1.Tell us a bit about yourself – something that we will not find in the official author’s bio?
I have an older sister. When I was just small, I thought that if I wanted it badly enough I could accelerate the aging process and become older than her. She tried to explain why I would always be younger, but I didn't believe it.
2. Do you remember what was your first story (article, essay, or poem) about and when did you write it?
My first published book – a collection of flash fictions about a fumbling English teacher in Japan called You Are Make Very Important Bathtime (JEF, 2013) – was originally over 300 pages long, and it was completely different from the second person vignettes into which it evolved (about 100 fat-free pages). I trashed every word from the first manuscript. But that wasn't the first book I had ever written -- just the first one rendered into print.
3. What is the title of your latest book and what inspired it?
Blink If You Love Me (Adelaide, 2019) is the most recent novel and it's a reflection of my admiration for Portugal and for Portuguese culture; it was inspired by the rush of vitamins I get from the incredible seafood, the salty ions off the coast, the espresso. It is fully accessible and readable, almost in the style of Lydia Davis. The tone is plain and straightforward and I think it will be enjoyable for anyone who loves to read. It's also very cinematic -- a Hollywood-friendly novel -- at its core it's a romantic comedy meets travelogue -- the only thing that could make it more Hollywood material is if the action took place during Christmas.
4. How long did it take you to write your latest work and how fast do you write (how many words daily)?
My books vary in how long they take but sometimes they're easier than others. Blink came about in a fairly steady flow of stories, inspired in part by my reading about how Lydia Davis had given herself the challenge of writing one story per day. I think she mentioned this in one of her master classes which I had the privilege to take part in at NYU (New York University). Although I didn't reach the one story per day more than one or two days in a row, usually I ended up with some useable ideas that I could develop later.
5. Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I go to the MoMA and smell the Max Ernst.
I also tend to write while soaking in the bathtub, which is where the title from my first published book came from: You Are Make Very Important Bathtime.
If I'm in the midst of writing a novel, I'll carry around the characters in the back seat of my brain. I'll wake up dehydrated, in the middle of the night, sweating -- insomnomaniacal -- and have to write something down until it creaks itself into a story. I'll pull a notebook on the subway and manage to scribble a few vital cluewords that I try to decipher the next morning but can't.
6. Is writing the only form of artistic expression that you utilize, or is there more to your creativity than just writing?
I have a modest audio discography as a sound artist. I have a new release scheduled this year called Another Dada Centennial on the Tymbal Tapes label. It was recorded on the day of the 100-year anniversary of Tristan Tzara's 1918 Dada Manifesto. And I like to make short videos. I shot one video on the set of the TV Show Quantico in New York without their permission. Another video, a book trailer for LIFE+70[Redacted] was shot at the NanoFabrication Facility at CUNY and it was screened at MoMA/PS1 in 2016 at Printed Matter's New York Art Book Fair.
7. Authors and books that have influenced your writings?
This is a complicated question for me because there are always authors left out if I write this response in a list form -- it is further complicated because I cherish the relationships that I do have with some living authors and would like to be able to include them all. Lydia Davis, once again, because she was able to make Proust unboring by speaking to her translation issues in Proust's Swann's Way. I owe Lydia everything in terms of seeing value in Proust, whereas before I simply didn't have the patience. That said, an incomplete list of a few influences would read like this below.
Some classic influences: Beckett, Borges, Calvino, Ionesco, Shakespeare, Sophocles, G. Stein, V. Woolf.
Some modern and contemporary influences: Lydia Davis, Amy Hempel, Claudia Rankine, Lorrie Moore, Raymond Federman, Steve Katz.
8. What are you working on right now? Anything new cooking in the wordsmith’s kitchen?
I have another novel and a short story collection which I regularly revisit, revise, garnish.
9. Did you ever think about the profile of your readers? What do you think – who reads and who should read your books?
I read somewhere that women make up more than half of the readership in the United States. I imagine an ultra-smart woman reader and try to take stock of how women colleagues read and critique my writings. In Bathtime, for example, I wanted to really abuse the male narrator for his arrogance and his missteps because I thought it might be satisfying for female readers.
With this new novel, Blink If You Love Me (Adelaide, 2019) I think the readership is wide-reaching. I can imagine anyone with a large family will relate because while it is a romance, it is also a family story -- a story about the difficulty and comedy of marriage. Literary folks will be interested because of the tradition of writing about marriage and issues around married couples and extended families -- readers atuned to the inevitable echoes of Chekhov, Tolstoy, Bronte, Austen, Dickens, Dostoevsky.
10. Do you have any advice for new writers/authors?
I'll pass along what French author Raymond Federman told me while I was starting to take myself (too) seriously as a writer. He said that if you want to write you have to be willing to obliterate your own work. He made a video in which he boiled his book in a pot of noodles to make that point, a reference to his novel Double or Nothing, where the narrator eats noodles while writing a novel. The pages of the original manuscript are filled with typewritten noodles.
11. What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Again, it was Raymond Federman -- he told me that all of his novels are unfinished.
12. How many books do you read annually and what are you reading now? What is your favorite literary genre?
I lose track of the number of books that enter my hands. I am currently re-reading Ficciones by Borges and David & Goliath by Malcom Gladwell (non-fiction). I don't believe in favorites -- I think there are resonances of value in every genre.
13. What do you deem the most relevant about your writing? What is the most important to be remembered by readers?
I hope that future scholars will appreciate the notion that my work is a reflection and response to works by Piero Manzoni, Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia, among other artists. But what is important to readers can only be decided by readers themselves.
14. What is your opinion about the publishing industry today and about the ways authors can best fit into the new trends?
I write what I am compelled to write in a form that brings me pleasure. Sometimes that fits the trends, and sometimes it doesn't.
In 2016, I wrote a book that seemed to work with the times: LIFE+70[Redacted] (Lit Fest Press, 2016) is a metafiction about an e-book priced at $249,999.99 which was promptly hacked -- it tells the story about the author's email correspondence with the hacker. This book was based on factual events. It was published on the eve of controversy around US election interference and/or hacking. It just happened that the story coincided with current events. It seemed that anything to do with hacking was in vogue in 2016. For the book launch, I publicly invited the hacker -- if he or she happened to be in New York -- to join us for the celebration. In fact, I still don't know if he/she was there or not.
15. What is your opinion about your publisher – Adelaide Books?
So far, so good. I feel optimistic about our literary future.