Monday, June 3, 2024

The 40 But 10 Interview Series: Steve Gergley


In 2023, I decided to retire the literary Would You Rather series, but didn't want to stop interviews on the site all together. Instead, I've pulled together 40ish questions - some bookish, some silly - and have asked authors to limit themselves to answering only 10 of them. That way, it keeps the interviews fresh and connectable for all of us!

Steve Gergley is the author of The Great Atlantic Highway & Other Stories (Malarkey Books '24), Skyscraper (West Vine Press '23), and A Quick Primer on Wallowing in Despair (Leftover Books '22). His short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, Pithead Chapel, Maudlin House, Passages North, Always Crashing, Rejection Letters, and others. In addition to writing fiction, he has composed and recorded five albums of original music. He tweets @GergleySteve. His fiction can be found at:

Why do you write?

Because real life is way too boring and repetitive, and nothing interesting ever happens. In fiction, anything can happen at any moment, and that’s exciting.

What made you start writing?

I love movies, and I wanted to create miniature movies inside people’s heads that I had total control over.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I work, exercise, listen to a huge amount of music, listen to audiobooks, play video games, watch some movies, and try to relax and take it easy. 

Do you have any hidden talents?

I’m very good at sensing how much time has passed while doing any activity. I would’ve listed this as a useless talent, but it ensures that I’m never late to anything, and that’s been really helpful over the years.

What’s the best money you’ve ever spent as a writer?

Getting multiple professional critiques on my work from journals like Driftwood Press and Fractured Lit. Having editors from those magazines pull apart my stories with the cold, emotionless precision of a surgeon helped improve my writing a huge amount years ago.

Describe your book poorly.

It’s about people who go places and then weird things happen. Or it’s about people who don’t go anywhere and the weird things come to them.

If you could spend the day with another author, who would you choose and why?

Willim Gaddis. If he was still alive today, I think it would be hilarious to just sit around and listen to him rant for hours about all the crazy things going on these days.

What is your favorite way to waste time?

Reading about interesting things on Wikipedia. It’s staggering how many weird, interesting things have their own pages on there. The Depths of Wikipedia Twitter account is a great account that highlights some of the best of these curiosities.

Do you read the reviews of your books or do you stay far far away from them, and why?

I don’t read them. I’m grateful for all the work and time the reviewer puts into reading and writing about my books, but the only thing that matters to me is if I’m satisfied with how the book turned out. And I don’t submit a book to publishers if I’m not satisfied with it.

If you were stuck on a deserted island, what’s the one book you wish you had with you?

A book that could tell me how to survive on a deserted island. 


A gun-toting conspiracy theorist breaks into a famous actor’s house to search for kidnapped children. An impulsive warehouse laborer drops a dangerous quantity of LSD in the middle of a daytime shift in an attempt to build a friendship with his aloof coworker. A lead actress falls in love with her ursine costar while shooting a new movie in Alaska. A guitarist in a local hardcore band finds herself caught up in a wild chase through a strip mall after her most prized possession is stolen in the middle of a show. And a millennial couple encounters naked cult members, a transatlantic highway, the ghost of Robert Oppenheimer, and microscopic people in their teeth, all while trying to navigate the ups and downs of their years-long relationship. 

In this collection of weird, dark, and moving short stories, these characters and others grapple with the strangeness and chaos of living in a world where anything is possible and nothing makes sense.

Saturday, June 1, 2024

What I Read In May

 So May is in the bag and with it went some pretty darn good reading! I clocked in a total of 11 books, which is a fairly good amount for me. The last four of those were read while I was on vacation from work... which, you know, is totally guilt free reading! Some of these were review copies, with a few books I finally bought that were lingering on my to-buy list. Let's check them out shall we?

Where I End by Sophie White

Holy shit ... what did I just read?! That was the most fucked up, horrifying, subtly hostile, mess-with-your-head thing I've read in a long time.

A nineteen year old girl is raised on an island helping her paternal grandmother care for her extremely ill, bedridden mother. She knows her mother no other way. Just a purely nightmarish burden that requires turning, lifting, feeding, toileting, and bathing day after excruciating day. She doesn't even see her mother as a mother. She dehumanizes her, referring to her as the bed thing and It. She resents It. She loathes It. She tires of It. And as she begins to develop feelings for a visitor she meets at the beach one morning, she begins to experiment with acting out against It while simultaneously uncovering a dark secret that's haunted her for as long as she's been alive.

At first, you think you're just reading a coming of age story about a teenaged girl who's starved for friendship, who's been cooped up her whole life and kind of been forced to grow up too fast. But around the 100 page mark, you realize nope, that's not what you're reading. Because it took a turn I didn't anticipate and just kept getting darker and more messed up the further I read.

Where I End made me PHYSICALLY uncomfortable but I loved it. I'd be afraid to recommend it to people... but I loved it. And if you've read it, you'll understand why.

Undead Folk by Katherine Silva

A short and stirring post apocalyptic novelette that is drenched in grief and revenge, and has one of the coolest covers I've seen this year.

Well worth the read and priced so you can't say no.

Eeeee Eee Eeee by Tao Lin

I think you have to be high to read this. I'm all for non-linear, stream of consciousness, experimental fiction but fuuuuck this guy.

I couldn't describe it if I wanted to.

What a let down.

What was the last book you were really excited to read but ended up falling flat for you?

 The Laws of the Skies by Gregoire Courtois

I was in B&N on Friday killing some time before a dinner date with the hubster, as I do, and I was so excited to find this book on the shelf there. It has been on my to-buy list for aaaages. And when @whatwanderingwindyreads told me I should make it my next read, you know I did!

The jacket copy tells you that no one will survive, so you know it's going to be a grim and searing read. But there's just no way to prepare for the level of sheer fucked-upness contained within its pages... You might think you're prepared, but nope. You're not. You're just not.

Keep in mind this is a group of six year olds on a camping trip with their teacher and chaperones. Not kids that are stranded on a remote island with no adult supervision. I had to keep reminding myself of this as the shit really started hitting the fan. They are only SIX years OLD. And it only took two days, not weeks and months, for the horrorshow to reach its crescendo. Two ... days.

Unsurprisingly, I read this in one sitting. I couldn't bear to put it down.

Holy hell. It hurt, didn't it?!

Smothermoss by Alisa Alering

Oh gosh. I requested this review copy because it sounded like something I would enjoy. I'm all for Appalachian fiction and weird fiction, and this promised to be both. But this was... it was something else entirely.

I mean... it was both Appalachian and weird. But it was also a whole lot of wtfery. It's full of strangeness and wonder but almost nothing made sense. So while I enjoyed reading it, I really had no idea what was happening.

There's an invisible rope that cannot be cut, monstrous handmade cards that appear to have minds of their own, a boy who may or may not be a ghost, a killer on the loose, and the stars of the story, Shelia and Angie - two sisters who have a very deep and mysterious connection with the mountain they live on and who are, in incredibly different ways, about to play a very big role in bringing peace back to their land.

It was atmospheric but also incredibly ambitious.

What were some of the weirdest, wtfery books you've read?

The Least of My Scars by Stephen Graham Jones

I had this book sitting unread on my kindle for the longest time and just happened to think about it two nights ago. So I pulled it up yesterday morning and didn't put it down again until I finished it.

In The Least of My Scars, we meet William Colton Hughes, a serial killer who is placed on the strangest kind of house arrest, one where his victims are delivered directly to his front door.

For the last three years, he's lived in a series of interconnected apartments which he has rigged to meet his many needs and he wants for nothing. Until now. William starts getting antsy when the knocks on his door appear to come to a halt. He tries to kill the time by talking to the leftovers of his latest victim Kid Hoodie, dressing up in parts from his wet-dry vac, soaking in the sun from his apartment window, and meandering down memory lane until he figures out how to crack the code on ole Kid Hoodie's cell phone and discovers a woman who seems to have him all figured out.

Taking place almost entirely in his apartment, we are trapped inside the killer's head, which is a claustrophobic and immensely fucked up place to be. It's part crime fiction, part horror, and part bizarro, while also being entirely its own thing. It's also quite graphic so be sure to have a vomit bag handy if you're weak stomached. And hang on to your couch cushions because those final 20 some odd pages will give you whiplash!

Is there anything SGJ can't write?!

Walking Practice by Dolki Min

I eyed this one up at the bookstore when it first came out but didn't want to spend the full hardcover price, so I found it online for cheaper. And thank god I did because it ended up being just ok.

A gender fluid shapeshifting alien, fleeing their dying planet, crash-lands on Earth and uses online dating apps to have mind blowing sex with humans then eats them immediately afterward. While interesting in theory, it just got too wrapped up in the inner monologue stuff, which, ok sure, was necessary as a tool to get to know our narrator better, but man did it become a bit repetitive and tedious. It felt so bogged down. I really wanted to like it but i found it hard to pick back up once I put it down.

Themes of isolation, adaptability, trickery, and survival are threaded throughout. It's quirky, raunchy, and also a little endearing. So I'm not telling you to steer clear of it but if you never read it, you wouldn't be missing much.

The Way Through Doors by Jesse Ball

I do love me some Jesse Ball.

I snagged this one at a used book store recently, but was a little worried going in. While I'm not usually a fan of the story within a story within a story (I still twitch every time I think about House of Leaves), Ball manages to pull it off in a way unlike any I've read before.

Our main character Selah, a municipal inspector and pamphleteer, witnesses a young woman get hit by a taxi and accompanies her to the hospital. When she wake up, she has no memory of who she is or what has happened and Selah pretends to be her boyfriend, bringing her home to his apartment and telling her stories to keep her awake through the night per the doctor's instructions.

The stories he weaves are wildly fantastical and quickly take on a life of their own. His characters begin to meet up with each other, sharing stories of their own, and those story's characters tell their own stories, and on and on. They quickly become deliciously intertwined, oftentimes providing a different view of the same interaction. I really enjoyed how they creatively nestled into one another.

If you enjoy experimental fiction and reading books by writers who take risks with traditional narratives, this one should be on your list!

The Scientist, The Spaceman, and the Stars Between Them by AL Davidson

I stumbled across this book through a re-tweet from the author announcing its release. Whoever says posting to Twitter isn't effective is dead wrong. I am positive I would not have had AL Davidson's book hit my radar otherwise. And I'm really glad it did.

It's a queer space rom-horror that intertwines alien and fungal terror for a ridiculously captivating read. Yes, maybe I'm coining a new sub-genre term. Just go with it, yeah? And hellooo... do you see that cover?

London and Temple have been apart more than they've been together since they started working with the Zeus Project. London's compromised health keeps them locked away in a remote outpost while they perform autopsies on deceased crewmembers who've suffered strange and worrying deaths, while Temple is captain of a team that's been sent to a distant planet to begin terraform procedures. In addition to their health issues, London is also suffering from anxiety, depression, and may be starting to go a little crazy... doors they know they've locked are starting to open on their own, they swear they hear movement and whispers in the lower level of the outpost, and the bodies that are being sent to them, which are without a doubt very dead, also appear to be somewhat alive, even though London knows that can't be possible.

This one is a bit of a slow burn, with a higher focus on the relationship between London and Temple, but once the weirdness starts up, the book gets kicked into high gear. It's an emotional, slightly gory, terror filled journey out amongst the stars....

Starlet by Danger Slater

Hollywood hopeful but make it horror. That's the best way to describe Danger Slater's latest novella Starlet. It's like an Alice in Wonderland version of the #metoo era in which an aging A lister preys on young up and coming talent in LA... but in a way that's totally disgusting and introduces a unique spin on the kind of violence that takes place behind closed mansion doors.

It's been so cool watching Danger grow and develop as a writer. I can tell he's having a lot of fun playing with traditional tropes and making them his own. There's a surprise around every corner and trust me, there's no predicting the places he's about to take you!

If you like your horror gory with a side of comedy, you need to get Starlet on your radar!

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

I know I'm late to the party on this one but I'm here now and that's all that matters.

Ooof. This one was a sneaky little thing, wasn't it? Set on an isolated dystopian island, things have a tendency to disappear. Well, wait, that's not true. The actual things don't disappear. But the islander's memories of the things do. They wake on random mornings, and realize that something else has disappeared. It's often not immediately obvious what that something is. Sometimes they stumble out of their homes, look around at their neighbors, and the sky, and the ground, before they realize that they've forgotten birds, or books, or flowers, or photographs. And then, to keep the Memory Police happy, they must purge their homes and lives of the things that disappeared from their memory. Because to be caught with the disappeared things means you'd be taken away, and interrogated, or worse. Many who are taken are never seen again. And god help you if you are unaffected, if you retain your memories, and are caught by The Memory Police... you are better off hiding and hoping they never discover you...

What a strange and beautiful book. It's less focused on the how and why, and is more tuned in to the ways in which everyone lets the disappeared things go. It's an interesting look at how memories shape us and how quickly we may be willing to let go of, and find comfort in, saying goodbye to the things that have left us, especially when it's also happening to everyone around us.

It's a story about loss, about fear, about the ease of just giving in, and about the unnecessary weight one assumes when attempting to carry the things our minds have already given up on.

Also, after I finished reading it I checked out some reviews on goodreads and saw one reader compare the disappearing to Alzheimer's and hell to the yes! Except it's the reverse. Because they know what they've forgotten and they are resigned to it. It's the people who are left with all of their memories intact that suffer the most here ...

The Night Guest by Hildur Knutsdottir

That was the quickest 200 page book I've ever read! I inhaled it in one sitting, the words literally flying off the page. For a horror novel, it wasn't nearly as dark as I had expected, but that didn't hurt the book in any way. I actually kind of liked the nonchalant approach Knútsdóttir took with it.

Our narrator Idunn is bone tired. She sleeps every night but isn't feeling rested, her arms and legs aching as though she worked out at a gym, which she wouldn't be caught dead doing. She's a bit of a self-diagnoser, and decides to go see a doctor to ensure she's not dying of some highly incurable disease. When everything comes back good, she convinces them to give her some sleeping pills, and in an effort to uphold her promise to be more active, purchases a smart watch to track her steps.

One morning, she realizes she forgot to take the watch off before going to bed and sees she's walked tens of thousands of miles when she thought she'd been sleeping. After continuing to wake with sore muscles and mysterious injuries, sometimes covered in blood that she knows is not hers night after night, her watch shows that she's been walking to the same spot, and she's not sure she wants to discover what it is that's out there...

We only know what Idunn knows, which isn't much. After her recent experiences with the health system, she's no longer in a rush to discover what's happening to her so we're left in the dark for most of the novel. And once the author finally shows her hand, we're still left scratching our heads a little. But I'm ok with that. A little "wait, wtf just happened" is totally good with me! I don't necessarily need books to be wrapped up in a nice little bow at the end. However, if you are a reader who does, beware... because you won't find that here.

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

The Audio Series: The Deceived Ones


Our audio series "The Authors Read. We Listen."  was originally hatched in a NYC club during BEA back in 2012. It's a fun little series, where authors record themselves reading an excerpt from their own novels, in their own voices, the way their stories were meant to be heard.

Judith Krummeck is joining us and reading an excerpt from her novel The Deceived Ones. Judith is a writer, broadcaster, and immigrant. She is the evening drive time host for Baltimore’s classical music station, WBJC, 91.5FM, and her debut novel, The Deceived Ones, a contemporary reimagining of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, is being published this spring. Her biographical memoir, Old New Worlds, intertwining her immigrant story with her great-great grandmother’s, came out in 2019. In 2014, she published the chapbook, Beyond the Baobab, a memoir in essays about her immigration from Africa to America.

Click on the soundcloud link below to hear Judith reading an excerpt from her newest novel. 

Displaced by the Russian invasion, Vira, carrying little but her precious viola da gamba, is a refugee in the Uniting for Ukraine program. When she is physically attacked soon after her arrival in the United States, the terrifying experience prompts her to hide in plain sight by passing as her twin, Sevastyan, until he is able join her. Orson has been commissioned to write an opera for The Twelfth Night Festival, but he is suffering from composer’s block. Not only that, his muse, Isabella, has inexplicably withdrawn from all performing. During a chance meeting, Orson discovers the extraordinary musical talent of Vira, now passing as Sevastyan, and it gives him the jolt of inspiration he needs. Hoping that Isabella will be as intrigued as he is, Orson sends “Sevastyan” as his emissary to persuade Isabella to sing in his opera. In this love-quadrangle seen from multiple points of view—some poignant, some hilarious—the myriad misconceptions that result from Vira’s deception are woven into themes of migration, sexuality, and diversity.

Monday, May 27, 2024

The 40 But 10: Christy Tending


I had decided to retire the literary Would You Rather series, but didn't want to stop interviews on the site all together. Instead, I've pulled together 40ish questions - some bookish, some silly - and have asked authors to limit themselves to answering only 10 of them. That way, it keeps the interviews fresh and connectable for all of us!

Today we are joined by Christy Tending (she/they). Christy is a writer and activist living in Oakland, California. Their work has been published in Longreads, The Rumpus, and Electric Literature, and received a notable mention in Best American Science and Nature Writing 2023. You can learn more about their work at or follow Christy on Twitter @christytending.

Why do you write?

As a memoirist, I like the Joan Didion quotation: I write to find out what I’m thinking. I write primarily to make meaning of the things that have happened to me and to understand and interpret them for myself. I write to make connections between all of the different parts of myself, to invite all of them to the table so that they can speak to each other and learn from each other. And I write to help other people feel less alone.


What’s something that’s true about you but no one believes?

I have been arrested for political protests eight times. I’ve been an activist my whole life pretty much, but these days I look like a regular, suburban soccer mom, so I think it catches some people off guard.


What’s your kryptonite as a writer?

A cat who wants to snuggle. It doesn’t matter how much of a roll I’m on, if a cat starts begging for attention, I’m an absolute goner. Life is too short not to snuggle the cat who has appointed you worthy.


If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

Teleportation. I’m a climate activist who loves to travel, so fossil-fuel emission-free mode of transportation is the actual dream for me. Also, I’m impatient, so the instant gratification would be amazing.


What’s the one book someone else wrote that you wish you had written?

Most recently, it’s The Hero of This Book by Elizabeth McCracken. It does things in a book that, structurally, I didn’t understand were possible or permissible. Not only is the prose beautiful, but it’s a truly inventive book that smashes genre into smithereens and spits in the face of categorization. The author bends time and space right there on the page in a way I’d never seen before. I’m obsessed with it.


You have to choose an animal or cartoon character that best represents you. Which is it and why?

Louise Belcher from Bob’s Burgers! She is tiny and an absolute menace, but she loves so fiercely and she’s so protective of her family in a way that I aspire to. And she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty. I’d like to think I have that kind of grit.


Which literary invention do you wish was real and why?

This might be cheating, since they’re more characters than inventions, but I would love to live in a world where the Ents from the Lord of the Rings series were real. It would be very cool to have talking, walking trees that could carry you around and fight back around as allies.


What’s on your literary bucket list?

So many of the things on my literary bucket list involve connecting with other writers: to have writers I respect and admire read my work, or for our work to exist in conversation, is the dream. I love other writers so much and have so much admiration for the way my favorite writers think about craft that I am always pushing myself to get closer to that level. There are a lot of external markers for success that would be nice, but feel ultimately empty without that camaraderie.


Do you think you’d live long in a zombie apocalypse?

My book is called High Priestess of the Apocalypse, and it imagines, in part, my role at the perceived end of the world. So, I’d like to hope so! I believe strongly in community care and gathering the skills to survive past the world as we currently know it. I’m not sure how I’d do against zombies, but I’d have a solid plan and a great attitude about it.


If you were stuck on a deserted island, what’s the one book you wish you had with you?

The Leaf and the Cloud, by Mary Oliver. It’s one of her less popular books—it’s a book-length poem—but it’s a masterpiece and I’ve read it at least 100 times. It’s my essential text for life, really. It deals with grief, place, nature, memory, family, impermanence—all the juicy stuff.


High Priestess of the Apocalypse is a lyrical exploration of disobedience, grief, and healing (often simultaneously). This memoir reckons with climate grief, the impulse to fight for what we love, and how to turn dread into action. It examines, with intimacy and tenderness, the future of our planet and the humanity that informs the longing for a better world. Part memoir, part direct action primer, part love letter to the new world we’re collectively fighting to create.

Purchase a copy here

Monday, May 20, 2024

The 40 But 10 Interview series: Paul Chitlik


I had decided to retire the literary Would You Rather series, but didn't want to stop interviews on the site all together. Instead, I've pulled together 40ish questions - some bookish, some silly - and have asked authors to limit themselves to answering only 10 of them. That way, it keeps the interviews fresh and connectable for all of us!

Today we are joined by Paul Chitlik. Paul has written for all the major networks and studios in English and in Spanish.  He was story editor for MGM/UA'S "The New Twilight Zone," and staff writer for Showtime's sitcom "Brothers."  He has written features for Rysher Entertainment, NuImage, Promark, Mainline Releasing, and others.  He has directed episodes and been coordinating producer for “Real Stories of the Highway Patrol” and “U.S. Customs Classified.”  He wrote and produced “Alien Abduction,” the first network movie shot on digital video for UPN.  He wrote, produced, and directed “Ringling Brothers Revealed” a special for The Travel Channel.  (He had been a roustabout for Circus Vargas years earlier.)  Most recently he wrote, produced and directed “The Wedding Dress,” for Amazon Prime.  He received a Writers Guild of America award nomination for his work on "The Twilight Zone" and a GLAAD Media Award nomination for "Los Beltrán,” a Telemundo show.  He won a Genesis Award for a Showtime Family movie.

He has taught in the MFA programs of UCLA, the University of Barcelona’s film school ESCAC, Cuba’s film school EICTV, Chile’s film school UNIACC, The University of Zulia in Venezuela, The Panamerican University in Mexico City, The Story Academy of Sweden and as a clinical associate professor at Loyola Marymount University.  Now writing full time again and living near his grandson in Chapel Hill, NC, with wife, Beth McCauley. 

Why do you write?

For me there are only three reasons to write:  to entertain, to make a reader feel an emotion, and to change the world one reader at a time.  I think every writer wants to change the world.  That’s why we create worlds, so we can have it our way.  But in a larger sense, I want to contribute to a better world, and writing is one way to do that. 


What do you do when you’re not writing?

These days I spend a lot of time with my grandson.  I love discovering the world anew as he learns about it.


What’s something that’s true about you but no one believes? 

I’m a crack shot with a rifle.  As a twelve-year-old, I was in the Junior NRA.  With a .22 rifle, I reached Sharpshooter level, the highest category at the time.  But I’ve never owned a gun and don’t intend to.


What’s the best money you’ve ever spent as a writer?

Travel.  And more travel.  It opens your eyes to other ways of living.  And eating. 


Describe your book in three words.

Search for self.


Would you and your main character get along?

Once he figured out who he wanted to be as opposed to who he was, yes.


If you could spend one day with another author, who would you choose and why?

Carl Hiaasen.  He’s got such a great imagination and sense of humor.  We’d talk and laugh all day, sharing and making up stories.


What is your favorite book from childhood?

The Story of Dr. Dolittle by Hugh Lofting.  I spent many hours in the public library reading all of his books.


What are you currently reading?

The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese.  Just finished Doña Perfecta, by Benito Perez Galdós.  Both portray village life in their stories – one in India, the other in Spain - in ways that make you feel you live there for a bit.


If you could go back and rewrite one of your books or stories, which would it be and why?

I’d go back and rewrite “With the Greatest of Ease,” which I wrote when I was first starting out.  It’s never gotten out of my desk drawer and for good reason.  I really didn’t know what I was doing then.  What I got right, though, was the circus because I was fascinated enough at the time to work in one for a short while.  Now I know story better.  And people better.



There I stood, all five eight of me, poolside at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, soaking wet in my retro bathing suit, holding a dry pair of tickets to the Emmys that night, in front of a gorgeous woman, and I didn’t know who I was, where I was, or why I was. Or, just as importantly, who she was and what she was to me. Over the course of the next few days I discovered I was a thirty-something Emmy winning writer-actor showrunning a popular sitcom, but I had to learn about that one detail at a time until my memory came back. Then I realized I could be anyone I wanted to be, but I had to decide who that was and what that would mean for my girlfriend, my wife, my kids, my father, my brother, my cast, my agent, my PR maven, my assistant, and a 135 other people who depended on me for their livelihoods or their lives.I had the opportunity to change my life completely, and I did, eventually doing something real for other people while my gay sitcom character came out as straight and flipped the script on my show and my life.

Buy a copy here.