Monday, March 27, 2023

The 40 But 10 Interview Series: Roger Vaillancourt


I had retired the literary Would You Rather interview 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 Roger Vaillancourt. Robert is a professional explicator and maker of soothing sounds. His work has been published in Passengers Journal, The Mississippi Review, The Blue Moon Review, Paragraph Magazine, and CrossConnect. He lives in the Boston area.


What made you start writing?

I’ve executed an interesting looping path to this place.

I have always enjoyed writing, it was the thing in school that came most easily to me, so the positive feedback loop started early, in middle school. As I got older, I got more entranced with film. I actually studied film in college and then went to a trade school for broadcasting, and ended up working in television for almost half a decade. During that time, my creative thought swam mainly in the context of film and my outlines and drafts were, to one extent or another, focused on being the basis for films I was imagining. As I got further along working in the industry, I realized that actually making films was much more about the business side - about securing financing and managing the budget of the production and navigating the gap between the pure vision and what a film needs to be to meet the needs of the financiers and the market. None of that really interested me.

At some point it dawned upon me that I could exercise all the creativity and independence I wanted if I just focused on writing to produce…the written word. Once it’s written, it fully exists, versus with a film, where once it’s written, you are only in the earliest stages of bringing it into existence. The freedom I felt when I first recognized that was revelatory. “Fuck all that noise, just write it. The distance between here and a completed book is all inside me, I can traverse it alone.” I still revel in that freedom when I sit down to work on a draft.


What’s the most useless skill you possess?

The ability to very, very efficiently edit local TV station promos using a Sony BE-800 A/B roll editor and ¾” U-matic tape. I did it professionally for about four years a very long time ago, but the muscle memory is burned in. I have since seen a video of me from back then doing the work, and past me impresses current me. It’s a sight, and while there are a lot of things I’m good at today, there is nothing with quite the same quality of hard-wired dance that my editing job engendered.


What’s your kryptonite as a writer?

Outlining. I’m a hardcore pantser. I understand the practice and the value outlining has for many writers, but for me it has never worked. When I have tried it, I end up feeling like I’m filling out an invoice for the section that was requested by the dull grocery clerk I was when I wrote it. And I can’t stick to the outline anyway, if I’m true to the flow it always moves in a direction that seems more correct for the story than I had access to when I was outlining it. I suppose it might be like that Eisenhower quote, “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything,” which I always took to mean that thinking through the whole thing ahead of time was the important part. That I get, but when I start writing it as an outline, when I actually commit it to the page as a set of multi-level bullets, it somehow immediately gets insipid. My statement of method has always been that I find my plot in the pockets of my pantsing. 


What is your favorite way to waste time?

Oh lord, Twitter. Though I do feel like that particular site is over the peak and is going to die the slow death of all the prior social media websites before it, as everyone is predicting. It has been a great place to find people who are funny and thoughtful, but only if you can carefully avoid the trolls and the shitposters and the painfully earnest. It’s just like Reddit in that way. But if the algorithms shift too much, it’ll wreck that careful curation and make it unpleasant to visit and then I just won’t use it anymore. I’m now on Mastodon, which is kind of fun once you get a critical mass of about 300 people to follow. I’m also rediscovering tumblr which is apparently where all the apolitical art kids and goofballs have been the whole time.


What are some of your favorite books and/or authors?

My current favorite author is Olga Tokarczuk, whose “Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead” was a revelation to me, and I just finished “Flights” which performs much the same magic as some other favorite works: Adler’s “Speedboat” and Sebald’s “The Rings of Saturn” and Hardwick’s “Sleepless Nights;” that magic of dancing on the line between fiction and observational essay in a way that makes the label unimportant, inconsequential, pedantic. I love that place in fiction.

Another favorite author is Don Delillo, who I go through phases of reading and not reading, but every time I tuck into something of his, I’m glad I did.

To me, one of the most skilled masters was Beckett. It took me some time to understand. When I first read him I didn’t think there was anything there, it was like a great joke. Then I began to see how the stuff that wasn’t there was the point, and that the great parsimony was key. And the humor is always present and of the deepest kind, the humor of a thin buoy that holds us just above the depthless horror of it all, allows us to, just barely, not drown in it. True and hard and absurd stuff. I greatly enjoyed “The Banshees of Inisherin” recently, and that film’s two characters and their absurd, existential palaver owes greatly to Beckett. My most succinct review of that film is “Beckett, but make it gorgeous.”   


What is your favorite book from childhood?

Okay, so I have two I’m going to go with here. One from early childhood and one from when I was a teenager.

The childhood favorite from my earliest reading was always the Frog and Toad books, probably the compilation “Frog and Toad are Friends.” I still love those books, and for so many reasons. I love their simplicity of storytelling which still manages to allude to so much humanity between the words that is actually there in the book - the urgent implicitness of the psychological worlds each of them inhabits. They are rich characters, yet the book is simple to read, I mean it’s a staple for early readers. As an adult, I love that the relationship between frog and toad is unlabeled and that this is ultimately another way depth is present. Some readers feel its obvious that they are a gay couple and others feel they are just friends, and it absolutely works either way, and that is what makes it great, it gives the reader room to invest in the work. Not least of all, I love the realism of their interactions. They care for one another, but they also get frustrated and are sometimes short with one another, and all of those things are shown to be passing weather over the landscape of their abiding bond. It’s sweet. They’re always there for each other.

The teenage one is a weird one, but one of my favorite book memories from when I was probably 14 or 15 was buying a copy of Burroughs’ “Cities of the Red Night” from a bookstore in Provincetown, and just being flabbergasted by it. It was so outrageous and insane and obscene and grotty and yet, dear god, books could be this as well? My parents were of the philosophy “a child should be allowed to read anything they want, and if they can’t get their head around it they won’t be hurt by it, and if they can get their head around it, then they’re old enough for it.” I’m not sure I totally agree that such is the case, but it’s vastly preferable to the current climate of “we must police everything our children consume to ensure they are not exposed to things we wish did not exist in the world and are emotionally unprepared to talk to them about.”


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

My first novel, the one in the drawer (actually not in a drawer, I did an amazon print-on-demand draft, which actually sits on a shelf behind my desk) which I wrote mainly to complete the exercise of writing a novel, is something I often think of going back to and rewriting. It has some great ideas in it, and a thread of plot that I’d really like to do justice to, it just requires me to slog through the parts of it that are hot garbage. The hot garbage is there because        e I sacrificed quality for momentum, which was a key part of getting something of that length actually finished. There are sections that are just awful. If I just take those out, or rewrite them to give them a bit of music, maybe...

But given the other things out in front of me and already started, I’m not sure if I will go back. It’s a little comforting to think that I can or might, the option gives me pleasure to consider.


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

I’ve always been fond of Edward Gorey books and illustrations, and I feel a kinship with the Doubtful Guest in his high-top Cons, peering up flues, getting alone time in tureens and dropping objects of which I am fond into the pond for their protection. That story is a realistic representation of my behavior at parties where I don’t know anybody.


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

I’m a firm believer in Cory Doctorow’s “covered dish v shotgun” theory of crisis response. Basically, when the shit goes down, do you go over to your neighbor’s house with a covered dish or with a shotgun? Everybody is naturally inclined to either one or the other, and if you get enough covered dish people together, you’ve got a decent collective chance. If everybody chooses shotgun, you end up with one person alone with their shotgun.

I think the whole premise of a zombie apocalypse is the dream of shotgun people. I think beneath it lay a desire to be able to destroy people without concern for them being people. I don’t think that’s how the apocalypse will arrive. I think it will arrive as flooding or overwhelming storms or food scarcity, and in any of those, I’d rather have a neighbor with a covered dish than a shotgun of my own.

But back to your question, how would I fare? I don’t know, okay I guess. I have some carpentry and metalworking skills, I can build fire without a match, I’m not a picky eater. I’m a good team player, and I’d be inclined to work with like-minded people to share tasks that can’t be done alone, but I’d probably still die very young like the rest of the group not because of armed marauders but from a virus or fungal infection that tears through us like tissue paper.


What is under your bed?

Boxes of out-of-season clothes, and lots of dust bunnies, which our smallest cat, little Elise, loves to roll in. One of her morning rituals is to stride confidently into the bedroom while we are still in bed, disappear under the bed, and then make an unmistakable “CLONK” as she throws her little hips down on the floor and rolls about in the dust. I do not know what obscure need this fulfills for her, but god bless her at extracting such regular joy from a dark, dusty nowhere. Would that we could all accomplish such things.


Neil died too soon-too soon for his son Calvert to even develop memories of him. To spare her son, not the pain of losing his father but the pain of never knowing him at all, Marissa hires an actor to play the role of husband and father. He's not a replacement, just a placeholder, a way to let Calvert make his memories.

Her plan works great until it doesn't.


Buy the book here:

Thursday, March 23, 2023

The 40 But 10 Interview series: Elizabeth B. Splaine


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 Elizabeth B. Splaine. Elizabeth wrote the Dr. Julian Stryker series of “Blind” thrillers (Blind Order and Blind Knowledge), as well as Devil’s Grace, the winner of the When Words Count writing competition, released through Greenwriters Press. Her most recent book, Swan Song, an historical fiction novel, was released in October 2021 through Woodhall Press. Prior to writing, Elizabeth earned an AB in Psychology from Duke University and an MHA from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She spent eleven years working in health care before switching careers to become a professional opera singer and voice teacher. When not writing, Elizabeth teaches classical voice in Rhode Island where she lives with her husband, sons, and dogs.


Do you have any hidden talents?



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



Describe your book in three words.



If you could cast your characters in a movie, which actors would play them and why?



What are you currently reading?



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



Are you a toilet paper over or under kind of person?



What is under your bed?



What’s the one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?



Are you a book hoarder or a book unhauler?




Deadly secrets & destructive, unintended consequences are unearthed in this coming-of-(s)age story of an unlikely friendship between a teenage girl and a former WWII spy.

 Some truths are best left unspoken.

 Ebony Dobbs has problems: unruly hair, not fitting in with the popular kids, figuring out how to pay for college…and a secret she’s buried so deeply even she doesn’t know the truth. But she also has a kick-butt best friend in Connor Leibovitz, a computer genius expelled from an elite private school for hacking.

Ebony reluctantly accompanies her mother on a home health visit, meeting Madame Celeste DeWit, a 97-year-old with a closet full of skeletons from WWII. As Ebony learns the truth about Madame’s wartime exploits, she comes to terms with her own past, realizing she and Madame share more than they differ.

When Connor uncovers information that implicates Madame’s estate manager in a plot to steal the old woman’s fortune, the teenagers launch a campaign to protect her, even as Madame’s past barrels into the present, threatening to destroy everything in its path.

 Inspired by real people and places, Steel Butterflies will have you marveling at the beautiful simplicity of true friendship, as well as the courage of women who come face-to-face with determining their future.


Buy a copy here:

Monday, March 20, 2023

The 40 But 10 Interview Series: Alex Carrigan


I had retired the literary Would You Rather interview 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're joined by Alex Carrigan. Alex (he/him) is a Pushcart-nominated editor, poet, and critic from Virginia. His debut poetry chapbook, May All Our Pain Be Champagne: A Collection of Real Housewives Twitter Poetry (Alien Buddha Press, 2022), was longlisted for Perennial Press' 2022 Chapbook Awards. He has had fiction, poetry, and literary reviews published in Quail Bell MagazineLambda Literary ReviewBarrelhouseSage Cigarettes (Best of the Net Nominee, 2023), Stories About Penises (Guts Publishing, 2019), and more. For more information, visit or follow him on Twitter @carriganak.


What made you start writing?

 I’ve always been interested in creative works since I was a kid. I was the imaginative one who was off on his own assigning characteristics to inanimate objects or watching the same movies and TV shows over and over again. So it was natural for me to want to learn about different kinds of stories and characters and work on them.


What really got me into writing in particular was joining literary groups in college. That exposure to other writers and their work made me think about what kind of writer I wanted to be and how I could stand next to them. What kind of writing I’ve done has gradually evolved over the years, and at the moment I’m working as a poet who focuses on influences from other works and filtering that through my own perspective.


Describe your book in three words.

 If I had to describe May All Our Pain Be Champagne: A Collection of Real Housewives Twitter Poetry in three words, they’d be “insane online honesty.”

What are some of your favorite websites or social media platforms?

 I was actually pretty passive and adverse to social media and really only got onto it because my college journalism classes made me. I’d say the one I use the most is Twitter because I’ve really been able to make connections there and find a lot of calls for submissions in the process. It’s also good for working on brevity and wit, and I think that has helped me become a much snappier writer in the process.


What is your favorite way to waste time?

 I’ve really come to enjoy finding foreign media to watch. I usually find a few anime series each season to watch, but I’ve also lately been watching a lot of foreign reality competition series. It turns out the Netherlands and South Korea are making some of the best ones with shows like Wie is de mol? and The Genius. I also recently binged a UK series called The Traitors which was a wild ride of dramatic irony and has made me obsessed with Claudia Winkelman, so it’s one I have to recommend.


What are you currently reading?

Most of my reading is done in the service of writing reviews, but for the most part, I’m trying to read a lot of works that are from perspectives and backgrounds far different than my own. I’m reading a lot of work by female authors and BIPOC authors because I want to give their work attention. As a bisexual author, I’m also making sure to read a lot of LGBTQIAP+ literature. Most of what I’ve been reading lately has been poetry, but there’s a few short story collections I’ve had in my sphere, so I’m looking into those as well.

 What genres won’t you read?

A few years ago, I got a review query for a splatterpunk book. Having never heard of it before then, I looked up what the genre entailed and thought it sounded interesting. I figured that I’ve seen enough excessively violent and sexual media before, and that I could alter my review expectations to review the book for how it could fit into the genre.


That was a complete mistake. That book ended up being the worst book I’ve ever read and I hated every moment reading it. It wasn’t even that it was excessively violent and sexual, it was that it was that and somehow managed to be so bleak and dark that it became completely boring in the process. It didn’t help that I found the entire cast of characters to be horribly unlikeable and even their deaths didn’t make me feel better. I was expecting a campy, grindhouse spectacle, and instead I got awful people doing gross and unpleasant things and for absolutely no pathos.


It also didn’t help that I realized I couldn’t fully write a negative review. I tried writing a review about how bad this book was as a splatterpunk work, and it felt like the whole time some voice was laughing at me for potentially missing the point and that my feelings towards it were the wrong way to feel, which feels antithetical to reviewing to begin with if I have to accept things as they are and can’t criticize them for failing to meet those expectations. I was miserable after I finished the review and buried it on some site I no longer visit. It forced me to admit that splatterpunk is not my thing, but at the very least I’ve come to accept limits as a reviewer. Now, if I find a book where I can’t find anything to recommend, I simply won’t do the review. I haven’t had this happen yet (which is a sign of the quality of the work I’ve gotten since then), but it’s helped me learn that I have limits as a reviewer and reader.


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

 I’ve so far only have had one full review of my work, and I desperately want more. I was terrified to read it, but as a reviewer, I figured I needed to be prepared for whatever came. I do encourage more reviews of my work, as I’ve also gotten very few on Amazon and Goodreads, but I’m also curious why people may not like my work and want to see what it could be. I’m open for a discussion, and I’m curious what people could bring forward to me about my book.


If you were on death row, what would your last meal be?

 Chicken alfredo, garlic bread, Caesar salad, apple crisp with vanilla ice cream, and a pitcher of sweet tea.


What songs would be on the soundtrack of your life?

 I’m a huge sucker for pop music and its various subgenres, so I’d really love a fun mix of pop music. My favorite band is Florence + The Machine and I’ve seen them twice in concert, so they’d have to be on there. I’d also love to see some Nina Simone, Janelle Monae, Ellie Goulding, Carly Rae Jepsen, Marina, CHVRCHES, Kate Bush, Yoasobi, and some surprises.

What’s the one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?

The people who will matter will be the people who will try to stay in your life for the better. The people who mock you and make your life miserable will disappear into the ether someday and you will never have to think about them again. Those who matter will stay by you and make sure you’re okay, and you can always find more people who will support and love you, and they will show that in ways you may never expect.


"May All Our Pain Be Champagne: A Collection of Real Housewives Twitter Poetry is the debut poetry chapbook of Alex Carrigan. Carefully curated from hundreds of tweets from 16 current and former members of the Real Housewives television franchise, this collection turns the social media ramblings of figures like Bethenny Frankel, Brandi Glanville, Erika Girardi, Jen Shah, and more."

Buy the book here:

Thursday, March 16, 2023

The 40 But 10 Interview Series: Caleb Tankersley


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!

Joining us today is Caleb Tankersley. Caleb is the author of the story collection Sin Eaters—winner of the Permafrost Book Prize—and Jesus Works the Night Shift. His writing can be found in Carve, The Cimarron Review, Puerto del Sol, Sycamore Review, and other magazines. He is a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of St. Thomas and serves as Managing Director for Split/Lip Press.

What’s the most useless skill you possess?

I’m a dynamite whistler. I can whistle any song, which is useful for about three seconds until my partner gets annoyed and tells me to stop.



What is your favorite book from childhood?

My first literary love was Jean Craighead George. She wrote dozens of environmentally focused children’s books, My Side of the Mountain and Julie of the Wolves being some of her most famous. But I was more into the obscure books: The Missing ‘Gator of Gumbo Limbo, Who Killed Cock Robin, There’s an Owl in the Shower, and my favorite, Water Sky. I read that book over and over, and its complexity (discussing a whale research team in northern Alaska who gets caught up in a native Inuit tribe’s whale hunting ritual) expanded my young mind. I owe my literary life to many writers, but chief among them is Jean Craighead George.



What made you start writing?

In fifth grade my teacher—Mrs. Sachse—made us write short stories with different themes. I remember having to write a “cowboy” story, which meant I had a list of words to include: “pemmican”, “alfalfa”, “ranch”, and the like. Mrs. Sachse chose what she deemed the best stories and gave them a dramatic reading in front of the class. Watching my classmates react to this silly little cowboy story I wrote (A sheriff stops a rouge rancher who has encroached on a nature reserve) had a profound effect on me that lasts to this day.



What do you do when you’re not writing?

I hate to pick apart the question, but I think it’s difficult to discern when a writer is “not writing.” Of course, I’m more often than not away from my laptop, not typing. But I don’t think that’s the same as not writing.

I take a lot of long walks and listen to podcasts or music. Most of the time, on those walks, I’m writing. I’m working out scenes and lines that have been on the back burner of my brain for a while. I’ll then jot the results down in the Notes app of my phone to save them for my typing time. It’s amazing how much of my novel-to-be has been written on the Notes app, all from thoughts while walking. No matter what my body is doing, I am very often in the process of writing.



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

There are many, but at the top of the list would be Tunneling to the Center of the Earth by Kevin Wilson. Also, Bear Down, Bear North by Melinda Moustakis. Or Get in Trouble by Kelly Link. Or Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James. There are many books I read and think “I could never write this but it’s one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever read and I really wish against all odds that I’d written it.” I recently read Ai Weiwei’s memoir 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows and had the same feeling. It’s a pretty consistent response to good books.



What’s on your literary bucket list?

I want to be constantly leaping among forms and genres. I’ve published a story collection, and I would like to keep working on stories. But I also want to write a literary novel, a poetry collection, a sci fi trilogy, a movie, an essay collection, a graphic novel, a TV series, and about twelve other genres of writing I enjoy. I’ve worked on all these in some capacity, and in my ideal world they’ll all see themselves in print/on screens someday.



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

I have read a number of reviews of the book. I enjoyed them, even when the reviews pointed out aspects of the book the reviewer didn’t particularly admire. Maybe this will wear off at some point, but at the moment I’m intensely gratified by the idea that anyone anywhere is interested in my writing. The fact that any reader engages with my work to the depth of writing a review is still a marvel.



What songs would be on the soundtrack of your life?

“We Own the Sky” by M83

“Famous Last Words” by My Chemical Romance

“Ode to My Next Life” by Kishi Bashi

“Miss Sarajevo” by U2

“I Feel You” by Noso


What’s the one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?

That I’ll survive major career failures. I remember feeling so much anxiety about my writing, career, and future in general. I felt like I needed to succeed as a writer in order to be provide a stable life for myself. That kind of pressure, ironically, stifled my writing. At one point, I found myself completely without a job. This thing I had been fearing finally happened to me, and to my great astonishment, I survived. Life moved on. I kept working, and eventually things started to happen for me. I’d tell my younger self to relax and keep working.


Are you a toilet paper over or under kind of person?

Over, of course. I’m not a monster.



Magical, heartfelt, and surprisingly funny, Sin Eaters paints a tumultuous picture of religion and repression while hinting at the love and connection that come with healing. The powerful stories in Caleb Tankersley’s debut collection illuminate the shadowy edges of the American Midwest, featuring aspects of religion, sex and desire, monsters and magic, and humor.

Tankersley’s characters—including swamp creatures looking for love, pothead pastors, ghosts obsessed with TV, and a Jesus made of rust—arrive at the crossroads of pleasure and hunger in a world that is equal parts playful, hopeful, and dark. In “Never Been More in Love” a man must come to terms with his wife’s degenerative illness. “Uncle Bob” explores suicide attempts as a family heirloom. And the titular story follows a woman who must accept her monstrous role to find redemption for herself and her small town.

Sin Eaters is a fight for authenticity in a world that is mysterious, muggy, and punctured by violence. This stunning collection full of complex themes will both challenge and delight.

buy a copy

Tuesday, March 14, 2023



Disclaimer: The Page 69 Test is not mine. It has been around since 2007, asking authors to compare page 69 against the meat of the actual story it is a part of. I loved the whole idea of it and so I'm stealing it specifically to showcase small press titles - novels, novellas, short story collections, the works! So until the founder of The Page 69 Test calls a cease and desist, let's do this thing....

In this installment of Page 69, 

we put Aug Stone's The Ballad Of Buttery Cake Ass to the test

OK, Aug, set up page 69 for us.


Completely out of the blue, founding member and bit of a dictator Hans Floral Nightingale has quit the band, leaving the rest of them in a state of confusion and disarray. Rumors abound as to what has happened to him – he’s become a florist, triangle-obsessed carpenter, or a stone wall impersonator ‘inside unsuspecting pet stores’, the stories growing wilder as gossip in the music biz tends to do. Also floating around is the idea he’s heard tale of a mythical Ramones free jazz album that serves as a blueprint for the sound he wants to explore, encouraging his Buttery Cake Ass cohorts to do the same. The band are still trying to find their own sound, despite numerous technical difficulties, but here their sonic experiments begin to find focus. Followed by another wild rumor about what has become of Hans Floral Nightingale.


What The Ballad Of Buttery Cake Ass is about:


Two music obsessives embark on a hilarious quest to track down Buttery Cake Ass’ Live In Hungaria, an album as legendary as it is obscure. Their pursuit of one of the greatest bands ever unknown takes them down many a bizarre path teeming with grand ideas and grander egos in this ode to record shopping and what it’s like to be in your first band. Packed with puns, allusions, and references across a wide range of culture, both popular and not, the book offers up a big slice of the fun and frustration of playing rock n roll.


When we were 15, my best friend and I used to make up fake bands to ask for at record stores, and the day I heard him ask the clerk at Cutler’s in New Haven, CT if they had anything by Buttery Cake Ass was a moment of euphoric glee that I will never forget. Writing The Ballad Of Buttery Cake Ass was an attempt to capture the sheer joy and inventiveness of comedy back then, circa 1992, before irony seemed to set in everywhere a few short years later and the goal switched to making people groan instead of eliciting genuine full-on ecstatic laughter. In the process, I got to re-examine my own obsessive record collecting through a new lens as well as revisit the ridiculous aspects of playing in my first few bands, bringing me to a greater appreciation and love for both.  



Do you think this page gives our readers an accurate sense of what the book is about?


Amazingly, there are reverberations of other crucial plot points on page 69, ones that I don’t want to spoil. The page does show the band in the midst of transition to what they will later become. Style-wise, I do think it gives readers an accurate sense of the work. The second paragraph kicks off one of the book’s many digressions, which are part and parcel of discussing music, especially with a fanatic. You start talking about one album, and five minutes later you’ve jumped through about 20 others, a handful of singles, and soon you might find yourself debating the finer points of the records that feature Stooks McDougal on ‘jazz bagpipes’ (Like most of the book, this is a complete fabrication. Not only do I know of no ‘Stooks McDougal’, records featuring anyone credited with ‘jazz bagpipes’ must be in the single digits.)


People wouldn’t believe how much of my real life went into the writing of a book called The Ballad Of Buttery Cake Ass. A note on the whole aquarium bit, and feel free to cut this if it’s too much, but I did a tour of Sweden in 2003 with my ‘rock stone’ project. It was so much fun, one of the best weeks of my life. But there was something going on amongst the students of Gothenburg that, luckily, I was warned about before I got there. A game called ‘ta på penis’, which translates as ‘to tap the penis’. A sort of handshake between male members of the community. It was very strange at first to just have people grab your junk like that and give it a quick shake. Even stranger that I got used to it after a couple days. Anyway, when I asked whoever came up with such a thing, I was told that the man who invented it had since ‘disappeared from society and would spend days on end at home watching his giant aquarium’. I always loved this phrase and was glad to have the chance to use the idea in the book.









Before he vanishes, Hans Floral Nightingale shares this vital information with Hans Floral Anderson, and the beginnings of a new direction for Buttery Cake Ass take root. HFN expressing to HFA that he wishes for them to carry it on, what they’d started together... Of course with their wide musical sensibilities, even when it does come close to sounding like free jazz, Hans Floral Anderson can be heard shouting interjections of ‘second verse, same as the first’. Despite there being no discernable framework to the tune. With the oblique smile on Hans Floral Anderson’s face, one can never tell if this is a joke on his part or just supreme pleasure in the music they are making, seeing designs no one else does. Word still circulates that if you had witnessed the band rehearsing around this time, it would’ve been the most mindblowing sonic attack you’d ever hope to encounter, but that the one time they tried to record this on a boombox in the garage, the tape came out completely blank. So in an effort to appease the spirits of audio technology, they revert to writing more structured, well, what might be thought of as ‘songs’.


What is Hans Floral Nightingale doin’ now? The question persists. Perhaps it seems obvious, in hindsight at least, that with -hyde and Hydro, Hans Floral Nightingale would go into hiding. Some say that he just sits in a room all day, living solely within its four walls, one of which is a giant aquarium. No one knows if there’s anything in it, not even water. Which gets us into the debate - can it be considered an aquarium if there’s no water, no aqua, in it? Beware Counterfeit Aquariums, ya know. I mean, fools, prophets, and philosophers have


AUG STONE is a writer, musician, & comedian. Author of the comedy novels The Ballad Of Buttery Cake Ass and Off-License To Kill, as well as the memoir Nick Cave’s Bar, his journalism has appeared in The Quietus, The Comics Journal, Under The Radar, and many more sites and magazines. Aug was a founding member of H Bird and The Soft Close-Ups, and has played in countless other bands. He performs comedy as absurdist stream-of-consciousness raconteur, Young Southpaw