Bookselling made a writer out of me. Before I got a job at a bookstore, I would sometimes poke around the edges of being a creative writer—I wrote little essays for zines my friends published, and I liked to come up with elaborate fake histories for bands I was associated with in college. I liked books and I liked to read. But being a bookseller moved me from a casual to a professional interest in books, so it meant I needed to read a lot more, and a lot of contemporary work. It gave me a sense of the landscape, and where I might fit into it. (And that I actually might fit into it.) It plugged me into the community of writers and readers. And it gave me access to writers who helped me evolve my writing. I learned that creative writing is a discipline that takes time and attention. (And lots of rewriting.) I learned that a voice and an idea are good things, but they aren’y necessarily stories. I spent time finding out the paths other writers took to get where they were, and got advice on how to find my own way.
We interviewed Matthew Simmons, whose collection Happy Rock is one of the year’s best.
This sense of surreal cosmic horror is always on my mind. It’s my favorite thing to think about. I think the title is a perfect fusion of my influences and Shannon’s influences. (The Rat House was an old shack on Shannon’s family property that was a big part of her childhood and the image is highly nostalgic for her and representative of childhood and growing up.) I tend to write more fantasy fairy tale lyrics and Shannon tends to write more nostalgic/personal/family lyrics.
My relationship to NASCAR is a mite complicated, as is any Southern expat’s, but it essentially fits the following parameters: 1) I don’t typically much care for its fans, unless they’re related to me — Mort’s an exception. 2) I was raised on a steady diet of Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, but when Earnhardt died I was a long way from Calvary Baptist in Charlotte, N.C., and I was mostly amused by the news of the regional, may have even been national, TV coverage his service received (delivered via a fitful, sobbing telephone call from my redneck brother). 3) Chili goes well with it. 4) Beer too.
It’s probably impossible to explain to young people who weren’t around in the 1980s how central, crucial, and all-encompassing a role MRR played on the punk scene at that time. Without exaggerating too much, I think it would be safe to say that if your band, zine or whatever wasn’t in MRR, it almost didn’t exist. MRR was essentially the clearinghouse for punk rock from round the world, and for the most part, it did a very good job at that. It definitely played a major role in helping Lookout and Gilman attain the positions of prominence that they did.