Friday, June 27, 2014

Everyone Was a Cousin

I don't live anywhere near my family. Last week, I lived with all of them in the mountains. There was a lake full of turtles. A small lake to reflect the trees. My cousins and I sat on the porch and watched the only motor boat allowed on the lake stir up algae.

"He likes to keep it moving," one cousin said.

We sat still. Other cousins kept the kitchen running. Work on vacation. Clouds inflated over the house and groaned. Men we didn't know stood in the grass around the water and fished before the storms fell.

Each afternoon the view beyond the porch was gray and wet. The rain lowered the atmosphere and kept the nights cool. Some of us ran around the lake.

I ran around the lake alone. Twice I thought I was being followed by a large brown dog. I turned and there was no dog. "I can run faster if I need to," I thought. I closed the circle and arrived where I started. Back to the family.

After dark, wine was passed around. Bad wine and good wine, and I couldn't tell the difference when it was poured out of the bottle and yellowed a plastic cup. My cousins talked. I listened. I was accused of taking notes, but notes came later when all the wine was drunk.

All the wine was drunk.

Someone told the story of waking up to their sleepwalking spouse pointing a gun at the wall. The spouse had a nightmare of a giant spider. Nothing could kill that spider like a gun. Since all dreams come from somewhere, the giant spider came from the smaller spiders the spouse had killed cleaning the basement.

Someone else grappled with the use of the F word in plays. They asked my opinion. I didn't say what first came to mind, which was, "Which F word?" Instead, I said I don't even hear that word as worse than any other word. Another relative weighed in for Christ. "People with good Christian values don't use the F word," she said. As if Jesus spoke English.

I ate eggs.

One afternoon, we slid down a wet rock and marveled at a waterfall. This waterfall:

While I was photographing this waterfall, my aunt asked me if my camera took good pictures, and I said, "No, I take good pictures."

Later, I lost my glasses in river rapids. Minutes before that, though, a snake froze in the grass for me to get a good look. I stared at the snake and noted the pattern of its scales. It was a garter snake. A common snake.

But it was the only snake I saw.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Lost Interview Two

I'm writing a story about ephemera right now in the form of summer and a dead car, but ephemera can be anything that doesn't stick around long. Gather your receipts before the numbers fade. Recycle the newspaper. Draw a lizard on a napkin and throw away the napkin. It all dissolves, eventually. I did some interviews that appeared on websites. Some of those interviews then disappeared. The Internet proves flimsy.    

I posted the first lost interview the other day. The second interview to vanish was conducted by Amber Lee for Necessary Fiction. Not too long after this interview went live, Necessary Fiction encountered a server malfunction. When the site came back, the interview didn't come back with it.

Well, here you go.



What books and/or authors have had the most influence on your writing?

Annie Proulx's work started me writing when I was 18. Then it was Hemingway. Then Didion. I read Play It as It Lays three or four times a year. I can't read more than a page before I have to put it down and write. Reading good writing makes me want to prove I can do it better. Well, not better but mine. I'm selfish. I want to lay claim. The other day someone called me a hustler of my own writing. All the writing I come back to is so clearly under the ownership of the person who wrote it.

Right now I'm reading George Whitmore's Nebraska. Whitmore shows the reader exactly what the reader needs to see. There's nothing extra. If I have a current writer like that, it's xTx. Have you read Billie the Bull? Read Billie the Bull, and see what I mean. See if you give a shit about the pseudonym anymore. The writing tells you everything you need to know.

How do you decide when a piece you've written is "finished" enough to publish?

I don't. Other people do. That's editors. The only thing I decide to do is write. It's easier to know when a pie is finished. There's usually a golden color, and if it's custard, the slightest wobble of the filling.

What would you consider to be a productive day of work, and do you have a writing routine?

A productive day of work is any day I get any writing done. Richard Bausch says, "This day's work. Each day." That's really it. My routine is: sit down and write.

What part of your writing process do you most enjoy?

The writing part.

Publisher's Weekly describes the stories in your collection, Mother Ghost, which debuts this month, as "small, but pack[ing] an intense emotional punch." How were you able to evoke such emotion from stories with respectively low word counts?

Evoking emotion in writing isn't hard. The emotion is always there, but writing gives the writer permission to express it. I'm quiet in person. People tell me secrets because I seem like a rock, and rocks don't absorb. Well, I'm not a rock. I absorb everything. It's got to go somewhere, though, and my writing is where it goes.

Do you have a favorite story in the collection? If so, what is it and why?

I don't have a favorite. Spiders don't have favorite legs. The stories in Mother Ghost function better together, which is why they're together.

But if you said you were going to erase one of the stories, I guess I'd beg you not to erase "Horse Street." There are some lines in there I still can't believe I wrote.

What else are you working on, and where can readers go to find more of your work?

I'm working on a novella about a young man living on the beach in a shack on stilts. His life is constantly threatened by tropical storms. The other people in the book are more important than he is.

I do have a story in the upcoming issue of NANO Fiction. I'm also proud of a story I had up at Wigleaf recently. It's called "The Long Beep." And of course there's my blog at

Finally, what advice would you give yourself when you first started writing?

I wouldn't. I don't believe that sort of time-travel is healthy for writers. I'm happy where I am and how I got here. There's no reason to mess around. I would give myself other advice, though. I would tell myself to stop eating so many chicken nuggets. I would take my own hands in my hands and say, "Allow yourself some rewards, but learn how to make them all yourself."

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Lost Interview One

I know I write, and you know I write, but I don't always talk about it when I leave the house. I talk about the living or dead animals I've seen on the sidewalk. I talk about the light bulb that shattered when Josh touched it with his fingertip. I tell you what my neighbors yell when they fight. (The latest: "I let you sleep all day because I hate being around you!") But what I do all day, mostly, is write. I've been interviewed about it like it's my job. And some of those interviews were swallowed by the Internet. In the interest of archiving, I'll post a couple of them here over the next few days.

The first interview lost to the void was for an online literary journal called Thumbnail. Molly Laich asked the questions. You may remember Molly. I remember Molly. We fight about who's the better writer. She is. We meet in person once a year to do nothing in particular. The last time we met, we couldn't believe what someone was saying behind a microphone. That was Seattle. This interview is the Internet through and through. Presented to you unedited-ish from the emails:


What is it you think your stories are trying to say, really? Who are you and what is this life for?

There are so many mothers in my stories. One of them says, "We all have it bad is what I'm saying." I don't want to make excuses for people and their behavior, but at the same time I'm so thankful for every problem I've had or else I wouldn't have stories to tell. If I didn't have any stories to tell, I would find something else to do. This life is for finding something to do.

What are some of your "themes?" I can think of two: homosexuals, ghosts. Homosexual ghosts. I'm not trying to pigeon hole you, okay? Talk about the intangible act of weaving the world of real events into a rich tapestry of fiction, intrigue and seduction. 

The thing about fiction is a lot of fiction isn't fiction. I can't blame people for wanting to know how much of a story is true. I make stuff up, but I steal my best stuff from real events. I guess the hardest part is gluing it all together with lies. That's also the most fun.

One of my themes is the homosexual experience. I try not to normalize that experience. It's not normal. It's not hetero. It's not status quo. At the same time, it can be anything I want it to be. Still, I feel like a ghost sometimes, like every conversation I have is trying to apply something to my life that doesn't apply.

You have a blog. It's basically my favorite blog. How long have you been writing it? Has it helped your "career?" Do you ever worry about saying too personal things on your blog? Do you every worry who is and is not reading it? What are some good keyword searches that have led to

I've been doing Vicious Cycle a little over a year and a half. It has helped my career. Writers like xTx and Roxane Gay pimp my blog on occasion. It's flattering and unexpected, and it's definitely gotten me more readers.
I never worry about saying too personal things. I usually save the best personal stuff for my stories. There are things I've wanted to blog about, but I've stayed my hand because I'm not the only one involved. I like having friends, and most of my friends read my blog even if they don't read my stories. My mother reads my blog, and she thinks I don't know she reads it. I'm not worried she reads it. When I came out in high school, I had to become very selfish to survive. I had to place my desire for acceptance elsewhere, though, and I was not attractive enough to place it in sex. I placed it in talent. I made writing my parents. I've tried to be healthy about it. I'm not undone by rejection. It's only words, and I can change those.

There are always good keyword searches. The most common are people looking for square tattoos. I posted a picture of my square tattoos in a blog entry, and that blog entry has had far and away the most views. An art student in Michigan came to my writing through my tattoos. She recently asked my blessing to get similar tattoos of her own. She put a picture on Facebook and told her friends to read my blog. I was very proud, like cats probably expect you to be when they leave dead birds at the front door.

You list all your stories on your blog in order of publication, from newest to oldest. Reorder the stories. Put the top 3-5 stories in the order you wish people would read your work in. You can say a little about why the order if you want. 

1. Horse Street, which was published at Spork Press. It's maybe the weirdest story I've written, but it has the most real events of any of them. It also has all those themes I obsess over so much. And a horse. Because I'm from Kentucky, and I knew people who weren't rich, but they had horses anyway.

2. Soft Monsters, which was published at Annalemma. It's the story where I try to reconcile my relationship with the visual art I used to make. I used to work in an art museum, and I would stand around all day wondering why my art wasn't in the museum. Ha ha. Young people! It turns out I was making glorified stuffed animals, and when I finally realized that, I went full-force into writing and haven't looked back. This is also the most naked of my stories, but at the same time it doesn't betray much emotion.

3. Ghost Water, which was published at American Short Fiction. This is my most recently published story. That's probably why I'm putting it here. There are some really good sentences, and I get to personify my ginger fetish in a Southern bartender named Lee.

I noticed you don't have an MFA. How did you learn to write without an MFA? How do you know if your stories are any good? Does anybody read your stories before you send them out for publication? Tell us about your workshopping process. 

I don't have an MFA. My undergraduate fiction classes were run like MFA workshops, though. I wrote some OK stories in undergrad, but that wasn't the point. The point was to learn how to read. My boyfriend and I are avid readers, and once a week we'll go out to eat at the Indian buffet and talk about what we're reading. Sometimes, I let my boyfriend read my stories before I send them out. I'm pretty proud, though, and my boyfriend hates confrontation, so I usually just send out the stories and wait for the rejections. Rejection sets me on fire to impress more than anything else.

You went to AWP in Chicago this past year. We met for the first time in person at a reading there, in a dark room. Tell the people how AWP was or was not helpful to you. What advice would you give to young plucky writers who are considering attending? What do you think they can get out of it? 

AWP was something. It told me I wasn't alone, and it told me there are people out there who read my stories. Roxane Gay mentioned me in the first panel I attended, and I couldn't move for five minutes. The panel was about short fiction, and we were in this gigantic ballroom, and Roxane got effusive about my stories. Some drunk people seemed to know who I was when I went to bars for readings. Some of them kissed my tattoos. I walked around the book fair with xTx, and I felt comfortable and just visible enough, like a pilot fish or one of those flies always around a horse's ass.

My advice to young writers is attend, but don't get too hung up about going to panels or seeing this person read versus that person. Make sure to experience the city as much as you can. Spend a long time at the book fair. Really let it hit you that you're one of many, and you're not special, but at least you're not alone.

What's next? I thought you were writing a novel. Did the novel turn into a collection of stories? Is that the thing that's coming out on Tiny Hardcore Press or are these separate projects? Tell the people what I'm talking about. 
What's next is a collection of stories for Tiny Hardcore Press, due out early 2013. I was writing a novel. I loved the idea of writing a novel, but every chapter read like a separate story, and the characters weren't consistent from chapter to chapter. I only recently realized I'd been writing a collection of stories all along. Also, Tiny Hardcore Press came to me loving my stories. They've given me a lot of free reign, but it felt dumb to throw my first attempt at a novel at them.

Have you figured out any secrets? Dos or Don'ts when it comes to being a good writer and finding your voice? If it's truly a secret, does that preclude a willingness to share? 

When you like something you've read, tell the writer. The Internet makes it easy. As far as finding your voice, you have to be selfish. You have to believe what you're saying, or no one else will. Those aren't really secrets, but secrets are important, too. I'm keeping a secret for a friend, and I told her the one thing Southerners love more than telling secrets is keeping them. That goes double for writers.


Here's a couple of questions I was going to lead with, but they seem like kind of dumb, scenester questions. but I will leave them here and if you think you have good answers for them I can incorporate them back into the interview. 

I'm answering these, but for narcissistic reasons. Keep or delete. It doesn't matter to me.

The name Casey Hannan is abuzz in the indie lit scene. Casey Hannan is on the tip of everyone's Internet tongues. Why are you like that? Tell us the story of your first ever publication, and then how it got harder or easier and why and how. 

I don't know why I'm like that. I've been told "Casey Hannan" is pleasing to the ear. Not many people just call me one name or the other. Mostly only people I've seen naked.

My first acceptance was from Necessary Fiction, but Staccato snuck in there and accepted another story and published it before my story went up at Necessary Fiction. They are both excellent publications. I'd been writing genre fiction about harpies and giant serpents, but no magazines were biting. I read a bunch of online lit mags like PANK and SmokeLong Quarterly, and I thought, "Oh, I can do this." I just had to find another horror story, which turned out to be parents and children.

Publishing has gotten more interesting because editors are now asking me for stories, and if I have the time, I'll write something just for them. It doesn't get harder or easier. It just gets more.

What was your life like before you started writing, and what is it like now? How did your brain change? What would you do if you weren't a writer?

I don't know if my life or brain really changed. My relationships changed. People have been attracted to me because of my writing. I've made new friends that way, and come into contact with people I never would've met otherwise.

If I weren't a writer, I'd probably take my visual art more seriously. I'd push my sculpture in more difficult or interesting places. I'm not willing to go those places right now. It doesn't feel urgent enough.