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?

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