I heard Scott McClanahan speak as part of a panel on “New” Nonfiction at AWP this year, and I was immediately taken with him, partially because he has the Appalachian accent I adore but also because he was not interested in cow-towing or conforming to the “rules” of the writing establishment. I think you’ll see that in his interview below.  So today, Scott McClanahan . . .

1. Tell me about your latest project. Scott McClanahan

I’m working on a book called The Sarah Book.  I want it to be like the longest love letter ever written and with a little bit of Nerval or Lautreamont thrown in for good measure.  It also has crossword puzzles in it so it should appeal to all of the Tournament of Books followers.

I think I’m going to use the phrase “thrown in for good measure” in as many answers as I can.

It’s about my ex wife.

2. What role, if any, did books, writing, and reading play in your childhood?

I think I’m going to skip that question.  I’ve been sitting here for five minutes, and I can’t come up with anything.

3. What is your writing practice, your writing routine?

I don’t have a routine.  If I feel like sleeping in–then I sleep in.  If more writers slept in, then we would have fewer problems.  People need to sleep more and work less.  I’m serious about that.

4. Who are you reading now?

I’m reading the Collected Poetry of Bill Knott.  Kyle Minor turned me on to him years ago with some articles on HTML GIANT. The poems are full of piss and life.  His afterword goes like this:

Wealthy poets like Louise Gluck and C.K. Williams and Russell Edson can hire professional proofreaders and copy editors to help prepare their books, and poet professors like Linda Bierds and Dave Smith and others have student assistants to aid with the readying of their mss.

But I have no resources, I have to do it all on my own.  So please forgive me if you see any errata I couldn’t catch, or duplicated texts or spacing glitches etc.

 I threw that afterword in for good measure.

5. What are three of your all-time favorite books? Why do you love those?

Lawrence Grobel’s Conversations with Capote, Anarchy and Alchemy: The Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Edmund White’s biography of Genet, etc. etc. etc.

I think trying to explain why you love something would be like describing the Grand Canyon to someone who has never been there.  I guess you have to see it before you can know.  I love them because I love them, but I love a ton of other books as well.

6. How do you balance “building a writing platform” and the actual writing to set on that platform?

I think they’re one of the same.  Brassai wrote a book about Henry Miller, and Miller said the real triumph was staying alive or finding an avenue so that the writing can be read by the right readers.  A bunch of readers are usually worthless.  The trick is finding the right readers.

7.What is a typical day like for you?

Crying, anxiety, joy, bathroom breaks, and texting Juliet Escoria.

8. Describe your dream writing space?

Space is for aliens. I can write anywhere.  I don’t need a space.  The ground was made so you could sit on it.  It’s totally free to sit down.  It’s so wonderful to know you can take a walk, and it doesn’t cost a thing.

9. What is the hardest writing critique you ever received? How did you respond?

I’m against this whole thick skin notion. We have a whole generation of MFA trained writers who have a thick skin, and it just seems lousy to me.  I think we need more thin skins.  Writing that means so much to the writer they would vaporize if the writing didn’t produce an explosion or a pregnancy in the reader.  I just kind of lucked into this gig so I don’t really have a critique story.

I always feel like you have to protect the things you make.  If people know you made something from inside of you–then they will immediately want to kill it.  Sometimes people need to hide their lights under a bushel before letting them shine.

10. What is the best wisdom you have to share with other writers?
Do what thou wilt.  Oh wait that’s the best advice to share with Satanists.  Actually writers and Satanists are pretty much the same thing.

Scott McClanahan is an American writer and filmmaker. He lives in Beckley, West Virginia and is the author of six books: Stories, Stories II, Stories V!, The Collected Works of Scott McClanahan Vol. 1, Crapalachia, and Hill William. You can read more about Scott and his work at his website, follow him on Twitter, or follow him on Facebook.