@

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

KristiinaEhinPhoto

How do you go about writing?

I don’t know. I’m trying to find out for myself here on the farm. With every new book I try to reinvent the bicycle.

My father was a surrealist Estonian poet, my mother is an original poet in a more traditional vein. They have both been literary translators as well and so I grew up quite literally in a desk drawer. An open drawer of course. We have an old desk with big drawers and when Mother and Father were writing they kept the baby in the drawer where it could sit and play. Part of my talent for writing probably came from my childhood. Although, for a while, I resisted the impulse to write since it didn’t seem as if this work was particularly easy, and it isn’t.

Roxane GayYou have two books coming out this year. How the hell did that happen? What are the books about?

Well, I wrote an essay about publishing two books in one year that covers a lot of ground.

An Untamed State, my novel, is about Mireille Duval Jameson, a Haitian American woman visiting Port au Prince with her American husband and infant son. They are on the way to the beach when she is kidnapped in broad daylight and held for thirteen days because her father is reluctant to pay the ransom for fear that he will lose everything he has worked so hard to accomplish. The novel explores her life before, during, and after the kidnapping as well as how she reconciles the country she thought she knew with the country she discovers upon her kidnapping. This is also about how she comes to terms with her father’s betrayal and how she tries to find her way back to herself.

Ronlyn Domingue official author photoYou’re writing a trilogy which can be read “out of order.” How did that happen?

I didn’t intend to write a trilogy at all. I expected my second book to be one huge sprawling novel, but it morphed into something even bigger. A subplot about a female mapmaker, exiled for treason, took on a life of its own and became the trilogy’s first book, The Mapmaker’s War. The rest of the story grew so much that it split into two.

stephen-graham-jonesThe Questions I’m Most Often Asked

 

Do you write longhand or on a computer?

Longhand’s all right for short stuff, like when I’ve just edged around a corner, let everybody else keep walking, so I can write a story down right quick. Used to taxiing in a plane and taking off were when I wrote a lot of short pieces, because I couldn’t have my laptop out, but also because I couldn’t imagine just sitting there staring at the back of the seat in front of me. Keyboards are my preference, though. Ergonomic, black, wired. I can go really fast. I can even forget I’m typing, sometimes. Like my mind’s just pressing letters onto the screen. And I go through keyboards pretty fast, too. But, lately, the bones in my hands are wearing out faster. It’s not ideal. But so far it’s just in my three-times broken hand, with the messed-up finger tendons. So I guess it’s no surprise.

JuliaFierrophotoYou just launched your debut novel, Cutting Teeth, you run The Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop, and you have two children. How do you do it all?

My lifelong insomnia has been a blessing in disguise. I pretty much sleep four hours a night, and am doing my best to ignore conspiracy theories like this, that simultaneously attempt to cut my productivity in half and promise my inevitable doom.

It is amazing what you can accomplish if you abandon all household chores that aren’t absolutely essential. Sure, we’re living in chaos, but mom’s making great progress on her next novel and the number of Sackett Street writers attending classes has doubled in the last three years. It turns out that women can “have it all”—they might be miserably tired, suffer from high blood pressure, and not have enough time to eat well, exercise or have meaningful relationships, but you can do anything when you don’t give yourself a reason not to.

Head Shot - Jay ShearerI’m checking out the cover of Five Hundred Sirens, Jay, those striking phone or power lines that curl around the spine. What’s that all about?

We chanced on that photo pretty randomly. It was a leftover from another roll of film unrelated to the deliberate shoot for the cover. It seemed perfect the moment we saw it, though I couldn’t then say why. In part, there’s a fixation in the novel with voyeurism and surveillance, but the old school kind, absent of technology, not the government watching us or listening in on us, but each of us watching or listening in on each other. Philip Palliard, chronic voyeur, likes to watch his neighbors and guess about their lives. He listens in on them too, almost against his will, but spends precious little time considering they might be doing the same to him.

juliet escoriaWhat’s Black Cloud about?

The working/joke title was Drugs and Boys. I thought it was funny because it was so obvious. It could have also been called Substance Abuse, Bad Relationships, and Mental Illness but that is a really long title.

Cushman Jacket PhotoYou’ve written a novel about knife fighting?

Yes.

 

Do these things really exist?

I hope not.

photo-earley-pub--190x190What is your debut novel, A Map of Everything, about?

It’s about “everything,” of course. But at its core: The narrator’s sister has a terrible car wreck as a teen and suffers traumatic brain injury and physical debilitation. The novel thus becomes about family and family tragedy; accident and injury; addiction, sexual identity, and healing; and love. The structure is based on the periodic table, with each subchapter based on one of the elements. The excerpt here, for example, is element number 51, Antimony, described as “Metalloid; Primordial; Solid.”