The Story of the Y is my first novel, though it wasn't my first attempt at one. I'd been trying to write one since at least my junior year of college when I was attending Iowa State University. I'd been working on poems and short stories and getting positive feedback in the classes I was taking. I also got my first poems published in the student journal which was encouraging enough to try to take writing a bit more seriously. The problem is that I could never get any books off the ground. It didn't help that the ones I were trying to write were really bloated and pretentious.
The first book I ended up putting out was a poetry chapbook called the sky is black and blue like a battered child, which I self-published. I like to think of that book as my “demo tape,” showing people what I'm about. People seem to like it, including people who've told me they don't like poetry. That has to be a good sign. Likewise, my short story collection, The Complete Idiots Guide to Saying Goodbye was the “full” book that I had published through the transgressive and experimental publishing collective, Nihilism Revised. That manuscript had actually been accepted after Thicke & Vaney Books imprint, Cabal Books, accepted the one for The Story of the Y, but ended up being released first. That's just the way it goes sometimes.
The prototype for The Story of the Y was another novel I started but never finished with the title of Zombieman. Yes, I did conceive it during the height of the zombie fad, though it wasn't really a zombie novel. It was about a man named Alex who died in a bicycle accident and came back to life during his funeral for no apparent reason. The rest of the novel had him experiencing increasingly severe accidents that should kill him, but don't. He also did comedy routines with his reflection, had various paranormal experiences, and tried to work on a novel about an immortal superhero called Zombieman.
It was likely the meandering lack of plot, but I couldn't get it going. I had tried writing it in fragments and even posted a chapter from it on my blog, but that didn't help. Eventually, I ended up abandoning it like my previous attempts at novels, but I was on the right track. I had the sense of absurdity mixed with the seemingly mundane and the simple, minimalist prose that would be in the The Story of the Y. I even re-purposed a couple chapters of that book into short stories in The Complete Idiot's Guide to Saying Goodbye.
I'd been fascinated by “outsider” music for a while; music made by self-taught people who often weren't right in the head. Daniel Johnson, The Shaggs, Jandek, and Wesley Willis are some of the most famous examples. One that caught my attention was Y. Bhekhirst. The strange name, the vaguely menacing herky-jerky post-punk sound, and the fact almost no information was available on the artist got my imagination going.
The earliest draft of The Story of the Y was very different from than the final one. Alex, the protagonist, was much more bitter and sarcastic to everyone around him, his best friend and girlfriend weren't in the story, the anarchist militia that shows up were incompetent buffoons, and Alex died at what was to be the halfway point. That was where I stopped that draft as I wasn't happy with it.
I did, however, still like the basic idea of a wannabe music journalist tracking down Y. Bhekhirst. I took a novella writing workshop from bizarro and horror author Garrett Cook and pitched it to him. He also liked the idea and I ended up writing another draft in only a month or so with the guidance of Cook and my fellow workshop students. That helped me learn I worked best by just sitting down and bashing out the first draft as fast as possible.
After some editing and submitting to various places, it found a home with Cabal Books. I had actually submitted it to Thicke & Vaney Books, partially, I admit, because of the name. Not long after that, however, Thicke & Vaney decided to establish the imprint Cabal Books and release the book through there, the second after Bram Riddlebarger's excellent Golden Rod. The fine fellow who heads the outfits, Bix Skahill, helped me to smooth out the rough corners, come up with a better ending, and now it's become the book that will hopefully soon be in your hands.
I'm very grateful to the good folks at Cabal Books and Thicke & Vaney for giving this book a home, to Garrett Cook for motivating me to write this book, and for everyone involved in making the book what it is. I hope you'll pick up The Story of the Y and enjoy it.