To help celebrate the release of Eliza Robertson’s stunning debut collection, WALLFLOWERS, we asked her some particularly tough questions about her literary heroes, books that smell like cheese, and if she’d wear squeaky shoes for the rest of her life.
It’s a literary Would You Rather…?
#1: Would you rather write your stories just by thinking them (no need to physically write or type) but have all your published books smell vaguely like Asiago cheese?
Write your stories on William Faulkner’s famous Underwood typewriter but have to use bug excrement for ink?
(Things to consider: Would anyone take your book home if it smelled like cheese? How confident would you be sending out manuscripts that smell like beetle poop?)
Eliza: I hate Asiago cheese! The smell of that stuff kept me from walking to Subway at lunchtime with the cool kids. Never again will Asiago cheese make me less cool. I’ll take the beetle shit. Also: I don’t mind the physical labour of typing. In Kindergarten, my favourite computer game was UltraKey.
#2: Would you rather play in a highly competitive softball league on a team with Margaret Atwood?
Play in the same softball league against a team with Margaret Atwood?
(Things to consider: between inning dugout banter; she’s probably not very good at baseball)
Eliza: Are you kidding? That woman is spry. I’ll bet she plays a mean game of softball. Just look at her hair. Also: could you imagine Margaret Atwood chanting intimate writing insults while you pitch or bat the ball? No thank you.
#3: Would you rather be plagiarized by Alice Munro (or other literary hero)?
Win a Nobel Prize for literature but have to wear squeaky shoes for the rest of your life?
(Things to consider: the sincerest form of flattery, inescapable shoe-based nicknames)
Eliza: If I have to walk on grass and plush carpets for the rest of my life in order to win the Nobel Prize, so be it.
#4: Would you rather have one of your stories turned into a film that has Carrot Top in a featured cameo?
Have one of your stories turned into a film starring Adam Sandler in every role?
(Things to consider: Jack and Jill, this)
Eliza: I dislike Carrot Top almost as much as I dislike Asiago cheese. I don’t even know if I’ve seen him act, except that ATT commercial from a decade ago. I remember feeling very annoyed by that commercial. It aired frequently. I have found Adam Sandler charming in a few movies. Every role might be too much. OR: appealingly John Malkovich.
#5: Would you rather be in a class taught by George Saunders?
Be in an hour-long cab ride with George Saunders?
(Things to consider: Did we mention it’s a gym class and everyone is wearing 70s style short-shorts? Also, your cab driver is a relentless Nicolas Cage impersonator who’s partial to this version of the man.)
Eliza: Oh wow. Can I have both of these things? If it were a fiction workshop, I would have gone with the cab ride… but P.E.? In 70s short shorts? Say no more! That said, option B touches my longtime affection for Nicolas Cage. Even a Nicolas Cage impersonator having a nervous breakdown. That would bring George Saunders and I closer, don’t you think? Nothing bonds two passengers like a nutty and life-threatening cabdriver. Especially if those passengers are also wearing short shorts.
LF: Brilliant. Thanks.
In the spirit of the recent Most Ancitipated: Great Second-Half 2014 Book Preview from the Millions, we thought we’d do one ourselves for Little Fiction | Big Truths authors who have books forthcoming this year and next. We’re also including a couple of recently released books from LF authors in case you missed them. Here goes…
Arsenal Pulp Press, October 2014
If you don’t know it yet, Shawn Syms is one hell of a writer. And editor. And book reviewer. Basically, any time he puts pen to paper it turns into something you won’t want to put down.
And his debut collection, Nothing Looks Familiar, is no exception. Just ask Steven Heighton, author of The Dead Are More Visible, who calls it “uncompromising — kinetic, gripping, affecting, and terrifyingly true to life.”
Many of the stories in Nothing Looks Familiar focus on characters marginalized by society, from bullied kids to meth-smoking mothers—each one stepping out from places of danger and unhappiness and into the great unknown, but determined to come out on the other side changed. Who better than Shawn Syms to guide them—and us—through?
Pre-order Nothing Looks Familiar here.
Penguin Canada, August 2014 / Bloomsbury USA, September 2014
What can we say about Eliza Robertson that hasn’t been said already (and even at the Millions)? She won the Commonwealth Prize for her story “We Walked On Water” and seems to be a finalist for every short story award this side of the moon. And here’s why: her stories are brilliant. They’re original and daring.
From her publisher: Eliza Robertson has created a cast of unique and wholly engaging characters… swindlers and innocents, unlikely heroes and gritty survivors; they teach us how to trap hummingbirds, relinquish dreams gracefully, and feed raccoons without getting bitten. Robertson smashes stereotypes even as she shows us remarkable new ways of experiencing the world—and of relating to our fellow human beings.
Read: Sea Life
Two Dollar Radio, August 2014
"David Connerley Nahm’s Ancient Oceans of Central Kentucky knows that all true stories are ghost stories, full of horror and want, distance and loss—the lasting specters of the tales we tell ourselves to mask the long truths that refuse to let us go.” — Matt Bell, author of In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods
The debut novel from David Connerley Nahm has been getting high praise from everyone who’s had the opportunity to turn its pages. To sink into its exquisitely fragmented narrative. To be drawn into the world of Leah Shepherd, a woman who has spent much of her quiet life being haunted by the disappearance of her younger brother Jacob. In a novel that’s been called haunting and unforgettable, David Connerley Nahm writes with bravery and compassion at every turn.
Brindle & Glass, September 2014
In the stories that make up The Pull of the Moon, Julie Paul introduces us to a cast of characters we’ll easily recognize and won’t soon forget.
Written with a keen sense of human nature and animal instinct, the collection’s twelve uniquely original and compelling stories draw us into inhospitable worlds populated with people who want nothing more than what we all want: connection, belonging, love, and forgiveness.
Pre-order The Pull of the Moon here.
MSU Press, July 2014
In these fourteen linked stories about Detroit and its true-to-life inhabitants, Daniels connects characters by specific places and gives us an honest, often entertaining, and occasionally heartbreaking inside look at this working-class community. It’s a world that defines the stories’ characters and never leaves them—even those who leave town.
These stories seem to suggest that we are always coming of age, becoming, trying to figure out what it means to be an adult in this world, attempting to figure out a way to forgive ourselves for not measuring up to our own expectations.
Wind Ridge Books, September 2014
Featuring twenty works of fiction, nonfiction and poetry inspired by old library checkout cards, Please Do Not Remove is a long overdue (see what we did there?) anthology that celebrates a rich literary culture and an enduring love of libraries. The collection was created, curated and edited by tireless literary citizen extraordinaire, and author, and editor, Angela Palm.
The collection has a piece from Big Truths contributor, Jessica Hendry Nelson (author of the critically-acclaimed essay collection If Only You People Could Follow Directions — 2014, Counterpoint Press), and fittingly, from Angela as well.
Read: The Devolution of Cake
WASTE by Andrew F. Sullivan
Dzanc Books, 2015
According to Andrew, WASTE (forthcoming from Dzanc Books in 2015) is a novel about skinheads, butchers and an escaped zoo lion. And if you know Andrew’s writing that sounds about right for what you’d expect to see in his debut novel. Oh, and it also includes an absolutely unforgettable chapter about a lonely misguided woman, a group of skinheads, Oprah, Liberace, and a wheelbarrow of fat. Yep.
To hold you over until the novel’s 2015 release, you can check out Andrew’s short story collection All We Want Is Everything (ARP books) and read some of his LF stories:
Debris by Kevin Hardcastle
2014 has quietly been the Year of the Hardcastle—surprising for a writer whose work is anything but quiet. Often gritty and vivid, and always expertly crafted, Kevin’s stories have been featured in The New Quarterly, EVENT magazine, Prism International, and the Fiddlehead. And that’s just the first half of this year. He still has stories coming soon with Shenandoah, Joyland and The New Quarterly.
We like to think his run started last summer here at LF (and at The Puritan, too), but really it doesn’t matter where it started. It only matters where it’s leading. Look for his debut collection, tentatively called Debris, in 2015 from Biblioasis.
Read: We Gotta Save The Leg
What You Need by Andrew Forbes
Invisible Publishing, 2015
Andrew Forbes writes with precision and power. His stories often take an intimate and unique look at relationships, families, and friendships. And usually at moments when things seem as though they’re ready to come apart. And that’s when Andrew is at his best—when he’s navigating characters (and us) through their troubles, desires, mistakes and loyalties.
His highly anticipated debut collection, What You Need, hits the world in mid-2015. Until then, you can read his short stories at Found Press and the Puritan (among others). And you can read the collection’s title story here at Little Fiction.
Read: What You Need
Mojave River Press
Leesa Cross-Smith writes about light and love, and awesome mudflap cowgirl belt buckles, and the breathless southern air between men and women. With Every Kiss A War, Leesa’s debut collection of twenty-seven stories, everyone who reads it can’t help but fall in love with the complex characters, the vibrant voices, and most of all, Leesa herself.
Enfield & Wizenty
In Lee Kvern’s latest collection, the critically acclaimed 7 Ways to Sunday, she gives us a dozen plus stories that center on humanity in all its flawed glory.
Packed with visceral stories that push and pull with raw emotion and incredible wit, 7 Ways to Sunday presents Lee Kvern at her absolute best.
“…7 Ways to Sunday is a work of remarkable compassion and grace.” – Alberta Views Magazine
“Lee Kvern is one of those generous writers who leaves her heart and intelligence on every page. And what a big heart it is. What a marvellously vibrant, wholly original intelligence.” – Barbara Gowdy, author of We So Seldom Look On Love and The Romantic
Buy 7 Ways to Sunday here.
Read: Tourists Girls
Happy reading, everyone.