Monday, November 2, 2009

Interview with Shya Scanlon

My guest today is the talented writer Shya Scanlon who is the author of the serialized novel Forecast 42, which will be released by Flatmancrooked in Spring 2010. His poetry collection In This Alone Impulse will be published by Noemi Press next month.

JG) Tell us about Forecast 42?

SS) The Forecast 42 Project is a serialization of my novel Forecast across 42 online literary journals and literary blogs.

JG) I think it’s fascinating that you are doing a serialized Novel it makes me think of Dickens. It’s huge. What drove you to do Forecast 42?

SS) Yes, Dickens. Actually, I just published an article about the history and future of serialization at The Faster Times. But I didn’t know much about it when I began the project. It came about largely because I was fed up with following the usual publication path. The book is difficult and strange, and many of the people who would not balk at those elements of it are involved in the alternative and independent press scene. It seemed to make sense to look for my audience there—but an audience is a difficult thing to build, so I went to where the readers are.

JG) How many different journals have your chapters appeared in? Would you like share some of their names?

SS) I’ve been very fortunate to find the support of a very engaged community of editors and bloggers. I couldn’t have asked for more. There is a full list of the 42 web sites involved on the Forecast 42 Project page at my blog:

JG) Your website is pretty cool. It’s a cross between bold minimalism and chic modernism. Did you design it yourself?

SS) For that I have my friend Matty Harper to thank. He’s designed my site, as well as the Forecast cover, and the cover for my forthcoming book of poetry.

JG) What’s Nervous Breakdown? I believe you’ve been a contributor there for a while.

SS) The Nervous Breakdown is a web site run by author Brad Listi devoted to nonfiction and memoir by a ton of great writers (over 200), both emerging and established. I’ve been contributing for a few months, yes. My literary agent sold Brad’s first book, and she introduced us. But this is the exciting part: on November 15th, the site is launching a 3.0 version, which will include fiction, poetry, arts & culture, and all sorts of other great content. It’s going to be massive. And I’ll be co-editing the fiction section, along with Gina Frangello and Stacy Bierlein (editors of OV Books —part of the Dzanc empire), and award-winning author Alexander Chee We’ve got some tricks up our sleeve, and it’s going to be one of the most exciting places for fiction on the Web.

JG) A few years ago I saw you at a Literary Death Match in the world-renowned Tompkins Square Park. What’s it like doing that live, totally awesome reading series?

SS) I’ve participated in the LDM twice, and lost both times. Along with San Francisco author Andrew Dugas, this makes me the losingest LDM contestant—a title I’ll defend to the death.

JG) I don’t want to put you on the spot but you are kind of literary maverick. Would you say that about yourself?

SS) Actually, funny you should say that, because I just got back from my weekly lunch with John McCain, and we were swapping battle stories. Of course, his are a bit more heroic, but I think he knows that succeeding in the small press literary scene requires the same mixture: grit, innovation, and perseverance. Seriously, though, I don’t think I’m that uncommon. A lot of authors are realizing they have to step up their self-promotion in order to get their work read, because traditional lines of promotion are being cut, even by major publishing houses. Whether or not you’re “cut out for it,” you have to find some way of establishing visibility. Plus, it can be fun in its own right.

JG) Your new book deal is with Flatmancrooked, a cutting edge outfit from California, when is your book coming out in print?

SS) I don’t think they’ve set a hard date yet, but we’re shooting for spring, so I’d guess April. We’ll see. We want the book to be amazing, in both content and form, so that’s more important than meeting a deadline at this point.

JG) Would you like to add anything about your relationship with the Publisher? Did James recruit you or did your submission make it past the slush pile?

SS) Actually, the author I mentioned before, Andrew Dugas, somehow caught wind of my project in its germinal stages, and since he was writing an article about alternative publishing models for Flatmancrooked at the time, he included a mention of my project in his essay. They liked the project, signed up to participate in the serialization, and ended up liking the entire manuscript enough to pick it up. They’re a remarkably vibrant, optimistic and smart group of people, and anything they get behind is bound to be extraordinary. I couldn’t have hoped for a better fit for pushing Forecast out into the world as a physical object.

JG) What are you reading now?

I’m in the midst of conducting an interview with Terese Svoboda for HTMLGIANT, so for the last couple weeks I’ve been reading and re-reading a number of her books. She’s an excellent stylist, and possesses a strong moral compass to boot. I recommend both her first novel, Cannibal, and her recent memoir, Black Glasses Like Clark Kent. She also has a novel about pirates coming out next year from Dzanc that looks promising.

SS) I’m also reading the surreal comic novel The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien, and am about to pick up Dune for the first time—a book that’s been recommended to me several times over the years, by such a wide range of readers that I simply can no longer chalk its popularity up to nerds.

JG) What projects are you working on now?

SS) I’ve been spending a lot of time revising Forecast for publication, and have my hands in a lot of “side projects,” such as editing a Fan Fiction section for Opium 9, managing an exquisite corpse story involving 65 contributors (must be read to be believed), and of course working toward the imminent launch of The Nervous Breakdown 3.0. It’s been a number of months since I finished my last novel—a novel-in-stories called Look No Further—and I’m definitely eager to get started on my next book, but I’m not sure when that’ll happen.

JG) Where can I buy your books?

SS) Well, nowhere, yet. But In This Alone Impulse will be available in mid-December through Small Press Distribution —a perfect stocking stuffer for your strange, uncommunicative nephew!

JG) Where did the idea for Forecast come from?

SS) Forecast was the result of a number of different interests and forces in my life. It’s ultimately a story about being an author—the book is narrated by a man whose job it is to constantly watch a woman, and to essentially create a narrative of her life, to get inside her head. Perhaps inevitably, he gets too attached to her, and so when she begins to slip from his grasp, it’s difficult for him on a technical level, but also on an emotional level. Anyone who’s written a novel knows something about post-partum depression, and there’s a strong current of this anxiety running through the book. But it’s also about Seattle—a city I grew up in—and capturing the strange combination of high-tech and organic sensibilities that converge there. The city just has a very futuristic feel, an optimistic feel (look at the Space Needle hovering above the skyline), but it also has a lot of rain, a lot of frustration, and not a little apathy. A society in which everyone has something to gain from self-delusion or denial is an exaggeration, sure, but a realistic exaggeration, if such a term is possible, of life there.


Shya Scanlon’s prose poetry collection In This Alone Impulse will be published by Noemi Press in December, 2009. His novel Forecast will be published by Flatmancrooked in Spring, 2010. Shya received his MFA from Brown University in 2008, where he won the John Hawkes Prize in Fiction. A contest has been named in his honor. He lives in various places with his girlfriend Erin, a strange man named Matty Harper, and their dog Violet.

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