Apr 12, 2011

Guest Post: Chris Rylander author of The Fourth Stall

I was delighted to be asked to be part of the blog tour for The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander (you can read my review here). This is Chris' first book and I was interested to know what influences him when he writes. The answer movies!! He is my kind of guy. Here's what he had to say:

I get asked a lot about movies, probably because my debut novel, THE FOURTH STALL, has such obvious ties to the movie The Godfather. Even the cover is a wink to the movie. THE FOURTH STALL has also been compared to Ferris Beuller’s Day Off. And yet another movie which helped inspire THE FOURTH STALL is Brick, a brilliant independent film that came out several years ago. But, anyway, I thought it’d be a good topic to discuss in my guest post because movies have played an even bigger role in my life than just inspiring the plots of a few stories.

Movies are what introduced me to storytelling. I mean, yeah, I read a lot as a kid and I loved books. But my favorite movies as a kid have stuck with me more distinctly than some of my favorite childhood books. And growing up, I always thought I wanted to be a filmmaker, not a writer. I thought writing a book might be cool to do someday, but what I laid awake at night dreaming about was someday making my own independent movie that would take the industry by storm much like Pulp Fiction did in the 90’s. So it was movies that first inspired me to start thinking like a storyteller.

And movies also showed me different ways to go about storytelling. They showed me that you can have your own unique voice as a storyteller. For instance, one of my favorite filmmakers is a guy named Jim Jarmusch. I watched several of his earliest films in one weekend when I was 15 or 16, including Down by Law, Stranger than Paradise, and Dead Man. And they blew me away. Here were movies where the story or plot didn’t matter nearly as much as the storytelling itself. The original voice of the storyteller (in this case, the writer/director) became the story. I relished in every little quirk and detail I saw in his movies. Dialogue and styles and methods that I’d never experienced before.

Jarmusch’s movies showed me that storytelling can be what we make it. He once said this, “I'd rather make a movie about a guy walking his dog than about the emperor of China." And that idea, I think, helped transform my mindset as a storyteller. Because it’s not always about the story being told, but instead HOW the story is being told that makes the difference. And that’s what made writing so much fun for me.

For example, I could write: “The President of the United States, who was also good-looking and rich, got into a huge jet plane and fired missiles at the enemy, causing massive explosions and fire and it was super action-packed.”

Or, I could write: “The night Ben found out that a lack of sleep causes hallucinations, he slept over at his friend Jason’s house with a few other kids. They made a bet over who could stay awake the longest. Well, Jason was still awake at noon the next day and he was so tired that he was wearing his blanket as a cape and was gnawing on Dustin’s ankle. When they tried to get him to stop, he wouldn’t and kept shouting, ‘You’ll never take away my Moon Pie! Never!’”

One is a story about cool, important things happening to cool, important people. The other is about nobodies, doing basically nothing. But if I’m allowed to tell that second story my own way, it becomes something more than the events actually occurring. The second passage was more fun to write because I feel like there are more possibilities for the unexpected.

Movies in general, and specifically Jim Jarmusch, also showed me that it’s okay to take inspiration from other works or a preexisting idea and make it your own. Storytelling allows you to take a preexisting plot and retell it in your own way so that it becomes something completely different, and can even appeal to totally different crowds. There’s nothing wrong with being inspired by other movies or books, and in fact, I think it’s a good thing. Essential almost.

I think my love of movies and books and writing and even video games throughout my life are all related. They are all, at their core, the same. They are all different forms of storytelling. They all appeal to the same part of me, just in slightly different ways.

So... what was my point again? Oh, oh yeah, movies are, like, pretty cool and stuff. Even as an author I get to say that. And without movies, I’m pretty sure I never would have become a writer. I’d love to leave you with another quote from Jim Jarmusch that I think perfectly sums up what being a storyteller is for me:

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery - celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: ‘It’s not where you take things from - it’s where you take them to.’”

Thanks so much Chris! I loved his book The Fourth Stall. There are several places you can go to win a copy during his book tour. Check out the links on my sidebar or stop by the WaldenPond Press blog!


  1. Holy awesomesauce, Jana! :-)

    Great post, Chris! *heads to Amazon to buy book*

  2. Hey, I often think about that Jarmusch quote abou the guy walking his dog. Usually while I'm walking my dog. Also while writing books. Cool interview!