If you could cook dinner for any author, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you make?
Richard Yates. Baked salmon on rice.
What scares you the most about the writing process? How do you combat your fears?
The scariest thing about writing is not having anything to write about. I have two ways of handling this. The first is the cowboy way, where I just dig in and start writing, get those fingers moving across the keyboard. I’ve had days when I was sure I had nothing to say, and then once I got started the words started flowing, and I ended up having an amazingly productive writing session, and I took whatever story or character I was working on in a direction I didn’t plan for and couldn’t have predicted. It’s great when this method works, but it’s not very reliable. The other way to handle the fear is much more practical. Before I start my actual writing, I’ll sit on a couch with a notebook and make an outline of what I’m going to be writing. And that makes the writing much easier, because I know where I’m going, and I can just fill in the blanks.
Who is your biggest literary crush, author or character?
Kaneda’s sweet-ass motorcycle from Akira. For obvious reasons.
What books are on your nightstand?
“So Sad Today,” by Melissa Broder. Amazing and weird personal essays about her addictions to drugs and food and people and the Internet.
“Men without Women,” by Haruki Murakami. It’s a book of his short stories, and that’s great because I like his short stories better than his novels.
“The People Will Rise Up Like the Waters Upon Your Shores,” by Jared Yates Sexton. It’s about the 2016 presidential election and how the Trump thing happened and why we’re all fucked.
Where do you get your ideas? What inspires you?
Just from life. This period of time we’re living in is amazing. And it’s amazing for a lot of good reasons and a lot of bad ones. On the one hand, here in the U.S. our civil rights are expanding and people’s consciousnesses are being raised. Gay people are getting married. Women are smashing the patriarchy. Men are smashing the patriarchy. It feels like there’s real momentum toward creating a better world. But then there’s the backlash. The Trump thing happened. Racism is back. Fascism is back. And when I say “back,” I don’t mean these things were ever gone, only that they are newly active and visible, and the racists and fascists are more emboldened and obnoxious. So there’s a lot happening now. When I step aside and try to take in everything at once, the world looks like this crazy boiling cauldron of good and bad, love and hate, passion, anxiety, darkness, violence, transcendence and weirdness. I just feel honored to be alive right now, experiencing all this and writing stories about people dealing with it.
Favorite punctuation mark? Why?
The dash. It’s cool. People say it’s overused. That’s fine. People say a lot of dumb things.
What book were you supposed to read in high school, but never did?
I never finished reading The Great Gatsby. I started it but thought it was boring. Also the public school I went to didn’t have any money, so students didn’t get a copy of the book they could take home and read. We had to read it in class, and then leave it in our desks for people in the next class. Anyway sometime in college I decided to read it, and it was really great. I can remember reading it in my dorm, and it was actually shocking to find out how good it was and how well written, and it made me sad, a little, because I knew I’d never write that well.
What inanimate object would you thank in your acknowledgements?
The Top Flight wide-rule, 200-page composition book. They come in all different colors, and you can usually buy one for less than a dollar.
Why do you write? The first 5 words that come to mind. Go.
Writing makes me feel like I’m not wasting my life.
If you could write an inspirational quote on the mirrors of aspiring writers, what would you write?
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