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JimWould you like to play a game?

Sure, I love games.

 

You can be a writer, sailor, punk rocker, or rat. Which character would you like to play?

Writer, please.

FoF-Cover-SmallAsk a shitload of questions. That was Pemberton’s strategy for job interviews. Start with questions, end with questions, and cram more questions in between. Only the last time he’d used this approach it had worked a bit too well.

Pemberton had responded to an ad for a freelance-editing gig placed by a woman named Kiki. He hadn’t done any editing since You Had to Be There—theonline humor zine he cofounded in college, which had peaked at forty discrete visitors per week. Through an exchange of e-mails, he was able to ascertain that Kiki intended to write a book about her Korean boyfriend Ricky, who had a super-secret story to tell. Crime was involved. Money was no object. Would Pemberton like to meet at a coffee shop to discuss the details?

Q:

It’s gimmicky, but the whole idea of a self-interview is pretty gimmicky, right?

 

Q:

I don’t know. I read a bunch, as, you know, research, and they seem tricky, because you’re either earnest, in which case you seem boring, or you try to be funny, but that actually seems a lot harder to pull off than it’d seem. It’s kind of like trying to do “Who’s on First?” by yourself.

to send CHANGE FILE NAME.inddQ:

A:       Just to pass the time, a hobby or whatever. But it kept growing kept getting bigger and finally got a little out of control, really.

 

Q:

A:       I do remember, in school, college, building these bridges out of toothpicks or Popsicle sticks or whatever and seeing how sturdy we could make our structures. How much weight they could withhold. I’d always really loved those projects.

Allen, Jeffery Renard (Mark Hillringhouse)So it seems that you have a new novel called Song of the Shank, which is based in part on a real person, Blind Tom, a book that I understand took you forever to write. Tell us more about it.

Better you read it.

 

Okay. So can you tell us what is the most important thing readers need to know about this novel?

The book is many things at once, travels in many directions, explores a number of possibilities in an effort to engage the reader and engage the world. I hope that anyone who reads the book will resist any inclination to try and pigeon-hole it as say a historical novel, or a novel about slavery and Reconstruction, or a novel about a musician, since it is all those things and more.

Song of the ShankShe comes out of the house and sees fresh shapes in the grass, a geometrical warning she does not understand. Blades mashed down under a foot, half-digested clots of earth where shoe heels have bitten in, mutilated worms spiking up through regurgitated blackness—piecemeal configurations, suggesting a man’s shoe, two, large, like Tom’s but not Tom’s since Tom never wears shoes in the country. A clear track, left foot and right, running the circumference of the house, evidence that someone has been spying through the windows, trespassing at the doors.

AldenJonesThe adjectives “dark” and “raw” are often used to describe the stories in Unaccompanied Minors. Are you a “dark” person? Is there perhaps something wrong with you?

It’s funny you should ask that. My wife and I have an ongoing struggle with television and what to watch together. She can’t handle anything violent or cruel. Somehow every show I love involves this element of intensity and often this intensity is measured by how far into some area of darkness – crime, violence, psychological terrain – the show and the characters are willing to go. She says “Modern Family!” and I say “True Detective!” And we meet in the middle with “Orange is the New Black.” So this is something I think about a lot: Why am I drawn to the dark side?

UMFinalCoverFrontShelter

We’re in a homeless shelter in Asheville, NC. We think it’s funny. How did all these people in some hellish hickish place like Asheville NC get homeless, that’s what we want to know. It’s so crowded we have to sleep on the floor.

I’m with this dyke Spike who I met in Ft Lauderdale, FL. She’s got an old white Toyota and a tent where we’ve been sleeping the past month.

SEAN_MICHAEL-1770_NB_FINALEwebWhat’s your name, where do you come from?

My name’s Sean. I was born in Scotland and raised in Ottawa, but I live in Montreal.

 

Why don’t you have a Scottish accent?

I did, but I lost it.

Us-ConductorsSnow was falling in streamers on West Fifty-Ninth Street. The studio was nearly silent.

I stood at the window, looking into the flurries. Head- lights flashed and went away, distant gestures of civilization. Heat lifted from the radiator. All my students had stayed home. There is weather all around us and then sometimes it interrupts our lives, as though a temporary new law has been passed.

There was a bell from downstairs.

I picked up my watch and went to the door to wait.

headshot_smallWhen we last spoke, in 2011, you attempted to pass yourself off as an unlikely Rock Novelist. How did you go about making the transition to unlikely Surf Novelist?

It all started with a place. La Libertad is a bizarre and fascinating beach town on El Salvador’s Pacific Coast. It’s home to a world-class point-break, as well as a serious crack cocaine epidemic. I spent a lot of time there in my early twenties—back when it was still below the surfing radar and I was a Peace Corps volunteer about 50 miles away. The beauty and the grit of La Lib, with its mix of surfers, fishermen, drug dealers, and addicts is something I always wanted to write about.

K99_coverIt wasn’t long after I’d broken up with Alex, a few short months into my service, a year and a half before the earthquake. Some girlfriends from my training group talked me into a weekend at the beach. Four of us rented two rooms in La Posada’s cheap wing—which was the first time I ever saw the place. Once our backpacks were shoved inside, we all went to a shorefront restaurant for midday drinks.

I’d not surfed in years, and never outside of Hawai‘i. It hadn’t occurred to me that there might be waves in El Salvador. Straight away, I could tell a swell was running. The rocky point—which began at the restaurant—stretched far out to sea. It was longer than any wave I’d seen on Oahu, and had no closed-out sections. I studied it while the other girls smoked and chatted.

Soon, I saw a bearded gringo, prone on his surfboard, riding white water into shore.

alan_michael_parker_2013What the hell is this?

A novel.

 

But it’s got 99 stories and some of them have the same titles?

That’s true.

9781938103803Report from the Committee on Town Happiness

We have been thinking about the trees. The trees, we have decided, know what they’re doing. We have decided (6–3, with one abstention) that there will be trees in the Afterlife.

Our thinking about trees has led us to fence Maxwin’s Park and to prohibit all pedestrian traffic therein. As an elected policy-making body, we believe that the trees need a place of repose. As we all do.

James MagruderAre you gay?

Everywhere except Uganda.

 

What does that mean?

In America, the only way I pass for straight is if I stand absolutely still and don’t speak. In Kampala, which my partner Steve and I just fled in mid-March in the wake of the anti-gay legislation getting passed, the Ugandans we knew kept asking when I was going to take a wife and have children. They advised me to shoot for four, with one serving as backup in case anything went wrong with the first three. Lots of things can go wrong in Uganda.