The only stormtrooper in the pub. He is the perfect gentleman, never once asks if he can try on my helmet. Still it must be a disconcerting experience so I talk more than necessary, throw my arms in the air with almost every other sentence, and touch him, his hand, his arm, to reassure him that he is with a woman and not a soldier with poor aim who thought the Empire would crush the rebellion
Fred, originally from New Hampshire, came to South Korea over a year ago on what he calls an “indefinite sabbatical from the West” to do one thing: type. If you follow his blog, you see what he wants you to see– a writer, an insecure writer, a skirt chaser, a nice young man, a philosopher and sometimes un perdant. A talented blogger calls Fred “one of the world’s last great bloggers, inimitable and elusive”.
We do the interview over mojitos– even if drinking behind a helmet is a pain. I’m tempted to take it off but I don’t because Fred will write about this and spare no details. We talk about writing, we whinge that there are far too many books and so little time, and discover that while both of us don’t watch TV (couldn’t be bothered to sort out a cable connection in our country of current residence), there’s a TV series we both followed; it’s about a writer (naturally) and his innate ability to self-destruct. Hank Moody taught Fred not to give a fuck.
Babe: Why South Korea?
Fred: North Korea wasn’t accepting American teachers (I checked). And South Korea pays better than China, which is where I used to live. I’m just a mercenary here. Just making enough money to fuck off for an indeterminate period of time so can I work on only what I want to do.
Babe: Did you think that when you left for Korea you were pulling a Jerry Maguire?
Fred: I wish. That would mean I’d have quit/gotten fired from a high-paying job and so I might still have some excess cash kicking around. In terms of walking away from the familiar and placing a large (probably foolish) bet on myself, I’d say my expatriation was kind of a Maguire move.
Babe: Who’s Fred Colton? Your photo is on your blog’s About page and sometimes on Twitter, why bother with a pseudonym?
Fred: My surname is hard to pronounce and sort of awkwardly bounces off your eyeballs. I wanted a name that sat easy on a book jacket. I’ve always wanted to be Fred. It’s the short form of my middle name and Colton is a random surname I got from the “C” section on whitepages.com. I wanted a “C,” because two writers who have mentored me without knowing it are the legendary Lee Child and Michael Connelly.
And then, as I got more confessional on my blog, I was glad I had invented Fred.
On sex, religion and life
Babe: You wrote that while in uni, you feared God might flash-broil you for pre-marital sex. Then at 21, you ejected yourself from church. What’s your status these days– are you an atheist or an agnostic?
Fred: When I was a young adult it just clicked one summer—that everyone I knew was happy in the same ways and sad in the same ways. Their worldviews didn’t make them different. And the redeeming blood of Christ didn’t make anyone I knew different from a Buddhist or an agnostic or whoever else.
I’m an odd sort of deist. I think we’re probably a chaotic experiment performed by a mad galactic scientist. But I think to assume he/she/it cares about us and our purpose and joy is a mistake, and to infer that it’s communicated to us a specific set of do-or-die rules is an even bigger mistake.
Babe: Now that you’ve ditched the set of do-or-die rules, what’s the most transcendental, soul-searing sexual experience you’ve had?
Fred: On a Friday night. On a high thread count duvet cover. I think it was the threads that made all the difference.
Babe: A lifelong, still-unfulfilled desire has been to?
Fred: Travel to Japan or Africa or somewhere, for a long time with a friend or a girl or anyone who I can laugh easily with, and drink coffee and walk around for days, and not worry at all about what I “should” be doing. I’m a severe workaholic, but not of the charming variety—my work ethic is more due to insecurity than it is passion or mastery.
Babe: Complete the sentence. The world would be better if everyone in it immediately stopped…
Fred: …doing anything that I didn’t like, at any time for any reason. It could all be so simple.
Babe: What was the last thing you googled?
Fred: The exact definition of “deist.”
On Californication and writing
Babe: Californication’s Hank Moody was passionate about writing, women and drink. Think it was in that order. What are your priorities?
Fred: My passions align with Sir Hank’s; my perfect day includes all three of those things. I’m gonna answer this one backwards—I’d give up drink first, then women, then writing.
Babe: What did you like most about Hank?
Fred: Unfailing wit.
Babe: Charles Bukowski’s poetry collection, The Pleasures of the Damned, never leaves my writing desk. I read Bukowski when I start tripping over words. Who do you read when you struggle with writing?
Fred: Who struggles with writing?
I always go back to thriller master Stephen Hunter. Each of his action scenes is such a kinetic tour de force that you almost hate yourself for even trying to play the same game.
Babe: What was the last book you read?
Fred: Small Gods by Terry Pratchett. I’ve never read such a brilliantly funny voice.
Babe: You are most inspired to write when?
Fred: I am watching someone else dominate their field. Today, watching highlights from the NBA Finals inspired me to write.
Babe: What are you writing besides your blog?
Fred: A novella called Bystander. It’s about the background characters in summer blockbuster movies whose homes and cars get destroyed during those big action scenes, due to errant missiles or whatever. It’s about whether they can be heroes or not. And whether they’re locked into their roles in the Great Plot or not.
Babe: When did you start writing?
Fred: I was 8 and wrote a book about a kid who gets kidnapped from a soccer game. Then, when I was 23 I started writing for real.
Babe: Why do you keep at it?
Fred: I have to see what happens if I do.
Babe: There’s a line in one of your posts: “there are people out there who live lives of great consequence”. You describe your life as small. Do you think writing a book makes one’s life of great consequence?
Fred: Yeah, about that. I think I wrote that six months back with a beer or two in me. That sentence sounds unbearably flowery now.
Some people write books that change lives. There are others who just write good stories that you enjoy for a week and then forget about when you pick up the next story. I have no problem being the second kind of writer. If the consequence of my output is that one person, one time, decides to read something instead of play Call of Duty, I’ll count that as a win.
Babe: What’s the most irritating rookie writing habit?
Fred: Being long-winded. Like I’m being in this interview.
Babe: If you could never write another word for the rest of your life, your substitute creative outlet would be?
Fred: My friends and I compose profane lyrics on the fly while we play guitar. I’d just do that full time. Or I’d pick up woodworking. I made a coffee table with an inset glass top in seventh grade and I remember sanding and staining the legs on the thing and thinking that I could have worked on it all day.
Babe: One sentence you have written that says it all?
Fred: I bet that sentence is in my phone somewhere. The texts I send girls when I’m lit up at 2:00 A.M. tend to be pretty damn honest.
It’s late and we’ve spent all our goodwill. So I ask the tough questions.
Babe: Three words you want said at your funeral are?
Fred: Beer’s over there.
Babe: Let’s say that there’s life after death (that the atheists are wrong)– upon your death, who would you come back to haunt?
Fred: I’d go meta, and haunt other ghosts. It’s about time they found out what it felt like.
Babe: Bit of logical reasoning: Travel into space with-Fuck-Be reincarnated as: Karen (Hank Moody’s love), Stephen Hawking, and Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly.
Fred: Travel into space with Stephen Hawking, fuck Karen, be reincarnated as Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly.
Babe: No kidding? O’Reilly?
Fred Colton and I belong to a band of misfits called Conceited Crusade.