John Wilmot was born and raised in the sweet bosom of the Deep South, but then got the hell out of there as soon as he possibly could. Now residing in Portland, Oregon, he rides a bike, doesn’t eat meat, and behaves a lot more like a hippy than you’d expect for such a cynic. He also writes.
What are you afraid of?
Paradoxically, I fear both social isolation and dependence on other people.
What were you raised on?
About half fast food, TV, and organized religion; and about half home-cooked meals at a dinner table, old family stories, and dry, sardonic wit.
What are you doing to become what you have always dreamed of being?
Tough question. I’m sorry I came up with it because the very things I wanted others to write about I am finding too difficult to discuss. I mentioned this to a friend who told me that he would probably just pass the question off with a joke, along the lines of, “I hired my roommate to research plastic surgeons.” “But,” I replied, “…that’s not a joke. That’s exactly what I did do.” And it is.
What I do to become what I have always dreamed of being is to try very hard to ignore my fear of humiliation, the shallowness and unimportance of my goals, and the impossibly high odds against success. I go to the gym, even though I feel self-conscious and know I will never ever look the way I hope. I check into plastic surgery, even though it’s expensive and getting the desired results is kind of a crap shoot at best. I write, even though roughly 70% of the English-speaking people on Earth are currently thinking about or working on a novel, and they all have a cousin in publishing. I just keep going, just keep trying, just keep ignoring the things that might make me stop.
What would you be like as a superhero or villain?
As a superhero, I would be “The Listener.” I would sit heroically silent while people explained dreams and plans that had no possibility of success. I would listen to them worry and complain as everything fell apart, yet never give in to the urge to put in my two cents. And I would just nod, with a sympathetically furrowed brow, as they mourned the loss of hope, trying neither to make them feel better nor to make them feel worse, not soothing their regrets nor saying “I told you so.” Then I’d watch the process repeat itself endlessly, biting my tongue the whole time. I would just listen, because that’s what everyone actually needs more than anything else, but what no mere mortal can give them.
As a villain, I would be “The Crusher.” I would crush the dreams of all who crossed my path, laying out, with clinical precision, just how they’re fooling themselves, just what is flawed in their logic, and just how they’re not up to the task. For the pleasure of seeing others fail and the even greater pleasure of rubbing salt into their wounds, I would pretend to be sympathetic when things go wrong, but then remind them of all my many warnings and discourage any further efforts. My villainy would be to deny people the hopes and illusions and self-delusions that help them keep going. In short, I would be completely honest — the ultimate cruelty.
What do you believe in?
I believe in what my eyes see and what my instincts tell me. When I question those, I usually get it wrong.