Novelist, writer, magazine creator, Madonna analyst and founder of one of the most successful online blogs BoyCulture.com, these titles barely cover what Matthew Rettenmund has aquired under his belt as a writing giant. Praised by New York Times writer Nick Hornby, “[Rettenmund] with his sharp eye and his careful, knowing prose, sounds like one of the freshest voices on the block.”
In a Q&A email interview, Rettenmund lectures me on transitioning journalistic shift from print to online, shows off his expertise in pop careers of Queen Madonna and fellow artists Kylie Minogue and Lady Gaga, as well as fulfills my personal request by giving advice on how to make it as a sucessful journalist. Nate reports.
First things first! On Madonna, Kylie Minogue and Lady Gaga.
N: Tell me about your life as a Madonna fan.
R: Madonna is my everything, artistically, because I love her work and also I love that she seems to embody so many notions that any opinion on her winds up having less to do with her and more to do with the person expressing the opinion…and with cultural trends.
Rettenmund’s admiration towards Madonna has long been acknowledged. At one point, this facination has turned into a best seller!
R: Kylie was a terrible copycat early on, but did eventually find her own path, and is quite a good singer. She pays tribute to Madonna affectionately.
R: I did enjoy Lady Gaga a lot at first. She was the first artist since Madonna who seemed to be taking up the mantle with all seriousness and who attempted to replicate Madonna’s brilliant touring strategy and form. However, she has stumbled badly. Her latest album is not forgettable, it’s unforgettably poor, and her pronouncements make her seem like the egomaniacal version of Madonna. (And Madonna is as daunting an ego as any!)
N: You’ve written novels and now become the biggest contributor to one of the most successful blogs BoyCulture.com, a move that resonates the industry shift, from traditional print media to “citizen journalism”. What is your attitude towards the shift? Is there any nostalgia from writing novels?
R: I think a lot is lost and a lot is gained, going from print to digital. What I love about blogging is that I can make lengthy, unedited (except by me) pieces immediately available—and widely. However, I think that it can become addictive, keeping up a daily blog, and that definitely, 100% takes away from other pursuits, including writing fiction and maintaining relationships.
R: Also problematic is the fact that people are now trained to receiving writing and humor and imagery for free. Yes, bloggers can make some money via ads, but that is an invisible fee to readers, who forever after will be less likely to pay for a book, digital or print.
The 2006 Film “Boy Culture” Adapted from Rettenmund’s 1995 Novel of The Same Name
N: Do writers have to be good photographers to be good writers? What is your attitude towards this visual culture of selfies, instgram, tumblr and their impact on readers? Is it really true that a picture is worth 1000 words?
R: If anything, I have gravitated more to imagery and away from writing over time. It’s new to me, but I am very eager to improve my photographic skills. I’m doing shoots and learning, little by little. I’m not bit on selfies myself(ie), but I love the trend in others because I’m a big ol’ voyeur and also, I do think that there is an art to it.
N: What attributes does a blog need to become a hit?
R: I have no idea if my blog could be called a “hit.” I will say that thanks to the support of bloggers like Andy Towle, Joe Jervis, Kenneth [in the (212)], David @ Wicked Gay Blog and others, my blog could be described as an influencer. I’m able to get original stuff or first-reported-by-me stuff out there.
N: How do u view success now? What still excites you? What had been some of the hardships and challenges you had to face to get where you are? Any advice for people who want to make it as a writer/journalist like myself?
R: Success is elusive. I feel somewhat successful, but I also feel like a young, struggling artist at times. I go back and forth between wanting to express myself and be creative, and simply wanting money and nice things and comfort. As I age, it becomes more urgent that I make the right choice, but I’m not closer to knowing which choice that is, so I am trying to cover all the bases.
R: My ultimate advice is to try things. If you’re interested in a field, explore it. Try it. Don’t wait to be validated, just do it. Most of the greatest photographers and writers are completely self-taught. All you have to fear is messing up. If that happens, move on and try something else. Life’s too fleeting to second-guess your every move. Adventure!
I dreamed a dream! And interviewing Matthew Rettenmund has definitely taken me one step closer to that dream. What an absolute pleasure! Thank you! MAN, wouldn’t you want to be Matthew Rettenmund!!
Check out his fabulous blog BoyCulture here!