Emotionally dissonant but solvable: An interview with Frank Hinton

This is part two of an interview series focusing on how the Internet is changing/improving/destroying the “indie lit” world. Interviews will feature writers, editors, designers and other artists with a web presence. I recently spoke with Frank Hinton over gmail chat. Some spelling has been corrected and time stamps have been removed but abbreviations, punctuation and line breaks have been preserved to give an ~accurate account of what conducting an interview online looks like.

Frank Hinton is the editor-in-chief and founder of the online literary magazine Metazen. She has been published on Lamination Colony, in decomP magazine, >kill author, Pop Serial and Pangur Ban Party among other publications. She is 27 and lives in Nova Scotia.

Frances Dinger: hi frank

Frank Hinton: hey

Frances: is now an okay time for the interview?

Frank: yes. it is. im getting headphones. one of my roommates is trying to sleep so i need to get headphones.
I’m back

Frances: sleeping at nine o’clock on a saturday? do you live with old ladies?
that’s not a real question

Frank: hahah
sorry. the headphones I got didn’t work
my roommate is going through a ridiculous breakup
and she is taking it really dramatically

Frances: ohh, bummer.

Frank: kind of. kind of not. they dated for about a week.

Frances: is it okay to laugh at that?

Frank: haha i think it’s okay. i don’t know. the context of the relationship is entirely funny to me.
one night of passionate sex + one full week of heavy push and pull fighting and making up and then an explosive drunken breakup on the 8th day
I’m hoping they get back together so I have something to entertain me.

Frances: a soap opera performed live for you, how lovely

Frank: maybe. although I’ll interject when my emotional support is requested.
like watching sitcoms and eating shitty food. i’m all over that

Frances: word

Frank: how are you making out?

Frances: uhhh… in general? well today i had a migraine and cut my hair shorter than it has ever been. so, i guess i am doing okay. how are you?

Frank: eee. short is always something. do you feel good about your haircut? is your migraine better?
im trying to be warm. we are covered in ice here.

Frances: my migraine is subsiding a bit. i took some meds. and i do feel good about my haircut. how cold is it in nova scotia right now?

Frank: I would say it is -12 ish
do you get migraines regularly or is it rare?

Frances: i average one migraine a month, two if i am stressed.
-12 celsius, right?

Frank: wow. intense. celsius yes. lol. whoops.

Frances: haha

Frank: if we were speaking over the phone I also would have said “aboot” by now

Frances: do you also say “saurry”?

Frank: I do. And I say “baid” instead of “bad”

Frances: that makes me think of sheep

Frank: I saw a map the other day online that had all of the variations of speech in north america listed. nova scotia didn’t have a great assessment.

Frances: an italian told my mother and me once that he thought american accents were musical
he had no assessment of canadian accents

Frank: interesting. i guess it could be true. i find something kind of enchanting about talking with americans. they seem less stunned than most canadians.

Frances: less stunned. interesting.
so, in preparation for this interview, i googled you and found at least six businesses called “frank hinton & son(s)” and at least two obituaries all before the 10th page of results but none of the listings were from canada.
so i presume you are both alive and sans sons

Frank: hahah really? interesting
When I google me I get different results. Google is tailored to me. It flatters me when I search myself. It has great flattery coding.
I am alive and I have no sons.

Frances: both good things.
how long have you been going by “frank”? your real name is “francesca” right? i think someone told me that once

Frank: I think so. I think sons might suck the wrong energy from me right now. being dead would also suck.
Mmm. I’ve been going by Frank for maybe four years. I think people in my life used Frank and then I sort of incorporated it. Nobody in my actual life thinks of me/calls me Frank now.
My real name is something I blow smoke around.

Frances: okay, i won’t bother you about it then.

Frank: haha. ok.
i should have picked frances though.
that is way more elegant

Frances: when you started going by frank online, did you originally intend to create ambiguity around your gender or was it something else entirely?

Frank: mm. I think I’m inspired by opportunities for positive anonymity.
there’s a lot of negative anonymity on the internet, but I think it can be a creative thing

Frances: do you think your anonymity in that way has added a kind of allure or intrigue to your work?

Frank: mmm. I don’t know. I’m not sure how it has altered people’s feelings but it definitely has had an effect on how I live.
Frank Hinton is a project.

Frances: can you elaborate on how it has affected how you live?

Frank: Mmm. Well, Frank is an editor and a writer and I’m an editor and writer too, but I feel I can only be that through the pseudonymity.
So it is fulfilling.
That is funny to say it like that. I’m looking at what I typed and sort of wrinkling my face.

Frances: does frank offline have a day job outside of metazen?

Frank: yes. I have a nice day job working with a lot of young and respectable people. I get to travel a lot so I see a lot of good things.
that’s vague.
basically I’m always balancing this weird secret life and a semi-public life wherein I have a lot of people dependent on me for stability in their lives.

Frances: do the people in your public/real life know about your online life? or i guess the real question that leads to is, how large of a divide is there between the “secret life” and the “semi-public” life?

Frank: mm. i would say the gap is large. my friends know about it, my family doesn’t have the capacity to understand it and everyone else orbiting around my life is kept in a kind of cloud i put out there. if people found out it wouldn’t be a terrible thing, it would just be sort of a shame. what’s now feels nice.

Frances: what about that separateness appeals to you?

Frank: I think that there is a level of creativity it brings. There is a weird environment it creates in which I feel I am being the most authentic me in both settings by having the two zones set up.

Frances: how does the character of frank who appears in some of your stories fit into those zones?

Frank: Mmm. I think that Frank is a pretty authentic representation of actual events I experience in my real life.
Like I have a story about Frank and a girl named Lili in a kitchen talking about capturing raccoons in their yard. That didn’t happen like that, but that is a perfect capture of an emotional experience that happened to me in my life.

Frances: i’ve read that story. were there raccoons involved in the real experience?

Frank: yes. raccoons were in to my lawn and it was terrible. i had a big love/hate for them for a while.

Frances: on average,how much time do you spend online daily?

Frank: mm. i usually wake up and check my phone for communications. i will eat breakfast and do something productive on the internet. at lunch I usually send emails. After work I spend time online either relaxing or talking to people. I go back and forth. I’m not sure. Maybe ~3 hrs total? Computers hurt my eyes so I have to get on and off a lot.

Frances: 3 hours. that’s really good/not a lot.

Frank: haha. sundays are an extreme. i do all my online work on sundays.

Frances: do you think living in “the internet age” has significantly affected your development as a writer?

Frank: mm. yes. whatever is going on now is very different from traditional writing.

Frances: is that good/bad/neutral, in your opinion?

Frank: I think it is neutral. With the internet there are so many “fuck-up” variables in play that most messages end up getting fucked up.
but I think the internet has created a kind of writer+editor genre that seems to be defining itself right now.

Frances: how would you describe that genre?

Frank: I think that on the internet publishing is free. If you’re a creative person you can make something aesthetically pleasing for very little money. I see a lot of writers with positive aesthetic online presences now that also write really well.
or vice versa
great writers in charge of great online zines

Frances: considering the relative ease at which people can publish, do you see a problem at all with good things getting lost in the mix w/r/t the sheer volume of online journals? how do you think saturation can be dealt with?

Frank: I think that the best and most relevant will make themselves stand out. That is sort of how you have to look at things. If something isn’t able to capture then it either dies or waits its chance.

Frances: what catches/keeps your attention online?

Frank: Mmm. I am interested in buzz. I like things that seem emotionally dissonant but solvable.
I like places like hipsterrunoff and htmlgiant and tumblr feeds.

Frances: do you still consume print media?

Frank: mmm. I do. I scavenge. I like Dalkey archives books and ordering anything paper I see published within my friendgroup on facebook.

Frances: do you think print is still relevant and can coexist with digital publications?

Frank: it probably should if it wants to survive. i think that people want both but they want them in a sync. if you are an online publisher i think the goal is to convince people that the world needs a print and online media dance.

Frances: have you ever thought about making a print companion for metazen?

Frank: mm. yes. in a couple of ways. we are working on a print publication right now and that will be test for what we can pull off/ how we pull things off.

Frances: how will the identity of the print edition be different from the online edition?

Frank: right now the first metazen book project is being directed by riley michael parker. he is sort of leading the charge. metazen is communal and it is being designed as a communal piece but we’re actually releasing it as both an electronic composition and paper composition. parts of it will be accessible online and other parts of it will be accessible in the paper book and together it will hopefully form some shape

Frances: does metazen have a mission statement/identity/goal? what you publish seems pretty eclectic most weeks

Frank: Five days a week has to be eclectic… it is crazy not taking a week off ever, but I think that is what is fun… we have a lot of repeat authors that form one tone and then highlight new authors that form another tone. I think having a place that is both accessible and desirable is our mission.

Frances: where are you going [tonight]?

Frank: Gus’ Pub
there’s a band playing there and then an after-show
Halifax music is in a good place right now
it’s sort of moved from rock to synth
very dancey in the city

Frances: do you dance sober or do you have to be drunk to dance?

Frank: I have to be drunk or alone
always dance when drunk always dance alone

Frances: word

Frank: what about you?

Frances: the same. drunk or alone. richard made me dance with him sober when i was in san diego.
i think my entire body blushed with embarrassment

Frank: haha. slow or fast?

Frances: a little of both
at one point i think i just pretended i didn’t know what he wanted from me and ignored him

Frank: hahah. that is romantic though. the best relationships i’ve had have also had the best dancing moments, i think.

Frances: haha

Frank: were you both drunk. when you’re drunk and you dance the movement seems to be a good psychic connector

Frances: neither of us were drunk
i read in another interview with you that metazen was started while you were drunk
true story?

Frank: haha. yes
on whiskey too
one march on whiskey and then i didn’t drink whiskey until late 2k10 and now it’s all I drink

Frances: straight or mixed with something?

Frank: I think when I made it I used to drip ginger ale in but now I just drink straight. But slow.
loads of ice

Frances: do you ever write while drunk?

Frank: mmm. i do. i did last night and i think I felt good about it but I haven’t gone back. It is actually rare. I usually write in the morning when I feel kind of fresh from whatever soil I’m sprouting from
if that makes sense. i don’t know if im making any kind of sense.

Frances: do you have a routine when you write? or what is your ~process?

Frank: I think I try to make something around me
by listening to music and reading sites I like and taking small thoughts that come to me and expanding on them
I will read for sustained periods and then kind of sit and think for a long while and then I will follow that on to the internet and search a bunch of things and then start writing

Frances: what was the first story you can remember writing?

Frank: I remember writing a series of stories called “Time Machine” where a teenager named Marty McFly went back in time on various 2-sentence adventures.
Then I wrote about a character named “Pulveriser” who had no legs but did have wolverine claws and huge tits.
Then it was all journaling until 4-5 years ago.

Frances: sorry if this is a totally expected question but, when you were a kid did you want to be a writer?

Frank: ah. no. i don’t know if I want to be one now. I just always write and end up liking it.

Frances: what else could you imagine yourself doing?

Frank: I don’t know. I think it would be cool to be a woman like 300 years ago. Like a woman in a manor with servants and educators and a constrained path that made her really quirky. I don’t know. That would be cool.


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