Driven by Creativity and Imagination
There’s no question about it. Steven Coy is a force of nature. The San Diego native, who is still in his early twenties, started the independent press Better Non Sequitur (BNS) in early 2004, while still attending classes and working a day job. No small feat.
An advocate of ‘better media’—that is, writing, art and music that presents something more challenging, more unique and fascinating tan anything offered by large-scale publishers or mainstream media—Coy has helped to bring the words, music, and images of numerous writers, musicians and artists into the wider world. Since BNS’s inception in 2004, Coy has edited one sizeable novel, three short story collections, and created several demo CDs for aspiring bands. And, in his spare time, he has compiled two story collections of his own as well as produced two films, Rubix Cube Dinner and Kissing Barbara.
I caught up with Coy in late December to learn more about his creative credo, the history of BNS, and the direction he’s heading now.
Savannah Guz: What prompted you to launch Better Non Sequitur (BNS) and when did the idea to start a publishing entity first strike you? What’s the BNS backstory?
Steven Coy: I was a budding writer (suppose I still am) and had what I called my first collection of stories with which I wanted to do something more than print out on standard 8 ˝” x 11″ 20# paper and shove in the hands of friends and family and the occasional stranger. Gary Carter, Communications & Film professor at Southwestern Community College, also publisher of some San Diego magazine, urged me to learn Quark Xpress, formatting software, shop for a cheap printer, and publish myself a book, which I did, which needed some kind of label, which became Better Non Sequitur. Meanwhile, I was reading all the independent lit I could find on the net during my day job. In the footsteps of Eyeshot.net and So New Media, and after receiving praise the design quality of Sandwich (what I ended up calling my book), I decided that I might try publishing other authors. Lee Klein, praise him, agreed to let me print his book. This is pretty much where it all began. All of this, mind you, took place online between 8 and 5, as it should.
SG: What prompted your interest in literature? Is it something you’ve been interested in since childhood or did you come into literary culture later?
SC: I am a black sheep of a black sheep family, most members of which rarely picked up books, let alone read them. And so, I don’t really know where my interest in literature came from. I guess a combination of almost always associating with a creative crowd and growing up with parents who, although different in mind and soul, encouraged me to go for whatever blew back my hair.
SG: What’s your creative philosophy?
SC: Never really thought of it as directly as that, but I believe that art, whatever it is that resonates, is there for you when you need it and can be found in any place or time.
SG: I know that you were involved in open-mic readings at a cafe called Hot Monkey Love in San Diego. Are you still involved in cafe events, or are you doing readings anywhere else?
SC: I did some fairly recent readings in San Diego at a spoken-word thing called BlahBlah. I’ll read wherever, though, whenever. But I haven’t been very involved lately as my time has been filled otherwise.
SG: What are some of the more unusual projects you have worked on so far, besides the many books and anthologies youąve helped bring to life? I know that youąve created and distributed band demo mini-CDs…are you continuing to work with a variety of media?
SC: I’ve always been interested in, as you say, a variety of media and don’t like to limit myself. It is true that BNS focuses on printing books but I still prefer to call it just Better Non Sequitur instead of BNS Books or BNS Publishing or whatever. And I tend to think of most things in my life as projects. The most recent involves traveling through Mexico. I write this to you from the zócalo of Morelia in front of a cathedral that, despite my lack of faith, makes me swoon whenever I look up.
SG: Tell me a little bit about Rubix Cube Dinner. Was this your first movie? What was the genesis of this idea?
SC: Rubix Cube Dinner exists because of a fierce amount of energy that I and several other brave souls had at the time. It truly is a ridiculous castle built for something that required only a small room of its own. For an example of this, anyone can read all about its exact genesis, and ever other detail concerning its awesome existence, at http://rcd.betternonsequitur.com. In short, Rubix Cube Dinner was a fairly simple dialogue that grew into a 25-minute film and came packaged on a DVD complete with more special features than most full-length major motion pictures. As certain as I am that I will never again produce a thing such as it, I am glad it is around and watching it from time to time still makes me laugh. If anyone is interested, I’d be delighted to ship out a free copy, or several.
SG: How did you meet Lee Klein, whose first book, Incidents of Egotourism in the Temporary World, you published in 2004?
SC: Lee Klein is a brilliant mind. I “met” him by submitting some work to Eyeshot.net. In fact, he rejected Rubix Cube Dinner. Eventually, he accepted something, we developed an electronic rapport, I asked him if he’d let me print his lengthy travel text Incidents, available then to all in the Eyeshot backwaters and for which I felt a great affinity, and he said okay.
SG: What was your major while in college?
SC: English. (at San Diego State University)
SG: What are your current projects, both your own and those you are working on through BNS?
SC: Due to my traveling situation, BNS is on hold. Current personal projects include my journal, into which I write these words, a theoretical book of fictional Craigslist missed connections, a dialogue-heavy play that takes place in various hostels called Hostels or possible The Exoticisms of Home, a short film called Kissing Bárbara that is stuck in post-production, the Spanish language, various screenplays, various short stories, and the beginnings of an online area called Piquin for stories of 1,000 words.
SG: What are some of the problems you face as an independent publisher?
SC: Meeting deadlines is often a problem. I avoid this by being vague. It also doesn’t help when the low-cost, out-of-state printer I rely on gets bought out by some major monkeymaker and raises its prices.
SG: Have you tapped government funding or foundation grants for your projects or is your operating budget based solely on a combination of your own funds and private donations? Are there really any substantial grants or government allocations that independent presses can compete for or are indie presses and their founders largely on their own, as the name suggests?
SC: It would blow my mind if the government ever took interest in my independent publishing concerns. Even so, I would wonder what kind of strings may be attached. There may be grants out there, but I don’t know about them, nor have I ever thought to look. BNS has matured in part because of private donations, modest book sales, and the occasional dollar from my own nearly empty pocket.
SG: Do you feel there is a hierarchy in the indie publishing world? And if so, what do you interpret the hierarchy to be?
SC: I may call it “Better Media” from time to time, but I’m only being cute. I feel there shouldn’t be a hierarchy in the indie publishing world, or any world, and if there is one, I don’t want to be a part of it.
SG: What are your long-range goals for Better Non Sequitur?
SC: To do BNS full-time, but I would also like to know what it feels like to explode and come back together again, or make love to a figment of my imagination while flying directly into the sun.
SG: What are your own long-term artistic aspirations?
SC: To write a full-length screenplay, play and novel and have them produced, performed and published, respectively, universally. I also have a secret wish to one day learn to sing, dance and play the drums.
About the author:
Savannah Guz is a regular contributor to New York’s Library Journal and Pittsburgh City Paper. A member of So New Publishing’s editorial board, she co-edits the web-version of the literary journal Hobart. Each weekday until noon, she inhabits the newsroom at the Weirton Daily Times and by night, warms a seat in the press box at sporting events. Find her writing and interviews at www.malaproductions.com.