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Smash Lits with Megan Rowe

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I recently published a wonderful flash by Megan Rowe at The Forge Literary Magazine; Communion. Do give it a read.

Megan kindly agreed to take part in one of my Smash Lits interviews.

1) You are wallpaper. What is your pattern? 

Definitely a Damask pattern. When my son was first born, I lived with my mother in a suburb of Chicago, but when I finally moved out and got an apartment, I painted the walls a dark turquoise and stenciled on a mustard-colored damask pattern. It took forever, and a quarter of the way through I really wanted to give up, but I was too stubborn. It was really ugly, but it was the living room of my son’s first real home.

2) What was the last text you sent?

“I mean, that’s weird.”

3) Bacon VS Tofu – who wins? Why?

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I really like tofu, but bacon wins here. It’s just delicious, that’s why. Plus, my dear friend Eddie would kill me if I chose tofu.

4) What colour is Tuesday?

Stoplight yellow. Not nearly through with the week, but it feels like it’s possible to run through it if I get enough energy.

5) What makes the wind blow?

Your skirt.

6) Do you have a favourite pen?

I do not, it’s just whatever pen I can find at the bottom of my backpack. Often, I can’t find a pen at the bottom and have to ask friends for one—I don’t know where all those pens go, probably where the sisters to all my socks live.

7) Do flowers scream when you pick them?

Does a cat lick its butt?

8) Have you ever written an angry letter/email to a magazine or newspaper?

No, however, a lifetime ago I was a journalist and an organization took out a full-page ad in the newspaper I worked for that was a rant against an article I wrote. I took it as a compliment: Someone read my article??

9) Have you ever woken up laughing?

Yes, frequently. Most recently I had a dream that I was betrothed to a poetry professor at my school (he’s very much married), but I wanted to get out of it, so I told him we probably shouldn’t get married. He cried because he’s an extremely sensitive man, but I could tell he was relieved.

10) Are Cheerios your favourite cereal? If not, what is?

My favorite and least favorite cereal is Cinnamon Toast Crunch. It’s always in the house because it’s my oldest son’s favorite, and I’ve eaten it so much I’m really sick of it, but when I’m binge watching something late at night I almost always turn to it. Oh yes, I give my children bowls of sugar, crucify me.

11) What is your motto for life?

Goddamnit, just apologize.

12) If your life story was made into a book, what would be the title?

Well, that didn’t work.

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

No, but I talked to myself a lot (read: I answered) while staring into mirrors.

14) Have you chosen your funeral song?

“Into the Mystic” by Van Morrison. When my father taught me to drive, all we ever played was Elton John and Van Morrison.

15) Who is your writer crush?

Dorothy Parker—she has so many good lines. A good one: someone asked her to use “horticulture” in a sentence and she said “You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.” Plus, she donated her entire estate to MLK Jr.

16) What sandwiches would you make for a picnic with Lorrie Moore?

We’d grill hotdogs together, does that count as a sandwich?

17) What’s your favourite swear?

Cunt. I like how it sounds on the tongue.

18) Can you knit?

I can, but I have absolutely zero follow through. I’ve only completed one scarf, but I’ve started a dozen at least.

19) What is the most beautiful word?

Naptime

20) What question should I have asked you?

Well, my fiction professor said that the best stories are based in shame, so I suppose you should have asked me what I’m most ashamed of. Good thing you didn’t.

Smash Lits with Brian Broome

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I had the absolute pleasure of choosing a brilliant non-fiction flash to publish this week at The Forge Literary Magazine. Balk by Brian Broome manages to be poignant, achy, sad and funny. It’s a snapshot of him as a young, gay, black American boy and it fucking rocks. As does his Smash Lits interview. Thanks, Brian!

1) What is your favourite cheese?

Whiz.

2) What was your favourite book as a child?

“The Pigman” by Paul Zindel.

3) Who is/was your unlikely crush?

Alan Alda.

4) Who would play you in the film of your flash?

Caleb McGlaughlin from “Stranger Things”.
(Aww – I can see that!)

5) Bacon VS Tofu – who wins? Why?

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Bacon, Bacon, Bacon, Bacon. Why? Because bacon and I read that tofu gives men boobs. I don’t care if that’s true or not and I guess enough bacon could give me boobs. But, if I’m gonna have boobs, they’re gonna be bacon boobs.

6) Creative nonfiction or fiction? Why? 

Creative nonfiction to write. Fiction to read.

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

Any of the unfinished symphonies or K-POP.

8) Have you ever had a nickname? What?

Never ever tell. Ok, my Dad called me Big Boo.

9) Do you believe human beings can spontaneously combust

Yes. I’ve seen it.

10) How much money did you spend yesterday?

I spent 52 dollars at the Dollar Store.

11) What’s your most vivid childhood memory?

I think you may have just read it.

12) Do you bite your nails?

Yes. But, only for grooming purposes, not out of nervousness.

13) What’s your favourite sweet (candy)?

OREOS!! ALL THE 500 FLAVORS.

14) What is your motto for life?

Construct. Delude. Believe.

15) What did you do last Saturday night?

I worked. I wait tables and Saturday is a big night.

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

Jackie Collins and Frantz Fanon. THAT would be interesting.

17) Do you have any writing rituals?

Procrastinate until the last minute.

18) What’s your favourite ball?

Any of the balls featured in “Paris is Burning”.

19) What’s your favourite swear?

GATDAMN!!

20) What question should I have asked you?

“Do you enjoy your life?”
Answer: “I guess so.”

 

Smash Lits with Janice Galloway

Smash Lits with Janice Galloway

Janice Galloway is my favourite writer so I was thrilled when we were able to launch The Forge Literary Magazine with her superb story, peak. She recently published a new collection, Jellyfish, available from Freight Books, which showcases her incredible talent. If you’re a fan of short stories I really must ask you to buy/read a copy of this. It’s a masterclass.

 

I’m really chuffed that Janice agreed to take part in Smash Lits and answer my daft questions.

1. Do you have any recurring dreams?

1) Being in an institution or school and trying to pass for a natural member of that institution (one version of this was living in a sauna with only a towel for belongings);

2) Being on a bus heading somewhere very determinedly and realising it has no driver or other passengers after five minutes of just looking out of the window thinking I was safe;

3) Being alone in the dusk and looking out over low-lit moorland with a road winding through it, and someone waiting at the bus stop who may or may not be my mother –

Can I stop now? They go on forever.

2. Do you believe human beings can spontaneously combust?

Yes. Indeed, there have been times I wished I could.

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

Balzac, because he wrote (longhand, obviously) very fast indeed and I can’t write anything fast by any means whatever.

4. Did you have an invisible friend when you were younger?

No. Another loss.

5. What’s your favourite sweet?

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High quality – violet cream. Common or garden – Highland Toffee. I hope my dentist doesn’t see this.

6. Have you ever read someone else’s diary?

No. But my big sister read mine out loud at tea-time when I was 13.

7. Your writing is music, what style is it?

Varies. I can confidently say it’s never pub singalongs.

8. Bacon VS Tofu – who wins? Why?

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Tofu because it is honourable and bacon kills things and I want to say the right thing instead of reveal my weakness.

9. What was the last text you sent?

Get onions. Get lots of onions.

10. What is the oldest piece of clothing in your wardrobe?

A cardigan that was knitted by my sister and belonged to my mother. It’s TINY.

11. Have you ever had your fortune told?

Yes. I lived in a seaside town and the travelling fair (funfair, that is) came with a built-on fortune teller.

12. Who is your favourite Neighbours character?

I have never seen Neighbours. If there was a dog in it I would have liked that.

13. What’s your favourite swear?

Bugger McFucketty

14. What sandwiches would you have made for a picnic with George Orwell?

Boiled cabbage.

15. You obviously love words, do you have a favourite?

Succulent.

16. What’s the best thing ever?

A wild animal coming to give you a sniff and examine what you are out of curiosity. NB It must not be a spider.

17. Have you ever had a nickname?

No. At home as a child, I answered to “Here, you” more than anything else if that counts.

18. Do you have any writing rituals?

Other than occasionally weeping with rage and frustration, no.

19. Your character in “burning love” calls Sylvia Plath “the Boston Harpie” – what would they call you?

The character in the story would probably call me “Who?”.

20. What question should I have asked you?

Can we send you a cheque?

Janice, you’re amazing. Thank you for supporting our new magazine and thank you for writing your words. Dear everyone, please buy Jellyfish, you won’t be disappointed. 

Smash Lits with Stuart Evers

1 What would your superhero power be?

I would like to be able to make people laugh even though it’s the last thing they could ever imagine doing.

2 What was the last text you sent?

It was the number of the taxi company through which I’d booked my wife a cab. All of my texts are brutally factual.

3 You are wallpaper. What is your pattern?

My father loves wallpaper; I have never seen its point. I do love a diagonal stripe though, so diagonal stripes in black and white. A bit Bridget Riley-ish, I suppose.

4 Who is your favourite TV dad?

Joe DuBois from I-see-dead-people crime show Medium. Joe is the moral centre of the DuBois family: he loves his wife and three kids, holds down a job and has to deal with Alison’s gift – she solves murders via clues presented by murder victims – while rarely complaining that he and the rest of the family are merely adjuncts to her working life. It’s a strange show in lots of ways: on the face of it, it’s a lurid repoint of the traditional cop show; but it’s actually quite an astute examination of family life when one member of that family perpetually puts those outside of the family first. That the show manages to present this in a subtle way is why it is one of the best popular crime shows of the last thirty years.

5 Bacon VS Tofu – who wins? Why?

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Bacon is essential in coq au vin. A world without coq au vin is not worth living for.

6 Have you ever had a nickname?

Before I came to London sixteen years ago, I had never had a nickname. I now have lots, none of which I particularly love or loathe. I won’t say what they are. I can’t imagine Samuel Beckett telling anyone that he’s known as Becky by the blokes down at the chess boards in the park; or Virginia Woolf admitting that Vita Sackville-West always called her Foxy, and you should always aspire to follow the lessons of the greats.

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

AS Byatt. I hear she has an excellent swimming pool.

8 What is the oldest piece of clothing in your wardrobe?

I have a suit that is comfortably twice my age. The cut and material of old suits are vastly superior to contemporary counterparts. Even old suits from Burtons make you feel like Terence Stamp waiting for Julie Christie.

9 Did you find Bob Monkhouse funny?

Monkhouse wrote the best clean joke I know – When I said I was going to become a comedian, they all laughed. Well, they’re not laughing now – and often he had a gift for piercing self-laceration. But I always found him slightly sinister, slightly sad, rather than really funny.

10 What’s your favourite swear?

At the moment I like piss-wristed.

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

Crippling self-doubt and a colossal ego.

12 Who is your favourite Neighbours character?

I think it was Jim Robinson’s sister who on arriving for Scott and Charlene’s wedding gave them a gift of baby clothes. Everyone looked shocked and she said, well what did you expect me to think? Whoever she was, she was a highlight whenever she cropped back into it.

13 Have you ever seen a ghost?

No. They do, however, tend to crop up in my fiction a lot.

14 What would your motto for life be?

The same as is embroidered on Malcom Tucker’s tea-towel.

15 Do you have any writing rituals?

I don’t have the time for rituals, which is a shame. I’d love to be able to say I can only write after eating a nectarine, or walking through mulchy fields, but it’s more of a case of where- and whenever.

16 What sandwiches would you make for a picnic with Dave Eggers?

I tend to avoid making sandwiches for picnics, what I’d really like is some garlic roast chicken thighs and some cold sausages. If Dave is unhappy with that, he can provide his own.

17 What colour is fatherhood?

It’s the same shade of blue I see as I listen to side two of the Beatles’ Abbey Road LP.

18 What is your default pub drink?

I like pale ales, so will order one of those. Guinness if not.

19 Do you talk to yourself?

All the time. It is an ongoing narrative of increasing desperation.

20 What question should I have asked you?
Why do you love Columbo? One day I will answer this question in over 40,000 words.

Thank you so much for taking part in Smash Lits. I now want to watch Medium and read your Columbo essay more than you could guess. Those of you who’d like to know more can head over to Twitter @StuartEvers

Smash Lits with Sarah Hilary

Sarah Hilary has created a brilliant detective series featuring DI Marnie Rome. She recently won the 2015 Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year for her debut, Someone Else’s Skin, and today marks the paperback publication of her equally dark, twisty and engaging follow-up, No Other Darkness. Obviously it’s time to ask her the really tricky questions. Drum roll please…

1) What was the last text you sent?

To a friend, telling her I hoped the wind wouldn’t play merry hell with her bell tents. It’s a long story.

2) Does your mother play golf? (Question provided by Michael Richardson)

Once, but it was crazy golf outside a Welsh tearoom and only to keep peace between me and my siblings.

3) Who is your unlikely crush?

Norman Bates. I have my reasons.

4) Bacon VS Tofu – who wins? Why?

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Bacon kicks tofu’s arse. Then they team up to beat the crap out of quinoa. Because that’s bacon’s duty, and tofu does as he’s told.

You make me laugh with your quinoa hate 🙂

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

Psycho shower scene meets Panic at the Disco. Everyone mosh-pitting until they drip with sweat and drop to the floor.

6) Can you make up a poem about tinned peaches? (winks to those in the know)

The end of the world comes in cans
With blue labels and tastes of pink
Served on a plastic fork.
(Or, to answer your question more succinctly, no I can’t.)
(Ooh, you can. I think that’s rather chilling.)

7) Have you ever had a nickname?

Tiger. Sadly not after the girl from the Double Deckers.

8) What makes the wind blow?

Something to do with the sun and atmospheric pressure. Plays merry hell with my mate’s bell tents.

9) Do you believe human beings can spontaneously combust?

No. It would spoil too many great crime stories where the killer thinks he’s been very clever incinerating a corpse near a fire-place.

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

My bloodymindedness.

11) Have you ever written an angry letter to a magazine or “news” paper?

Yes. I once explained to Mslexia why being snooty about fan fiction was a bloody silly idea. They published the letter, too. I think I might become an angry letter writer in my old age.

12) Have you ever woken up laughing?

Not recently.

13) Who is your favourite Neighbours character?

I never watched it. I watched The Sullivans. John was my favourite in that. And I do love Kylie.

14) Who is your fave TV crime fighter?

Patrick Jane. His hair curls like the sea coming in and his smile is a sunset smiting the sand.

(grin)

15) What’s your favourite sweet?

Peppermint creams. Not the kind covered in chocolate. The plain kind, in the waxy wrappers.

16) What sandwiches would you make for a picnic with Lorrie Moore?

I would attempt a sandwich layer loaf, which my mum used to make in the 80s. You take a loaf of Hovis wheatgerm bread, unsliced, which you cut into three horizontal sections before adding three different fillings and slapping it back together again. Then you slice it like you normally would and–wowzer, you’ve got three layers of fillings in one slice. My mum used to smear peanut butter on the top crust. It’s retro, and a bit cheeky.

17) What was your favourite book as a child?

The Little Bookroom by Eleanor Farjeon. A book of short stories. My favourite was a wonderfully nasty one called The Lady’s Room.

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

Sneak into Battersea Power Station and rearrange all the geegaws in the showroom flats. Then I’d nick Sting’s lute for a laugh.

19) What’s your favourite swear?

Oh fuck buckets.

20) What question should I have asked you?

Am I a good liar?

Ha! Thank you so much for taking part in Smash Lits. I wish you more and more success. 

Smash Lits with Polly Samson

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1) How do you organise your book shelves?

The bookshelves are all full.  They are hopelessly disorganized, though in the sitting room I have a book case dedicated to my late mother-in-law’s books and another to those of my late aunt.  Finding the books I need on their shelves makes me feel close to both women and their taste in fiction is very much in line with mine.  Lots of Jean Rhys, Elizabeth Taylor, du Maurier and yards of lovely green-spined Viragos.  All the new books that make their way in to the house live in piles up the stairs.

2) What would your superhero power be?

To sing through the night like a lark who is learning to pray.

3) What is your favourite cheese?

Babybel but mainly for the making of lips with the wax after it’s eaten.

4) You are wallpaper. What is your pattern?

An explosion of 70s orange and yellow discs

5) What was your favourite book as a child?

Joan Aiken’s A Necklace of Raindrops

6) What was the last text you sent?

To my son to confirm that I’ll collect him from the train

7) Who would play Julia and Julian in the film of your book?

I hope a couple of  previously unknown actors who both go on to win Oscars for their roles.

8) Bacon VS Tofu – who wins? Why?

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Bacon.  I’ve never craved Tofu or heard it sizzle invitingly.

9) What colour is Tuesday?

Yellow, obviously.

10) Have you ever had a nickname?

Many:  Clarence (the cross-eyed lion) was particularly unwelcome as a six-year-old with a squint.

11) What is the oldest item of clothing in your wardrobe?

My dad’s toweling T-shirt

12) Do you have a favourite pen?

Yes, but it’s a fountain pen so I am often cross with it.

13) Do you believe human beings can spontaneously combust?

As a child I got a book out of the library about it and it kept me awake for years.  Wish you hadn’t reminded me.

(Oops, sorry.)

14) Have you ever written an angry letter to a magazine or paper?

No.

15) Have you ever had your fortune told?

Yes.

16) How do you put your duvet cover on?

I don’t have a duvet.  

17) Who is your favourite Neighbours character?

Never seen it so I don’t know.

*Gasp*

18) What’s your favourite swear?

Hells bells and buckets of blood.

19) What sandwiches would you make for a picnic with Hilary Mantel?

I don’t want to go on a picnic with Hilary Mantel.

20) What question should I have asked you?

I am sated.

Thank you so much for taking part in Smash Lits, Polly.

I reviewed Polly’s latest novel, The Kindness, here and throughly recommend it to fans of sumptuous prose and twisty stories. All sorts of information (and gorgeous pictures) can be found at Polly’s website.

Smash Lits with Carys Bray

I’m so glad that Carys has taken part in Smash Lits. She wrote one of my favourite books of the year, “A Song For Issy Bradley” which has been widely praised and is now on the prestigious shortlist of the 2014 Costa First Book Prize. Yay Carys! Anyway, without further ado:

1) Ian is described as “Superman in a Burton suit” – who would you be?

That is such a good question – argh! I would be Bibliogirl in an origami dress.

Ooh, I love that!

2) Do you have any recurring dreams?

Yes, and they’re both horrible! One involves my teeth falling out and the other involves a school reunion and the sudden realisation that I’m not wearing enough clothes.

3) Have you ever seen a ghost?

No (and I don’t believe in them).

4) What’s your favourite sweet?

I love Thornton’s Viennese truffles, yum.

5) Who is your favourite Neighbours character?

I haven’t watched Neighbours for years. Erm, Libby Kennedy!

6) What’s your most vivid childhood memory?

I remember a whole school assembly in which I had to stand up and receive a dressing down for being late for school that morning. I absolutely wasn’t late – my mum was probably the most organised parent in the universe, I don’t think I was ever late for school – and I was only four. By that evening I was covered in hives and my mum was furious.

7) Do you believe human beings can spontaneously combust?

Not spontaneously, no.

8) What colour is Tuesday?

Oh, that’s easy, orange.

9) What is your favourite swear?

I didn’t swear for the first 30 years of my life because swearing was a sin, so I’m a late developer. I quite like near-miss swears, like twunt and nucking-futter.

I adore twunt, it’s such a satisfying word.

10) Tofu VS Bacon. Who wins? Why?

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Bacon. The bacony smell is one of the best smells ever. In fact, I think they should make bacon perfume.

Carys, they do make bacon perfume – lookit.

11) What is the picture on your wall?

I have a picture of ruby slippers and ‘There’s no place like home.’

12) What was the last text you sent?

A text telling son 3 that no, I couldn’t bring his drum sticks and music book to school because I was on a train to Liverpool.

13) How do you organise your book shelves?

I used to organise them by colour but the kids teased me so much that I changed them and now I’ve got short stories in one place and novels/favourite novels, poetry etc. elsewhere.

14) Who would play the character of Claire in the film of your book?

Suranne Jones because she’s a great actress, she’s northern and I think she’d be brilliant at the harried/resigned combo.

15) You are wallpaper. What is your pattern?

Something flocked in red. My violin teacher used to have this amazing red, velvety wallpaper and I remember stroking it as I waited for my lesson to start.

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

Yes. My mum has written in a diary every day since I was born and I sneaked a peek a few times when I was a teenager (I’m pretty sure she returned the favour, so it’s all good).

17) What is your most vivid childhood memory?

I think this is a trick question – it’s one of those memory tests to make sure I can remember the vivid childhood memory I described in answer to number 6!

Oops! 

18) What sandwiches would you make for a picnic with Margaret Atwood?

I did a little research (because who wouldn’t, if they were going on a picnic with Margaret Atwood) and discovered that she doesn’t answer questions about favourite foods, colours etc. because she has a hard time deciding favourites. I remember reading that she took the Veggie Vows during the tour of The Year of the Flood, so I’d do Greek salad wraps

19) What is your Book of the Year?

Probably All My Puny Sorrows, which I first read about on your blog!

It is stunning isn’t it. So glad you read about it here *chuffed*

20) What question should I have asked you?

I like the questions you asked. It was a relief not to be asked about novel 2 and Mormonism – thank you!