Smash Lits with Aaron Burch

I published Aaron Burch’s CNF The Idea of it All at this week at The Forge. I love how this tiny piece builds, how poignant it is. And I got to interview Aaron too.

1) What would your superhero power be?

So, I have this lesson plan built around this This American Life segment about flight vs. invisibility. I use it every semester, it’s one of my faves. I always start class that day by having my students do a 5 minute freewrite where they have to answer, If they could have one superpower—flight OR invisibility—which would it be? I’ve done it so many times, that my kneejerk response is to make your broad question an either/or one, in which case, I’d say flight.

2) What is your default pub drink?

Either beer or whiskey. IF the pub has a cheap beer + whiskey combo, I’ll get that, although very rarely will if they don’t specifically offer it as a combo, preferably with a bar specific word for it, like a “happy meal” or “beer and a bump” or “the regular.”

3) What was the last text you sent?

😜🤗🥰🥰

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

Some kind of doom or death metal that is sometimes slow and melodic and instrumental and sometimes gets heavy with riffs and accompanying screaming? Maybe (ideally?) it’s the Jack Black hidden track on Dave Grohl’s heavy metal side project, Probot, where it’s a pretty heavy rock song but also laughy?

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

Probably one of my band shirts from high school?

6) Do you believe human beings can spontaneously combust?

No. Although I do believe that that makes me boring.

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

PB&J

8) What’s your favourite swear?

I wanna be creative here but it’s probably just “fuck.” it’s such a great all-purpose word.

9) If there was a TV show called The Masked Writer, what would your costume be?

Probably a buffalo, although that might give me away.

10) Who is your favourite TV detective?

Jason Schwartzman as Jonathan Ames on Bored to Death.

11) What is your favourite smell?

This last week it has been a freshly sharpened pencil.

12) What was your first concert?

MC Hammer.

13) What is your phone screensaver?

This skull I painted.

14) What is your favourite cheese?

All.

15) Who is your favourite Sesame Street character?

Oscar?

16) What colour is Tuesday? 

Yellow.

17) Have you ever had a nickname?

Not really? A couple of my friends call me Hobart. My invisible friend when I was little was “Leafy” and sometimes my best friend will break that out.

18) Do you have a favourite pen?

Pilot G-2s, and though I believe myself to be in the wrong in this, I go back and forth between preferring the 05 and 07. I actually like each for different purposes.

19) Have you chosen your funeral song?

No. I’ll be dead, I don’t care.

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

What two emoji smashed together best encapsulate you?

Smash Lits with Angela Readman

I was delighted to publish a wonderful flash by Angela Readman at The Forge – you can read A Quiet Like This here. And she kindly took part in an interview too.

1) What is your superpower?

I can make anything & anyone smell of loads and loads of garlic. Think about, I can make everyone fancy pizza, even the pizza disapprovers. I can stop people talking mid-sentence, suddenly aware of their breath. I can stop anyone standing too close and make all kisses a bit awkward.

2) What is your favourite cheese?

I had this swanky cheese that was wild garlic and mushroom. Just once. I have never been able to find it since. It is now the legend of dairy. Somewhere the stall holder who sold it is laughing at the curse he put on me for having too many cheese samples.

3) What was the last text you sent?

I haven’t sent a text in over 2 years. I think it was probably Help, I am lost in the Metrocentre.

4) Who is/was your unlikely crush?

Captain Birdseye. Harley Quinn. Gomez Addams.

5) Bacon VS Tofu—who wins? Why?

Bacon. I haven’t eaten meat in over 30 years, so I just hang around greasy spoons sniffing people. I arrived late to tofu, I didn’t try it until a few years ago. It’s OK, but whenever I have it I am filled with a sense of is this it? Am I doing it wrong?

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

I’d like to say something cool like blues, but it is probably more like one of those strange mash-ups of Nine Inch Nails doing Shake it Off with Taylor Swift.

7) What makes the wind blow?

The whispers of all the things your old invisible friends are saying behind your back.

8) Have you ever had your fortune told?

I went to a psychic fair once when it was raining. A spiritual healer put his hands on the back of my head and told me the spirits were telling him to give me his phone number. I didn’t call.

9) Who is your favourite Neighbours character?

Joe Mangle.

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

Yes, but he said we should see other people. He went to Orkney and took my invisible cat with him.

11) What did you do last Saturday night?

Drank a beer, looked out the window, talked about owls.

12) Do you have any recurring dreams?

I dream I can fly, but it’s in an odd way. I sort of hover in doorways. I also sometimes dream Keanu Reeves is making me lemon tea, always lemon. He serves it in a china cup and is always wearing white trousers and flip flops.

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

I don’t think I know a sandwich good enough, the egg with salad cream I make won’t cut it. I might have to do something with aubergine. There’d be salad. I would apologise that I don’t know anything about pomegranates. I’d make a flask of Yorkshire Tea with sweet soya milk and we’d drink from Moomin mugs.

14) What is your favourite smell?

Hardware shops, freshly cut wood, that smell like an engine is being fixed.

15) What’s your favourite swear?

Fuckery.

16) What word or words make you cringe? 

Flange, actually, necessarily, anyhoo, feisty.

17) Who is your favourite TV detective?

Agent Cooper.

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

If there was a TV show called The Masked Writer, what would your costume be?

19) What is the last thing you Googled?

Epicurious 4 levels Mac & Cheese. I also like watching videos of robot lawn mowers for no reason. They are incredibly calming.

20) What question should I have asked you?

What’s the last song lyric that got stuck in your head? Fool’s Garden, Lemon Tree, ‘And nothing ever happens, and I wonder…’

Smash Lits with Ruby Cowling

We recently published an excellent story by Ruby Cowling at The Forge – please do read

We Are Part of This

Ruby also agreed to take part in an interview with me. Spoiler alert! I think she might be the only person to ever choose tofu over bacon (so far).

1) How do you organise your bookshelves?

Top shelf of best bookcase: Best Books Ever, featuring George Saunders and George Eliot. Next shelf down: great books that almost made it to the Top. And so on down. Then short story collections, then poetry and plays. The other bookcases are chaos, though I try to keep non-fiction quarantined from the rest.

2) Have you ever been on a retreat?

Many.

3) Bacon VS Tofu – who wins? Why?

My heart says bacon but all my other organs say tofu.

4) What is your favourite smell?

Ugh–I’m a bit phobic about the word “smell.” (And I’ll go out of my way to avoid saying “smelly.”) Probably the *aroma* of woodsmoke on clothes.

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

George Saunders, obviously—because I’d come back a better person.

6) Who is your favourite Neighbours character?

It’s been decades since I watched it, so I actually had to go to Google images for this one. Des Clarke!

7) What would you cook if Salman Rushdie came for dinner?

Something chewy.

8) What is your favourite biscuit?

Something dark-chocolate-and-gingery.

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

I have a watercolour nude done by the chap who owns the framing shop down the road.

10) What is your motto for life?

“Chill the f*** out.” Only as a reminder, because I’m doing the opposite all the time.

11) What’s your most played song right now?

The deeply satisfying “Funtimes in Babylon” by Father John Misty.

12) Unicorns, mermaids or dinosaurs? 

Dinosaurs, because actual existence is a pretty strong trump card.

13) Have you ever seen a ghost?

Not a *ghost*, exactly…

14) What did you do last Saturday night?

Watched the football and then had a ridiculously early night.

15) Do you have any writing rituals?

Rituals, no, but I’ve started using the Pomodoro technique and can hugely recommend it for Getting Stuff Done.

16) Tell me a secret.

No way! My current WIP is all about the importance of not sharing.

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

Probably just loads of eavesdropping. (Just to contradict the entire message of my current WIP.)

18) Can you write a haiku about your story?

A bunch of women
Spending a week in the woods
But who can they trust?

19) What’s your favourite swear?

Heavens to Betsy!

20) What question should I have asked you?

Where do you get your ideas from? *KIDDING.*

Many thanks for taking part (superb haiku!)

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