The cult section of the literary world

Bizarro Fiction

Show Me Your Shelves: Shane Cartledge

Shane Cartledge is one of the really cool emerging voices in bizarro fiction. His first book, House Hunter, was published in 2012 as part of the New Bizarro Author Series. Since BizarroCon is nonstop fun and mayhem, I didn’t get to sit down with my Bionic Brother in Portland, but have been in touch ever since, and he’s a great guy: talented, mellow, humble, and he loves Junji Ito. Now Shane’s second novel is here, so it’s a perfect time for him to show us his stuff and talk books. Dig.

Who are you and what role do books play in your life?

I’m Shane. I read books. I write books. I live them in my head. Books are the key to my imagination. Smashing words together in a way that makes different people picture different things in their heads, I think that’s a very powerful thing. It seems mostly harmless, but it can be terrifying, the things books can make you think. It can also be beautiful. At times it can be blissful, surreal, chaotic, or cathartic. With each book, there is a different experience to be had, and within books, a complex network of thoughts and emotions. It overwhelms me. I read to experience those feelings. I write hoping that other people can feel it too while reading my own work. What more is there to books?

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You were part of the greatest NBAS class ever. What did you learn? Do you think it changed your career in a significant way?

I have five other authors to thank for my NBAS class being so great. The books were magical. I went to places I’ve never been and never could imagine from the comfort of my own home. I made so many friends and I learned that this first book was only the beginning of something. I learned what hard work really is, and that I’ll never achieve much without it. I learned that respect and admiration is earned. You don’t wake up published and dive Scrooge McDuck style into a pool of royalty money. Every book sold is a blessing. Every book read. Every review. Every time someone tells someone else about this book they read that was yours. I learned that everyone won’t love my book (and some might really dislike it) and that’s okay, and the solution to it is to wake up the next day and keep writing. Write something better. Write what you love to write. Write what you’re afraid to write because you think it’s beyond your limits. Don’t be afraid to go insane. Of course the NBAS changed my career in a significant way. I became part of a collective. I found out how little I knew about the publishing industry, how little writing experience I had, how much hard work I had ahead of me if I really wanted to stick around. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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Is living in Australia an impediment to your career in the US? Are there any pains that come from it besides the price of sending books this way?

Pretty much all the book-related shipping I do is international shipping. I’ve had books sent to me that have wound up missing, and some of those books were one-of-a-kind limited edition type deals. It hurts both me and the guy on the other end. Every time I ship books out I’m worried they won’t arrive. I’ve come to peace with the cost of international shipping, and I’m constantly thinking of ways to work around that to give people the best deals I can without running at a loss. But I’m always concerned about whether or not my books will arrive. It sucks being so far from all the writers I cherish. It sucks that I can’t afford to fly out to Portland for BizarroCon each year. Talking with other writers is something I’m getting used to, trying to work around American time zones in order to have a decent conversation. I guess the other thing would be that I don’t really have much of a local writing collective. It might just be that I’m shy and don’t get out all that much, there isn’t much in terms of readings/events/conventions in my part of the world (and specifically my part of the country). I’m constantly telling myself that I need to talk more with local poets and writers and try to latch on to everything that comes along and try to boost it up a bit, to try building up a local network.

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You read books and comics, so let’s split it: give me the best five books you’ve read this year and the top five comics.

Okay. Books:

One – Long Lost Dog of It, by Michael Kazepis. His prose is so smooth, the details are so sharp and clear, the story is raw and aggressive.

Two – Crystal Eaters, by Shane Jones. I just finished it, and there’s this mythic quality about it, the child-like simplicity of the concept and the way that you see it from the beginning charging head-first towards heartbreak.

Three – The Creek, by Justin Grimbol. There is a lot of humour and a lot of heart in Justin’s writing, and I think it is beautifully displayed here in his poetry collection.

Four – The Last Horror Novel in the History of the World, by Brian Allen Carr. Carr’s writing, like Jones, has that mythic quality about it, but it exists on a darker spectrum. It’s an all-consuming monster, and it is beautiful.

Five – Black Cloud, by Juliet Escoria. This is the world unfiltered and brimming with conflicting emotions. Short stories with characters saying and doing things you wish they wouldn’t, feeling things you know are true feelings. It feels real.

Comics, while I read American comics on occasion, I read a ton of manga. Here’s my five picks:

One – Knights of Sidonia, by Tsutomu Nihei. If there’s one name I can hammer into the skulls of people reading this, it’s Tsutomu Nihei. His works are beautifully, apocalyptically sublime. He is a science fiction visionary and artist.

Two – Claymore, by Norihiro Yagi. This one’s been going on for a while, and I’m currently up to date at volume 24 in the series. The story has a Dragonball Z style build up of powerful heroes fighting powerful monsters with each volume building up to something larger and more inconceivable than the last. I read it for the monsters which never cease to amaze me.

Three – Attack on Titan, by Hajime Isayama. Giant naked humanoid creatures eating humans towards extinction? Brilliant!

Four – Gyo, by Junji Ito. I’ve had this manga on my watch list for a long time but volume 1 was always unavailable. It’s a 2 volume horror manga from the author of the infamous Uzumaki. Same tone, except instead of being haunted by spirals, it’s a fish apocalypse. Gruesome. Wicked.

Five – Mardock Scramble, by Tow Ubukata and Yoshitoki Oima. Cyberpunk assassin revenge story. Seven volumes. Lots of action. And there are shape shifting hamsters and talking dolphins in there somewhere too.

What’s your new book about and why should we spend our coffee money on it?

My new book is about milk (get Day of the Milkman HERE!). How a world is drowned in it, people rely upon it to continue their day-to-day lives, and then a milkman wakes up to find that he’s the last of his people, left floating in a curdling ocean. It’s about the will to survive. It’s about the search for meaning and understanding. It’s about coping with loss and trying to comprehend the world around you. But really, it’s just about milk.

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Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He’s the author of Gutmouth and a few other things no one will ever read. You can find him on Twitter at @Gabino_Iglesias


Show Me Your Shelves: MP Johnson

MP Johnson is the kind of guy who brings together punk, slime, pubic hair, and burritos. He also knows where your parents like to stick their nasty tongues. In other words, he’s awesome. Seeing/hearing him read live is a pleasure and talking books and gruesome shit is one of the reasons I look forward to going to BizarroCon every year. Now that MP has a new novel out with Eraserhead Press, I thought it’d be a great time to ask him to us his stuff and talk a bit about books. Dig it.

Who are you and what role do books play in your life?

I am the Maximum Attack Three Thousand, or MATT for short. But I go by MP Johnson for religious purposes.

Books play two roles in my life: to suck money out of my pockets and to put awesomeness into my head. My book collection is a constantly shifting monstrosity. Cycles of binging and purging mean that it’s never quite the same. There are some books that will always be in the collection. There are some that I’m eager to ditch.

In high school, I went though a phase in which I had to make all of my collections (books, music, movies) The Best™. I bought stuff I thought was important to have in a collection that people would respect and sold stuff that wasn’t. I ended up selling stuff I loved and buying shit I didn’t care about. Now I know that a good collection of books looks like a scrapheap that only the owner can truly understand. I don’t need to own the canon of classic horror, and it’s weird when I see something resembling it on someone else’s bookshelf. Okay, you know all the important books, but what are you into? Where’s your copy of Fast Sofa that you randomly bought when you were 14 because it had a Flesh Eaters flexi in it and you fell in love with it?

Right now, my collection is recovering from an arbitrary purge. I sold about half of it because I moved around a couple times and I hate moving books. I realized I regretted getting rid of a lot of that stuff. Then I swung back the other way and am just cooling down from spending a stupid amount of money on new stuff. Basically, I’m a lunatic and shouldn’t be allowed money or possessions.

At some point, every author has to choose between romance and bizarro; why did you opt for the weird stuff?

I opted for romance because it’s just so gross. Did you know that sometimes, when people love each other, one will stick his or her tongue up the other’s butt? And that’s like a sweet, conservative example. Most peoples’ parents have done that. I’m not saying that it doesn’t feel really fucking good or that there’s anything wrong with it, but it’s also grosser than eating bugs.

Most of my characters are on a quest for love, and sometimes it even sickens them, the energy and resources they are expending just to have someone to hold onto, even if it’s a pig or a sky serpent. And most of the time, the romance is just utterly doomed because one side wants it more than the other, and it results in some sort of tomfoolery involving inter-dimensional caterpillars or fucked up clown sex.

What are some of your favorite tomes? Is there one you think would surprise people if they knew you love it?

My favorites are Books of Blood by Clive Barker, Deathbird Stories by Harlan Ellison and Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs. Pretty 101, really. I don’t think much of the stuff I love would surprise anyone. Maybe The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway or The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie. Or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie novelization, which is actually the book that got me into reading books in the first place.

What’s up with pubes in burritos?

Beats alfalfa sprouts, right?

What’s your new book about and why should we click away from this interview and buy it?

Dungeons & Drag Queens is an epic fantasy adventure. With drag queens. I love old-school sword and sorcery stuff, from Robert E. Howard up to the stuff that lingered through the ‘80s, like Dean Andersson’s Warrior Witch of Hel, and movies like the Beastmaster. I also love drag queens. Drag is just an amazing, subversive form of self-expression that is also an intensely multifaceted form of art. Not only are these girls fucking with gender norms, they’re doing makeup, choreography, fashion design, music, comedy. I am completely in awe and totally jealous.

Anyway D&DQ is about a small-town drag queen who gets whisked away to a realm of slimy monster shit and pervy dragons. Lots of swords and blood and romance.

Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He’s the author of Gutmouth and a few other things no one will ever read. You can find him on Twitter at @Gabino_Iglesias


New Books from Lazy Fascist

Lazy Fascist, the mustachioed imprint of Eraserhead Press, has just dropped four new books, including the bizarro fables The Fun We’ve Had by Michael J Seidlinger and The Last Horror Novel in the History of the World by Brian Allen Carr. Also out is the first issue of their new print journal, Lazy Fascist Review, featuring fiction and interviews with some of today’s top writers. Also out now is The Collected Works of Noah Cicero Vol. 2, which contains more of Noah Cicero’s classic white trash minimalism.

LastHorrorNovelcoverThe Last Horror Novel in the History of the World by Brian Allen Carr

The black magic of bad living only looks hideous to honest eyes.

Welcome to Scrape, Texas, a nowhere town near the Mexican border. Few people ever visit Scrape, and the unlucky ones who live there never seem to escape. They fill their days with fish fries, cheap beer, tobacco, firearms, and sex. But Scrape is about to be invaded by a plague of monsters unlike anything ever seen in the history of the world. First there’s La Llorona — the screaming woman in white — and her horde of ghost children. Then come the black, hairy hands. Thousands, millions, scurrying on fingers like spiders or crabs. But the hands are nothing to El Abuelo, a wicked creature with a magical bullwhip, and even El Abuelo don’t mean shit when the devil comes to town.

Click here to order The Last Horror Novel in the History of the World.

thefunwevehadThe Fun We’ve Had by Michael J Seidlinger

“Michael Seidlinger is a homegrown Calvino, a humanist, and wise and darkly whimsical. His invisible cities are the spires of the sea where we all sail our coffins in search of our stories.”-Steve Erickson, author of Zeroville

Two lovers are adrift in a coffin on an endless sea. Who are they? They are him and her. They are you and me. They are rowing to salvage what remains of themselves. They are rowing to remember the fun we’ve had.

Click here to order The Fun We’ve Had.

 

 

lazyfascistreview1Lazy Fascist Review #1 edited by Cameron Pierce

The debut issue of the literary journal from premiere independent publisher, Lazy Fascist Press. Featuring interviews with Dennis Cooper and Tom Piccirilli, fiction and poetry by Elizabeth Ellen, William Boyle, Juliet Escoria, Mike Meginnis, Sean Kilpatrick, Ben Spivey, Monica Storss, and Hernan Ortiz. Also featuring recommended beer pairings and beer reviews by Ross E. Lockhart.

Click here to order Lazy Fascist Review #1.


Show Me Your Shelves: Josh Myers

Josh Myers is a cool guy who likes to read and write books, so we got along from the start. After reading Feast of Oblivion, published by Copeland Valley Press in 2012, I wanted more of his fiction. He said he was working on something. That was good…for a while. Then I got impatient and started pestering him about it. In retaliation, he took his sweet time. Whatever. The point is that GUNS is almost here, and talking about it was the perfect opportunity to also ask Josh to show us his shelves. Dig it.

Who are you and what role do books play in your life?

I’m Josh, a guy from New Jersey who occasionally writes a book or two.

I love books to pieces. When I was young, my parents always encouraged me to read, no matter how weird the books were that I was drawn to. In grade school, my first few teachers had a deep love of books, and they really helped to instill that in me early on. And having become friends with a bunch of really talented writers over these past few years, man…it’s just the best. These are all people who share that deep, deep love of books. When I meet up with most of my friends, one of the first questions asked is, “So what have you been reading?”
There’s just something so great about a book that you can’t get from any other medium. I mean, I love movies and a fair amount of TV, but give me a book any day. I’m literally surrounded by them. There are books on all four walls of my room, and they bleed out into the rest of the house. Sometimes I worry about the shelves over my bed giving way and burying me under books, but in the grand scheme of things…is it really such a bad way to go?
[Flash forward to 2022: Josh Myers dies under a pile of books, last words reported to be, “Oh jeez, I was wrong, this blows.”]

If you had to get a tattoo of a cover, what cover would it be and why?

You mean besides this one?

I got this for a few reasons. One is obviously because I’m a big fan of Andersen Prunty. He’s one of my favorite writers, and a damn nice guy. But I also just really love that design. Brandon Duncan an insanely talented dude, and he absolutely killed it with the FUCKNESS cover. And it sort of speaks to my own slightly skewed sense of patriotism.

But back to the question.
Right off the top of my head, probably Matthew Revert’s HOW TO AVOID SEX. The book is so damn impressive, and I love that image on the cover. Plus, I imagine it would translate really well as a tattoo. So well, in fact, that it might end up happening sometime.
And I don’t think I need to tell anybody at this point what an incredible designer Matt is. His covers always blow me away. But his writing, too, is just extraordinary. I think a lot of people overlook that because of his stellar design work. I really believe the guy is one of the best writers going, though. I mean, have you read BASAL GANGLIA?
(Side note: I actually do plan on getting a tattoo of an image from Matt’s novel, THE TUMOURS MADE ME INTERESTING pretty soon.)

Desert island cliché question: you can only take ten books. Go.

That’s not fair and you know it.
I’m sure that five minutes after I send this I’ll think, “Oh nuts, I really should’ve included THIS, or THAT,” but as of right now (4:03 pm EST, 4/5/14), my desert island books are as follows:

CATCH-22 – Joseph Heller: I don’t think I can say anything about this that hasn’t already been said much better by someone else. One of my all-time favorites.

BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS – Kurt Vonnegut: As the asterisk tattoo on my arm will attest, I’m a pretty big fan of Vonnegut. It’s hard to pick just one of his books, but I think the overall madcap spirit of this one might just be my favorite. Then again, talk to me tomorrow and I’ll probably tell you CAT’S CRADLE.

BASAL GANGLIA – Matthew Revert: Buy. This. Book. Crushingly gorgeous stuff. One of the best I’ve read in years. I feel like it’s a book I’ll end up reading quite a few times throughout my life.

THE COMPLETE STORIES – Flannery O’Connor: Do I really need to explain this? O’Connor was, as far as I’m concerned, one of the most brilliant writers to have ever lived. And while I was tempted to pick WISE BLOOD, this is 550 pages worth of her genius.

ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE – Benjamin Alire Sáenz: I enjoy a lot of Young Adult fiction, and I enjoy a lot of so-called “queer” fiction, so when one of my best friends recommended this, I bought it the next day. It’s an incredibly beautiful book. I can’t sing its praises enough.

THE DOOM MAGNETIC! TRILOGY – William Pauley III: Because sometimes you just need some good old-fashioned out-and-out weird action fun. Plus, it’s three books in one, so, technically, I WIN.

BLEEDING SHADOWS – Joe R. Lansdale: To be honest, I haven’t actually read this yet. But I’m a huge fan of Lansdale, and this is nearly 500 pages of stories and novellas. Should keep me grinning for a while.

LYNCH ON LYNCH – ed. Chris Rodley: If I can’t watch any David Lynch movies on this desert island, at least I can re-read this and get glimpses into the man’s brain.

ELMER GANTRY – Sinclair Lewis: Opening lines: “Elmer Gantry was drunk. He was eloquently drunk, lovingly and pugnaciously drunk.” Total genius, and criminally underrated.

ROLE MODELS – John Waters: Maybe my favorite ever non-fiction book. Even if you don’t like his films (and boy oh boy, I DO), you can’t help loving John Waters. He’s a true inspiration. A saint for all the outsiders and minorities of minorities. This book could very well be my bible.

Are you answering this interview drunk? What role do you think boozing has played in your career?

I wasn’t when I started.

and

Not much until recently. With the next book I’m working on, I started taking a notebook to my favorite bar (Triumph Brewing Company in New Hope, PA) and jotting down notes while drinking beer. It’s surprisingly effective. It’s also a really good excuse to go drink.
Actually, wait.
Yeah, no, I’m wrong.
And maybe drunk.
Okay, so I live next to my grandparents, and most afternoons I go have a beer or two in the garage with my grandfather. During the writing of GUNS, starting in the very early stages, I would get ideas from the stories he would tell me from his youth (Catholic school, crazy relatives, etc) while we were having beers and shooting the shit. This was back when GUNS was still really rough ideas. From drinking with my grandfather, I got a character I really love, and a bunch of other things I can’t talk about without spoiling.
So I guess boozing HAS had a role in my “career” already.
Thanks, beer!

Your next book took a while. Why did you make us wait so long? What were you reading while you wrote it? Do you hate us?

I made you wait because I like to feel important.
No, that’s not the case at all. I’m just a really slow writer. My work ethic when it comes to writing is pretty awful. And I wasn’t really used to writing something as straightforward as this story had to be, so there was a frequent feeling of “this isn’t working”. I very nearly gave up a few times. For a while I was pretty much resigned to the fact that the book wouldn’t be done until 2015. If not for the fact that Justin was already working on the art at that point, and if it weren’t for the group of friends who have been supporting me, this book definitely wouldn’t be finished right now. Hell, it probably would’ve been totally abandoned and I’d be drinking myself into oblivion.
But thanks to those people, what I have now is a book I am incredibly proud of. A book that I can shake in peoples’ faces while I drink myself into oblivion.

I was reading a lot of crime fiction while I wrote this one. Not exclusively, not by a long shot. But as it’s a crime story, it felt appropriate. Although I love crime fiction anyway, so I probably would’ve been reading the same things regardless.
As far as crime, I know I went through a ton of Ken Bruen and obviously Lansdale, some Richard Stark, Jim Thompson, Duane Swierczynski (a huge influence), Wallace Stroby, George V. Higgins, a few Hard Case Crime books, a touch of Derek Raymond, and James Sallis.
Beyond that, I was honestly reading quite a bit of YA. So maybe that odd dichotomy shows up in the book. Or maybe I’m drunk.

Yes I do.

In 3k words or less, answer the following question: why should we go out and buy GUNS?

Because Justin Coons and I have put in a whole lot of effort over the last year and a half to make this thing the best it can be.
Because it’s loaded with violence and vengeance.
Because Justin’s artwork is goddamn beautiful.
Because Matthew Revert’s cover design makes me so happy I could kiss him, but he’s in Australia and my lips don’t reach that far.
Because there are written extras by Matt, Justin, William Pauley III, and my awesome friend Kerry Cullen, who happens to be a really brilliant writer herself.
Because Chuck Copeland will give me a stern talking to if it doesn’t sell as many copies as he has determined it should sell. He won’t tell me how many that is, but I assume it’s over eight and less than twenty-two.
Because it’s a thinly-veiled tribute to my ailing hero, Tim Smith, and the music he made with his beautiful band, Cardiacs. Tim’s a lovely person who made lovely music and I wanted to thank him for that.
Because I got a tattoo of an image from the book and I’ll feel pretty dumb if nobody buys it.
Because books are made to be read, and with all the other options out there, it would put a big ol’ smile on my face to know that somebody read mine.
Thank you.

Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He’s the author of Gutmouth and a few other things no one will ever read. You can find him on Twitter at @Gabino_Iglesias


Show Me Your Shelves: CV Hunt and Andersen Prunty

You want to talk about talented duos? It doesn’t get better than these two. Seriously. Andersen Prunty is one of my favorite authors, an editor/publisher whose taste I agree with and whose work ethic I admire, and a man I got to “study” for an author spotlight I wrote for The Magazine of Bizarro Fiction. CV Hunt is ridiculously talented, keeps surprising me with each new book (seriously Other People’s Shit was crazy and funny in ways I didn’t know she could pull off), and has delivered three outstanding books in less than a year. Almost as important as all that is the fact that they’re both Book People, my kind of people. Who wouldn’t want a peek at their shelves?
Who are you and what role do books play in your life?  

CV: My name is C.V. Hunt and sometimes I write stories. I’ve always been an avid reader and never imagined I would be writing someday. I like to think all those books I read were research for finding my voice when I finally sat down to write. I still read every day, but I find myself engrossed in more than just the writing now. Certain things like the layout, the publisher, and the cover design now have my attention. Before I starting writing I read books solely based on the back cover description.

AP: My name is Andersen Prunty. Books take up at least 38-41 percent of my life. That fluctuates periodically. Sometimes it’s as much as 62-71 percent. I write books sometimes. I edit other writers’ and my own books. I publish other writers’ and my own books. I’ve worked in bookstores for about five of my twenty working years. At my current day job, I listen to a lot of audio books. I don’t watch a lot of TV, don’t even have cable, and books fill the void this cultural anomaly inevitably creates.

What are some of your favorites? Are there any books you both love? Are there any books you guys ended up with two copies of after moving in together?  

CV: My favorite books are always changing. Right now I’d say my favorites are Tampa, American Psycho, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and Invisible Monsters. I think Andersen and I both agree that American Psycho is a great book. A lot of times we try to read the same book within days of each other so we can discuss it. We did end up with a few doubles, but some of the doubles were books Andersen had bought and didn’t think he already owned. I’ve started a shelf on Goodreads of everything we own so we can consult it when we raid a book store.

(The shelf is amazing. You can check it out here.)

AP: We both had copies of American Psycho and Fight Club. Carrie had the ridiculous movie tie-in version of American Psycho so we donated it. But her copy of Fight Club was a first edition so it was way better than mine. Recently, I think we’ve both really liked Mike Kleine’s Mastodon Farm (full disclosure: I published this through Atlatl) and Alissa Nutting’s Tampa. Also, when we first met I remember talking about how much we both liked Bentley Little’s The Association. I have many many favorite books. Too many to name, probably. And I hardly ever re-read things. Some of the books that I have gone back to or could see myself going back to in the future are:

When folks have a few dozen books, space/cleaning/moving are not problems. When you have shelves upon shelves upon shelves, things change. How was your recent move and how much of a pain was it to move all those books? 

CV: I think we ended up with sixty boxes of books that had to be moved. Andersen was in charge of alphabetizing them once we were in the new place.

AP: We moved from a one-bedroom, 500 square-foot apartment to a house that is much larger so space isn’t really a problem. One room is just completely empty so we’ll probably eventually put books in there. Or maybe a meth lab, depending on the economy.
The move was challenging. My brother and I tried transporting the boxes of books to the lobby of the building via handtruck and somehow broke the elevator in the process. It subsequently involved a frantic call to the building manager where I informed her that if I had to carry 50 boxes of books down six flights of stairs I would probably die and she would have that on her hands. Miraculously, the elevator started working and we felt victorious.

Sharing a space with a writer for a prolonged period of time can lead to insanity and, in many cases, bloodshed. How do you two manage to deal with the pressures than come from writing, publishing, editing, plugging, etc.? 

CV: I actually find it to be less stressful. He’s the most supportive person in my life and he understands the time constraints when you work a day job. We usually set aside an hour or two in the evenings to work on our own projects. We’re both considerate and try to not be a distraction to other if one of us is obsessed with finishing something or getting to a good stopping point.

AP: Weekly shaming.

What can you tell us about your latest book? Why should we go get it yesterday?

CV: I recently self-published a novelette titled Baby Hater. If you’re really into reading a story about a woman who punches babies in the face then you should check it out.

AP: Sociopaths in Love. People seem to love it or hate it. One guy on Goodreads recommended it to sadists and filed it on one of his shelves labeled “absolute trash.” I feel really good about that!

You’re both prolific, so I’ll throw in one more question: What’s next? 

CV: I’m bouncing back and forth between two projects at the moment. I’m compiling a short story collection and writing a book. I’m an organic writer so I’m usually secretive about writing projects because I’m afraid I’ll jinx the story somehow. I don’t even let Andersen read anything until I’m 100% done and it’s ready for the final edit. The working title of the book is Hell’s Waiting Room and I still haven’t come up with a title for the short story collection.

AP:

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Show Me Your Shelves: Max Booth III

Max Booth III is an author, editor, and publisher of weird fiction. He also does strange things in a hotel at night for a living. He loves books and rumor has it he has a new one out there, so I asked him to show me his shelves.

Who are you and what role do books play in your life?

I am the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, a small press of dark, weird fiction based in San Antonio. I have edited numerous anthologies, my most well known probably being So it Goes: a Tribute to Kurt Vonnegut. I’ve even written some stuff. Last year Dark Moon Books published my collection of bizarro flash fiction, They Might Be Demons, and Post Mortem Press is releasing my debut novel, Toxicity, in April. I also write online for LitReactor, Zombie POP, and Revolt Daily, not to mention my blog at TalesFromTheBooth.com, which I keep frequently updated.

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PMMP publishes everything, and that includes bizarro. What space do you think weird fiction occupies in today’s literary scene and why do you choose to publish it?

Weird fiction has always been here. We just haven’t always called it weird; we’ve disguised it with terms like “experimental fiction”, which can throw some people off before even opening the book. The weird genre is loved by many, especially in film—Terry Gilliam comes to mind right away. In literature, we are able to be even weirder. Film can only take you so far, while words can dig into your mind and plant seeds.

The tribute anthologies are a great idea. How do you go about selecting the authors you’ll pay tribute to? Okay, so this cliché question has to follow that one: who are some of your favorite authors?

So far I’ve chosen writers that have played a big inspiration in my own writing. Writers that I read growing up. Vonnegut, Bukowski, Elmore Leonard…they are all writers that played a big part in shaping who I am as a writer. Plus they’re all dead now, and that’s a damn shame. But I am also trying to be careful and only choose writers that had a very distinctive style from others; writers that made this world their own. I’m not sure who I’ll target after Elmore Leonard. Time will tell.

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You work, edit, publish, promote, write, and get your own work out there. How do you find the time to do it all?

I admit that my writing is not as frequent as it was before starting Perpetual Motion Machine, but I prepared myself for that beforehand. I’m lucky to have a full-time job as a hotel night auditor; it’s a very slow job, and leaves me with a lot of downtime, so I typically do all my editing and writing between 11 P.M. and 7 A.M. I am also very lucky to have a business partner, Lori Michelle, who picks up after all my slack and makes sure shit gets done.

What’s your latest book about and why should we pre-order that toxic bad boy?

Toxicity is my first novel. It is my love-letter to films like Snatch and Lock, Stock, & Two Smoking Barrels. It is the product of somebody who grew up watching the films of Quentin Tarantino and devouring the books of Elmore Leonard. You should pre-order it if you like dark comedies and crime novels. Fans of the absurd should look no further.

You should pre-order it because this is my first novel, and I need you to have faith, I need you to give me a chance. I am confident that this book will make you a fan for life. Because if it doesn’t, then what the fuck am I even doing?

My writing is my life, and my life is something I will not waste.


Show Me Your Shelves: Tiffany Scandal and Michael Kazepis

Check it out, Show Me Your Shelves is featuring a couple for the first time! You know you like it. Tiffany Scandal is part of this year’s NBAS and Michael Kazepis’ debut novel is coming soon from Broken River Books. This is one talented couple. They also look cute together, just don’t let them know. Now dig the interview. It’s a good one.

Who are you two and what role do books play in your lives?

TS: I’m Tiffany Scandal. I’m a writer, Suicide Girl, and photographer. Books were my security blanket growing up. I was a weird kid with a lot of imagination and reading was my go-to for escaping reality. I remember going book shopping with my family, and getting into trouble because I would read the books they thought would last me a week on that same day. Teachers eventually started loaning me literature and by junior high, I was reading college-level material and was usually one of two kids constantly in the library.

While that’s cool to look back on, it was problematic at the time—in high school, I actually got kicked out of the honors program because my vocabulary was “too grandiose” and I was consistently given F-minuses (that shouldn’t be a real grade, right?), all because my teacher didn’t believe that a fifteen year old was capable of writing what I was turning in. No matter—books were there for me, and they didn’t care if I was a snobby little shit or not.

MK: My name is Michael Kazepis. Lately, I’ve been writing weird urban crime books. Being a military brat, fiction had always been this way to combat a loneliness that developed from moving back and forth between continents, never keeping the same people in my life. I started young with my brother’s comic books and Stars and Stripes newspapers, whatever was laying around, and it grew from there. As an adult, I’ve continued to change locations frequently, and whatever survival mechanism compelled me to escape into fiction seems like permanent function now.

What’s interesting (at least to me), considering how much I read, is that I’ve got crippling attention span issues and shouldn’t be able to. People often have to repeat things to me, even when I stare right at them, trying hard to concentrate. Most speech just drifts around me, dissipates. Notepads help a lot when I’m at work and I’ve developed an ace shorthand to keep me sharp. I’m lucky that reading has always been one constant I can lose myself in, narrow the focus a while. Never feels more centered than when I’m in the last stretches of a novel.

Did you guys put your books together when you moved into the same place? How does that work?

TS: Pretty much. Michael has severe OCD when it comes to bookshelf organization. When we recently rearranged furniture in the house, he sat on the floor for a few hours, organizing the books by genre and writer. Not all of his books are here, but if they were, I’m sure there would be lots of duplicates. Dude’s got good taste.

MK: I only brought a messenger bag full of books to Portland, but I’ve learned to prioritize between what I’m reading and what I can’t live without. Luckily for me, Tiffany came ready-made as a partner, so a fine collection was waiting when I moved in. The rest of my books are spread across three cities. It’s just easier to build anew than keep carrying it all around.

What are some of your favorites? Is there a book or books you guys disagree over? One you both really dig?

MK: No particular order—the first three Pynchon novels, HOPSCOTCH, BLOOD MERIDIAN, everything Sam Pink, AMERICAN TABLOID, THE DARK HALF, THE NIGHT GARDENER, WISE BLOOD, everything Cody Goodfellow, REVEREND AMERICA, the Gately stuff in INFINITE JEST. Cameron Pierce’s LOST IN CAT BRAIN LAND had some stories in it that made me feel. Daniel Woodrell’s BAYOU TRILOGY is meaty as fuck. I think my favorite has to be the ten or so loose pages left of my first copy of GRAVITY’S RAINBOW—I got so frustrated at that book the first time I read it that I tore it to pieces, distributing most of its pages across the Indianapolis loop. But for some reason I couldn’t shake that book out of my head, and over the years it’s become the one I revisit most.

Tiffany and I don’t disagree much on books. I suppose I don’t get Sylvia Plath, so maybe that counts. But we like Bolaño’s ANTWERP a lot. We pick books to read to each other. Recently it was ZEROVILLE by Steve Erickson. Now it’s I AM GENGHIS CUM by Violet LeVoit.

TS: My turn already? Jesus. Too many to even know where to start. Uh, EVERYTHING AND NOTHING by Borges is my absolute favorite collection of short stories.  OF LOVE AND OTHER DEMONS by Garcia-Marquez made me cry like a baby. HELL HOUSE, NEUROMANCER, THE SHINING, RAYUELA, THE BELL JAR, WRITTEN ON THE BODY, WISE BLOOD, the SHADOW OF THE WIND series. THE BABY JESUS BUTT PLUG was my gateway book into bizarro fiction. From there I fell in love with ROTTEN LITTLE ANIMALS, TRASHLAND A GO-GO, WE LIVE INSIDE YOU,  PLACENTA OF LOVE, OCEAN OF LARD, TUMOR FRUIT, HAUNT; shit by Cody Goodfellow, Brian Keene, Shane McKenzie, and J David Osborne. I’m sure I’m forgetting to mention a million more books.

Mike and I actually enjoy a lot of books together. Picking up books we’re both excited about and taking turns reading chapters/sections to each other—yeah, we’re gross. We haven’t really disagreed on books, but there have been excerpts I’ve read by Sylvia Plath and Jeanette Winterson that he didn’t seem overly impressed by. So my queer/feminist section may stay relatively untouched by him, which is funny because Michael loves hanging out with lesbians.

MK: That’s true. Lots of my friends happen to be lesbians.

Writers are divas. How do you guys deal with each other when the “writing blues” attack? How do you go about offering support?

MK: Writers are tough to be around. Most times we communicate it’s easy to just imagine actual vomit or shit seeping copiously from our mouths. I’d be afraid to hear my own conversations from a distance. Often with other writers on social media, both professional and not, I find myself wanting to type “shut the fuck up” into the comment sections. I always manage to stop myself, thankfully. But they’re also my people, so it’s love-hate. I’m sure someone feels like that about me.

One way that having a partner who’s also a writer has been beneficial is that over the past six months, she and I have supported each other when pressed with deadlines. You learn that there are some moments to provide someone with space and other moments for bridging that space. It’s also nice when we have time to proofread each other and can immediately point out oversights, shit that on its own takes days or weeks, maybe longer. There’s a scene in my upcoming book that Tiffany actually wrote for me, because I was clueless as to its execution—she was sketching out an example of what I could do with the idea and her version turned out better than what I had tried to do, so I pilfered it.

TS: Ha! Have fun trying to guess which scene that is, I guess. Michael and I are wondering which scene I might get incorrectly credited for. Now, going back to the question, writers are total divas. I was gonna write some witty banter about conversations with writers, but I like Michael’s answer better. So we’ll just go with what he says about puke and shit. As far as our relationship goes, I feel that it helps that we’re both writers. We understand each other pretty well and have been able to navigate proper support based on that. Space, pep talks, forced breaks, coffee refills, food. It’s kind of awesome. I also love that we can bounce ideas off of one another. And when we get stuck on scenes, we tackle them together. I’ve lost track of how many times we’ve both thrown our hands up in defeat over a scene, and the other comes in with a calm voice, asks about set up and goals, and offers a suggestion. We both love seeing the ideas we give each other click and hearing the rapid progression of keys being hammered at immediately afterward.

Okay, so you both have books out there. Tell us about them so we can go buy them.

MK: I get bummed by certain aspects of the writing industry, particularly salesmanship. I was explaining this to David Osborne, who’s publishing me, and he said “Well, tough shit. Go sell your book.” So in as few words as possible—LONG LOST DOG OF IT is Mediterranean neo-noir—an homeless detective in a strange city, a mob enforcer whose last job leaves a witness, an expatriate intent on murdering her unfaithful girlfriend, an assassin with a striking resemblance to the 35th President of the United States. Overlapping lives, etc. I like the logline for Lynch’s INLAND EMPIRE, “a woman in trouble”—this is like that: some people in trouble.

THERE’S NO HAPPY ENDING is bizarro horror. A love story at the end of the world. Everything falling apart in the literal way. Dresden and Isobel get separated right around the time things go to shit. Lots of memorable scenes: the ark, the aquarium, the infinite room, the ending. Real simple conflict: Will they find each other again? The situation says, Outlook Not Good. It’s part Y: THE LAST MAN, part ANGEL DUST APOCALYPSE. Deathly bleak at times too, but with a real sense of humor about it.

TS:Uh, they’re awesome! My book, THERE’S NO HAPPY ENDING, is an apocalyptic love story where two lovers are fighting impossible odds to find each other before the world physically disintegrates into nothing. It’s violent, gory, kind of funny, and heartfelt. People other than my own family seem to really like it. It’s available now through Eraserhead Press in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.

Michael wrote a punk-as-fuck crime noir book. LONG LOST DOG OF IT feels like what you’d get if maybe David Lynch directed a Bikini Kill video, but with badass action scenes. The imagery in this book is both haunting and boner-inducing. It’ll be out on both paperback and Kindle through Broken River Books on February 1.

Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He’s the author of Gutmouth and a few other things no one will ever read. You can find him on Twitter at @Gabino_Iglesias


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