Smash Lits with Sean Tanner

I published a great little flash at The Forge today – Mams Being Mams by Sean Tanner. It packs quite the punch and you should go and read it here: https://forgelitmag.com/2020/10/12/mams-being-mams/

I also interviewed Sean and just as Susannah did he also chose Alf Stewart as his fave Neighbours character despite Alf not being in Neighbours. (I wish he was though.)

1) You are wallpaper. What is your pattern?

Excellent question. I would say something like the yin and yang symbol, or a snake eating its own head, or two pac men eating each other. I’m thinking eggshell white for a background with garish primary colours bordering the symbols to create a sort of auric effect.

2) What was your favourite book as a child?

My Dad used to read us a chapter of Shadow the Sheepdog by Enid Blyton every night before bed and we loved it. There was also Run With the Wind by Tom McCaughren.

3) Who is/was your unlikely crush?

Agent Scully.

4) Who is your favourite Sesame Street character?

Never really watched it to be honest, but it’s that guy who lives in the bin if it’s anybody. Probably the answer every writer will give.

5) What colour is Tuesday? 

Beige.

6) Have you ever had a nickname?

I tried to get my family to call me ‘waffles’ for a while (because I loved waffles) but it never caught on.

7) What is the oldest piece of clothing in your wardrobe?

Swimming trunks I found on cape clear island, back when I was campsite warden there circa 2010 maybe 2011. They’ve faded from black to grey but have taken on sentimental value for reasons I can’t entirely fathom.

8) Do you have a favourite pen?

I tried the whole ‘good pen’ thing for a while, but I lost it several times and then they stopped making the refills for it, and while I enjoy the idea of a companion pen that I can somehow imbue with supercharged creativity, perhaps give it a pet name, and carry it everywhere for luck, it’s just not practical. Now all my relationships with pens are casual. I use them up and throw them away. I’m careful never to get too attached.

9) Do you believe human beings can spontaneously combust?

Oh, I believe all sorts, spontaneous combustion is the least of it.

10) What’s your most vivid childhood memory?

My memory is terrible, I think I’ve killed that part of my brain. Some things persist I guess, certain songs on the radio as we drove off to do the weekly shop, the smell of my mother’s perfume, the sound of her voice on the phone. Perhaps my mother comes to mind because it’s memories of her that I most often try to recall since she passed away.

11) Do you actually have a Jesus clock?

Just a regular one, but I would rather have none. I’d rather throw my watch in the dirt like that scene from Easy Rider.

12) Who is your favourite Neighbours character?

Alf from Home and Away.

13) What’s your favourite sweet?

I wouldn’t deign to raise one sweet above the others lest the other sweets feel left out. I love them all equally.

14) You hold a dinner party and can only invite writers. Who do you invite?

I don’t really know any writers, and the idea of a party full of them is nightmarish. Not sure why the idea is off putting for me, maybe it’s the fact that I’d have to cook?

15) Do you have any writing rituals?

Just a good strong cup of tea with a spoon of honey.

16) What would your karaoke song be?

Oooft, so many to choose from. I like the sound of nights in white satin coming out from deep inside my belly after four to six beers.

17) What was your first concert?

Moby? Or maybe Bryan Adams. Again the memory is not great.

18) What was the last gift you gave to someone?

Marrow by Robert Reed to my sister in law. Great book.

19) What is your phone screensaver?

My son arsing about in the front of my van.

20) What question should I have asked you?

The answer to life, the universe and everything.

Smash Lits with Susannah Rickards

I recently published a gorgeous nonfiction piece by Susannah, https://forgelitmag.com/2020/09/14/hartlepool-beach-extras/. I read it as not only being a memory of a very particular time, but also a meditation on the importance of creativity in a life whether or not anyone else is there to see it. I also interviewed Susannah about the really important stuff; biscuits, drinks and Airwick, amongst other things:

1) How do you organise your bookshelves?

No need—my husband does it. He’s like a librarian—all alphabetised and by subject. He’ll be adding little dewey decimal stickers soon and I’ll get fined for leaving towers of them under the bed.

2) What is your favourite biscuit?

At the risk of sounding utterly pretentious…there’s a little biscuit factory on the road to Mont St Michel in Normandy. I used to be a tour guide and we used to stop there on the way back from the monastery. They sell sablés. Grainy, chunky discs of butter and sugar. I’m glad they are so far away.

3) What is your default pub drink?

Nothing beats a pint of Kronenburg after a long hot walk. Otherwise I’m a middle-aged cliché: prosecco.

4) Do you have a poster/picture on your wall? Describe it.

The house is full of prints and paintings as my parents are artists. But I don’t have any in my writing room. Instead, I have two very shabby felt teddy bears, hand sewn by my twins when they were five. They are glue-stained and wall-eyed and spilling stuffing. I have them to remind me that the liveliest and most interesting creativity isn’t always pretty and tidy.

5) Do you have any phobias? What?

Daddylonglegs aka Craneflies. It’s hard to love a flying spider that swoops at you. I try and fail. Not reached that ‘fail again, fail better’ stage with daddylonglegses yet.

(And it’s the season – arrrggghhh.)

6) Can you make up a poem about an Airwick?

The category of those who make me breathless subdivides into a) ay-ay! rhapsodic beauties of flesh, fur, foliage and b) ack-ack! snatching for my blue inhaler. Don’t take it personally, but, Airwick, love, you’re b.) You’re down there with Lynx.

7) Have you ever had a nickname? 

Spuggy. It’s the Geordie word for sparrow. I grew up in Newcastle. My family all still call me Spuggy. But no one else does or should.

8) You have to swap places with one other writer for a week. Who and why?

Shakespeare when he was writing Macbeth or Lear or Merchant of Venice. I’d love the visceral experience of being in his body and mind when that poetry is pouring onto the page. I want to know how he arrived at it, whether he knew how good it was, or was just hacking it out in time for rehearsals.

9) Do you believe human beings can spontaneously combust?

I believe absolutely anything is possible, so yes.

10) Have you ever written an angry letter to a magazine or newspaper?

Yes, as a self-righteous teen.  Never since.

11) Have you ever read someone else’s diary?

Oh, Lord, I so wanted to lie in this answer. But yes. Once. A famous actress was lodging in my parents’ house when we were the only two people in the house. I idolised her, so I snuck into her room and read a couple of pages. She must have realised because she hid from me. I never even got a glimpse of her. Never again. I feel very guilty about that. It’s just wrong. Diaries are not meant from public consumption and they are not, I believe, even true reflections of how people feel—they are steam release. I’ve had my diary read too. Horrible experience.

12) Who is your favourite Neighbours character?

Alf Stewart in Home and Away.  I had a very niche crush on him when I was younger.

(To be fair, I agree and still kinda do although I think I might want him to be my dad.)

13) What’s your favourite sweet?

Nougat with almonds.

14) Have you ever seen a ghost?

Apparently. In primary school I was walking to the public baths for our weekly swimming lesson in a crocodile with my friends and we passed a house where an old woman was waving at us through the window, so I stopped and waved back, making the crocodile back up. My friends said, ‘What you doing?’ and I said, ‘Waving at that woman.’ They all said, ‘What woman?’ We all stared at the window. I could see her. They said they couldn’t. And then a girl who lived in that street told me the house was empty and an old woman had died there earlier that week.

15) What is the most over-rated novel?

I can’t pick one but I do think all those pompous, misogynistic, middle-aged white men we were forced to take seriously in the Seventies, who think they have the right to bore on page after page about their groin aches and if you dislike it, you don’t appreciate high art, well they’ve aged pretty badly, haven’t you Ian McEwan, Martin Amis, Philip Roth and Saul Bellow?

16) Who is your writer crush?

Graham Greene makes me cry. I want to write as well as him so much it hurts. Same is true of Fitzgerald’s Gatsby. Recently I snaffled up everything Deborah Levy has ever written and my jaw is on the floor at Michaela Coel’s script for I May Destroy You. I wish it was a novel so I could keep rereading it.

17) What’s your favourite swear?

My husband says arse-biscuits. I have borrowed it from him. It’s very satisfying but breaks a sweat in genteel Surrey where we live now.

18) What would your karaoke song be?

I absolutely can’t sing. The right notes sound in my head, clear and perfect, but an entirely uncontrolled elephantine grunt comes out of my mouth. But if I could sing…ooh… Nope. The idea of singing in public is so appalling to me that my mind has blanked. Can’t even think it.

19) Write me a question for the next Smash Lits interview I do.

Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever written?

20) What question should I have asked you? 

What else do you do with books besides read them?

Smash Lits with Jennifer Todhunter

The Levitation is a brilliant one-sentence story by Jennifer Todhunter – do read it. Jennifer also took part in one of my Smash Lits interviews. (I so agree about the peanuts and chocolate thing.)

1) What is your favourite cheese?

Cambazola.

2) Bacon VS Tofu—who wins? Why?

Bacon-wrapped tofu. They’re both winners in my book.

3) What colour is Thursday? 

Sort of a see-through/shimmery colour, like everything in the Night on Earth documentary.

4) You have to swap places with one other writer for a week. Who and why?

Alice Munro because she’s a short story master and because Munro’s Books is in my hometown.

5) Do you believe human beings can levitate?

I believe human beings want to believe they can levitate.

6) Buffy or Veronica Mars?

Fiona Gallagher.

7) What’s your favourite thing from childhood that you’ve still got?

Fossils I found in the clay banks outside the pub my parents owned. A snail, in particular.

8) How do you stop procrastinating and get on with writing?

Insomnia and sporadic workshops.

9) Do you have any recurring dreams?

When I was a kid, I dreamed about my house burning down while I watched from the driveway a lot. I remember knowing what was coming and not being able to wake up, which was the worst.

10) What’s your favourite sweet?

I’m down with any peanut butter/chocolate combo. A friend told me he ate peanut butter + nutella today and that sounded like the best. I might actually try that now.

11) Do you have a fave meme? What? 

I don’t, I’m sorry. I’m a pop culture idiot.

12) Did you have an invisible friend when you were younger?

His name was Casey. He lived next door which apparently confused our neighbour.

13) What did you do last Saturday night?

It was mellow. There was a bonfire and sweet tunes, so the best kind of mellow. Best kind of night, really.

14) Who is your writer crush?

Currently, Bonnie Jo Campbell and Samantha Irby. I can’t pick one, their work kills me in different ways.

15) What are your windows like?

Dirty and wide-open.

16) What sandwiches would you make for a picnic with Jenny Offill?

I’m more of a soup person, and I feel like Jenny Offill might be too? I’d bring tortilla soup with all the toppings: tortillas, avocado, sriracha, cojita, cilantro, lime. The soup would be spicy enough to make the insides of your eardrums itch and would leave you wanting more. Speaking of wanting more, peanut butter + nutella = heaven on a spoon.

17) What question should I have asked you?

Late nights or early mornings? (Both.)

18) What’s your favourite swear?

I love a good fuck.

19) What word or words make you cringe? 

I have three cringe-worthy words, I recently told my kids what they were, they won’t stop saying them, so you’d better believe I’m not telling the interwebz.

20) Write me a question for the next Smash List interview I do.

Favourite-all-time-forever-never-let-you-down song? (Blind Love by Tom Waits.)

Smash Lits with Sam Asher

I published a terrific story by Sam Asher this week. It’s called Fish Food and you can read it at The Forge. I also had the pleasure of interviewing him. Seriously, his answer re: his phobia is still making me smile.

1) What is your favourite fish?

My instinct was to look for some kind of obscure, exotic, masterwork-given-gils of a fish and pretend I’ve always been fond of one of those, but the truth is I’m exceedingly fond of the goldfish. They’re wonderfully unpretentious, and excellent listeners. My parents had one for over a decade, and we gave him a decent burial. He was a good fish.

2) Have you ever had your fortune told?

Nope

3) What is your worst habit?

Putting my boots on the couch.

4) Who is your favourite TV detective?

I’m not at all sure I know any.

5) You are wallpaper—what is your pattern?

He-Man.

6) What is your default pub/bar drink?

I’m an alcoholic in recovery. Typically I’ll just order a soda, but the further I get into sobriety the farther my waistband seems to expand. That in mind, I’ve been trying to stick to water. Yes, a party with me is exceptionally muted and depressing. I did recently discover cream soda with lime juice, which tastes a little like an old holiday cocktail my dad would make us.

7) What colour is Thursday?

Mauve.

8) What picture do you have on your wall? 

Atop the mirror that hangs over my wife’s dresser is a painting of a tiny penguin carrying a turkey baster. His motives, surely, are nefarious.

9) What is your favourite fairytale?

Trickle down economics.

10) What words make you cringe?

The verb ‘get’ (or any of its variations) is a garbage verb for garbage people.

11) What is the last thing you googled?

Toy stores in Soho.

12) What’s your favourite swear?

Fuck. Absolutely. No other word contains such a wealth of meaning based on such tiny variations in intonation. I could write ‘fuck’ five times and each time it could signify something altogether different, or even opposite to, the ‘fuck’ previous.

13) What was your first gig?

It was the Reading Festival in 2005. The first band on the line-up was Goldie Lookin’ Chain, so their classic hymn to acceptance ,‘Your Mother’s Got a Penis’ will be a tune I never forget.

14) Do you have any writing rituals?

Trying not to suck.

15) Do you have any phobias?

Turtles. I don’t trust any creature that can hide its face inside of its torso. And they walk so deliberately, at such a slow pace. Where to, I ask? Where are you going, turtle? Why are you taking so long to get there? Is your time somehow infinite? Are you immortal? Are you just lazy? What are you hiding inside that shell? Is it money? Is it gifts? Is it my childhood? Reveal yourself, cruel amphibian.

16) What was your favourite book as a child?

I was actually taught to read with an illustrated children’s bible, and despite my avowed, and occasionally dispiritingly militant atheism, I still think kindly of it. In terms of narrative, I stole a copy of Little Wolf’s Diary of Amazing Deeds from school when I was 6 or so, and read it a dozen times. I kept the same copy until last year, when a combination of mental illness and residual, twenty-five-year-old-guilt at my first foray into theft led me to donate it to a local LGBTQ charity store.

17) What instrument did you play at school?

Air drums.

18) Write me a question for the next Smash Lit interview I do.

Assuming ghosts don’t currently exist, if I gave you the power to do so, would you will them into reality?

19) Who is your writer crush?

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah.

20) Bacon VS Tofu—who wins and why? 

I’m a vegetarian, but tofu is brewed in a vat of spavined farts, so I suppose bacon, as a concept, but tofu as a meal. Pigs also, did you know, are smarter than Republicans? Eat a Republican instead.

Smash Lits with Rose Andersen

I published Rose Andersen’s wonderful nonfiction flash – “Dating Profile” over at FLM. Do give it a read. And I interviewed her too. She has excellent taste in TV detectives and swear words.

1) What is your favourite biscuit?

A just warmed chocolate chip cookie. (I am assuming that biscuit in this case is what us silly Americans call a cookie)

2) What was the last text you sent?

“Beautiful! Love love love”

3) Who is your favourite Sesame Street character?

Oscar the Grouch. I think I liked that he was so openly, well, grouchy.

4) Bacon VS Tofu—who wins? Why?

This feels like a turtle and the hare kind of scenario and that I should say tofu but I just can’t see bacon losing out. Mainly, because I think tofu is horrid.

5) Your writing is music, what style is it?

Instrumental and terribly sad.

6) What is the oldest piece of clothing in your wardrobe?

A ratty NOFX shirt I was given when I was eleven.

7) What’s your worst habit?

Self-doubt or biting my nails.

8) You’re stuck in a lift with a writer of your choice—who?

Jonathan Carroll, so I could ask him about talking dogs and other magical things.

9) What is your favourite swear?

Fuck bucket.

10) Mermaid, dinosaur or unicorn?

Dinosaur. 100%. (I could literally eat mermaids and unicorns for breakfast.)

11) Who is your favourite TV detective?

This one is hard because I watch an unhealthy amount of crime TV. Veronica Mars is up there. But I’ve recently become obsessed with Eve Polastri on Killing Eve.

12) What word (or words) makes you cringe?

Flaccid. Bulbous. Mrs.

13) Do you actually like cottage cheese and fruit at breakfast? (It sounds like punishment food to me.)

I do, actually. I add a bit of brown sugar and I mainly put fresh berries in it, if that makes it sound more appetizing!

14) Who is/was your unlikely crush?

Casper the friendly ghost. Totally had the hots for him when I was about ten.

15) How do you know when you’ve reached the end?

When I can’t feel anything anymore.

16) What is your favourite smell?

My husband’s neck. Aren’t I disgusting?

17) What is the last thing you googled?

“How to sleep with sciatic pain.” Sexy, I know.

18) Have you ever had your fortune told? Has it come true?

I have several encounters with psychics that have been eerily on point. For a few years now, I have been looking into the suspicious circumstances around my sister’s death and a psychic told me a couple things that were eventually revealed to be true.

19) What’s the best flash you’ve read recently?

A MOVIE THE NEIGHBORS COULD WATCH BY ERICA PEPLIN, published on Jellyfish Review. I love how visual this piece is.

20) Give me a question for the next Smash Lits interview I do.

“What does love look like to you?”

Smash Lits with Joy Lanzendorfer

I selected Joy Lanzendorfer’s excellent Flash piece “Sleep Disturbance” for publication at FLM & Joy was good enough to take part in this interview. 

1) What is your default pub/bar drink?

A dry gin martini with a twist.

2) Do you have a poster/picture on your wall? Describe it.

Yes, I have this Onward poster by the fabulous illustrator Carson Ellis. I also have this ad for Valentine typewriters.

2) Bacon VS Tofu – who wins? Why?

Bacon.
Why? Have you tasted bacon?

3) What colour is Tuesday?

Canary yellow.

5) How do you stop procrastinating and get on with writing?

Turn off the Internet. It’s the only way.

6) Did you have an invisible friend when you were younger?

Yes, I had many invisible friends. I still do.

7) Who is your writer crush?

Currently it’s Anita Loos, who’s unfortunately dead, but still awesome.

8) What sandwiches would you make for a picnic with Curtis Sittenfeld?

Caprese with garden-grown tomatoes, thick slices of fresh mozzarella, pesto made with good olive oil, and crusty French bread.

9) What’s your favourite swear?

I like a good Fuck.

10) What was the last gift you gave to someone?

I gave my mom a Greek cookbook and a pair of moose earrings I bought in the Rocky Mountains.

11) Do you have a favourite pen?

Sort of. I like writing with black felt tip pens because they make bold marks but don’t bleed through the page. TheSchool Smart brand is great, and the pens are cheap, but I have to order them online because it’s surprisingly hard to find felt tip pens in the stores.

12) What word or words make you cringe?

Preggers. Delish. Vacay. The technological destruction of words like twitter, tweet, swipe, and googol. I’m also sick of words like privilege and triggering, which are good concepts but overused.

13) What was the last text you sent?

To my best friend: “Oregonians hike like they drive: lots of tailgating and reluctance to pass.”
I’m sorry, Oregon.

14) Crows. Discuss.

As you may be able to tell by Sleep Disturbance, I’m obsessed with crows. We have hundreds of them in our neighborhood, and all winter long, they mob in the sky and land in my neighbor’s tree. I like to sit on the porch swing and watch them.

15) What is your favourite smell?

Maybe jasmine.

16) What’s your most vivid childhood memory?

I don’t think I can quantify them that way.

17) What would you do if you were invisible for the day?

I guess find a scientist so they can research what the hell is going on with me.

18) Do you have any top tips for dealing with writing rejections?

Submit lots of work. Try not to get overly attached to any one project. The more spread out your work is, the easier it is to take rejection because you haven’t put all your hopes on one thing.

19) Who would play your character/s in the film of your story?

That would be a very strange film. I’m going to say Daniel Day-Lewis and Meryl Streep so it wins an Oscar.

That would be such a cool, arty short film. 

20) Write a question for the next Smash List interview I do.

When did you last sing to yourself? What were you singing?

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑