Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Summer of Michael Jackson: An Interview with Lorette C. Luzajic

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The Summer of Michael Jackson: An Interview with Lorette C. Luzajic

Lorette C. Luzajic talks to Open Book about her new anthology, Goodbye Billie Jean: The Meaning of Michael Jackson.

Open Book: Toronto:

Tell us about your latest book, Goodbye Billie Jean.

Lorette C. Luzajic:

I had this impulsive idea after Michael’s death, born out of grief really, to make some sort of offering. The whole world felt that. The best gift I had was literary – writing is who I am, what I do. So I had this grandiose idea, that it would be not just a story or even a book, but that it had to be the best book, the most beautiful and most interesting book ever written about Michael Jackson.

The book features 51 writers and a brilliant cover artist. I had never spearheaded an anthology project before, and I had zero resources going in to work with. I did the entire thing independently, with my own resources. I had no idea what I was doing, so I decided I’d just learn as I went. It’s been an incredible experience, and I think it’s an incredible book.

OBT:

Did you have a specific readership in mind when editing Goodbye Billie Jean?

LCL:

Lovers, haters, armchair analysts, fanatics; fledgling musicians learning from one of the most successful musicians on earth- hell, famous musicians learning; the furious and the fascinated. Disciples. Pilgrims. There are a few people in the world who have zero interest in Michael Jackson. Then there are the rest of us.

OBT:

How did you select the writers for your book?

LCL:

I wanted most to show a broad range of perspectives, because “the meaning of Michael Jackson” takes so many colours. I looked for real diversity. I wanted a mix of fun, curious, thought-provoking, bizarre, emotional, scholarly, entertaining and personal tributes.

So I put out calls for writing about MJ anywhere I could think of; asked all my lit friends to send calls to their contacts; and I combed magazines and the Internet and read endlessly what people were thinking.

I can’t say enough how amazing it was to work with so many incredible writers. It surely took a leap of faith to be a part of the project when you’ve never heard of the writer, when she says she’s going to do it herself. I was blown away that one of my literary/philosopher IDOLS came on board. It’s wrong to mention names because I can’t mention all 51 every time. But it’s wrong not to say anything – I wouldn’t have much of a book without their work and faith. So the Canadians get props here by sheer necessity, being a local site: Iaian Greenson, who created a custom cover for the project, and it’s stunning; Carolyn R. Parsons, reporter, poet, blogger and mother extraordinaire; John B. Lee, poet laureate; lit prodigy Samuel Peralta, known in Twitterland as “Semaphore”; poet Tara Stevens; poet and photographer Ralph Martin; Jamyang Khedrup, monk; world’s favourite drag queen, Donnarama; poet, Andreas Gripp; poet and teacher Antony Di Nardo; poet Kevin Craig; music/writing/theatre/social work/television guy Jason Bourner; and the host of CBC’s Daybreak Alberta, Russell Bowers.

OBT:

You talk in your prologue about The Summer of Michael Jackson. Tell us about it. How did you experience it personally?

LCL:

Michael was everywhere. It was intense. And Toronto’s not fanatical, compared to other communities over the world. But he was blasting from every window and store, and news and tributes flowing into our living rooms via the net. The world was missing Michael. Celebrating his life, mourning his death. I cried and drank wine quite a bit in the early aftermath; then for the next four and half months, I lived and breathed Michael Jackson working on the book. Reading, writing, listening.

OBT:

What do you think the cult of Michael Jackson says about our culture?

LCL:

That we’re desperate and hungry for love and affection, for creativity, for inspiration, for the fantastical – the opposite of war and violence, our other world obsession. Greed has a huge cut of the culture, but it transcends commercialism – every reach of the world, the jungle, the ice floes, know and love Michael Jackson, regardless of money.

But then there’s that other obsession – war and violence. We retain mob mentality, the spirit that delights and rejoices in someone’s downfall. The gladiatorial impulse, the desire to attend public executions, all that weird, dark stuff is still inside of us as humans.

OBT:

What sets this book apart from all of the other Jackson books?

LCL:

Well, that it’s the most beautiful, most interesting book about him.

OBT:

What’s your favourite Michael Jackson song?

LCL:

At this second? “2Bad.” But my iTunes says I’ve played “Will You Be There?” the most.

OBT:

What is your next project?

LCL:

One way of letting people know about the project is blogging, so I’ve started an online compendium of “extreme Michael Jackson” where I’m showing curious products and tributes and especially, tattoos. www.extrememichaeljackson.wordpress.com

And I just released Dendrite Pandemonium, a chaotic connection of ups, downs, and pop culture.

By spring, you’ll get to read some fiction- a collection of short stories is coming soon. But that’s for another interview, hopefully!


Lorette C. Luzajic resides in Toronto. She writes about pop culture, mythology, writing, bipolar personality, food, health, addiction, grief, literature and art. She also writes poetry and short fiction. She writes seven columns.

Lorette is the author of The Astronaut’s Wife: Poems of Eros and Thanatos; Weird Monologues for a Rainy Life (irreverent ramblings from the end of the world), its sequel, Dendrite Pandemonium: hits, misses, and random b-sides and short fiction collection Funny Stories About Depression.

Lorette’s favourite topic is fascinating people, so she started a blog called Fascinating People ( fascinatingpeople.wordpress.com). The most interesting person of all, she thought, is Michael Jackson, so she gave him a whole book.

Visit www.thegirlcanwrite.net to learn more, or head to Amazon to see all of Lorette’s books.

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