GI: Sure, that thing about writing what you know is crap, but I have to ask: how many times have you hovered above a situation thinking “I shouldn’t be doing this”? How have those moments influenced your writing?
AK: That could describe 90% of my life up until I had kids. Maybe more like 70% since I worked a lot and usually didn’t get into trouble while I was on the clock. But most of my adult life up until a few years ago was a prolonged exercise in bad decisions. The writing was a silver lining. Even my worst decisions could always be mined for something, and that’s the amazing thing about art, is the redemption, is that beauty can even be found in the ugliest things if you twist it just so.
GI: How to Pose for Hustler is a superb title. How did you come up with it? Do you remember any scratched titles or was this the winner from the start?
AK: How to Pose for Hustler is the title of a prose poem that’s in the book. I always knew that would be the title of the collection. It’s like clickbait, isn’t it?
GI: Edison versus Tesla. They’re both 30. Edison has a machete and Tesla a sledgehammer. How does it go down?
AK: Initially I was going to go with Tesla because my first thought was like “OH YEAH DUDE TESLA WAS INSANE,” but then I realized that Edison was insane, too, in a much more dangerous way. Edison wiped out the competition AND electrocuted an elephant to death on film that he invented (I just googled that and Wikipedia claims that Edison did not actually take part in the elephant’s electrocution but STILL apparently he electrocuted tons of dogs so Edison remains my final answer).
GI: What’s your favorite word in a foreign language and why?
AK: Tsonduko – Japanese for books you bought and haven’t read – is my favorite but I never use it. My favorite word with practical application that I actually use is schadenfruede because it’s such a basic emotion but doesn’t have an English language equivalent, and that’s totally weird.
GI: With everything going on in your life, when do you find time to put words to paper? Any tips for those struggling with too many responsibilities?
AK: I set the bar really, really low. Like buried beneath the ground low. I literally aim for a sentence a day. If I write more than that I’m thrilled. I also have two writing cheerleaders – we text one another every day to encourage each other to write – and the main project I’m working on is collaborative, so that really helps the momentum going.
I’ve also had to change the way in which I write, and the types of projects I work on. I am temporarily off poetry until I can reliably come by a large chunk of time on a regular basis, because that sort of work is immersive for me. I need to be able to work on things one at a time, often just typing out a few sentences here and there on my iphone. The unexpected benefit is that it’s allowing me to focus on novel-length projects – something I never had enough patience to work on, since I always used to prefer the instant gratification of sitting down and completing the first draft of a short story in one sitting. Since that’s not possible any more, I’m able to devote my time to projects that don’t give me an immediate adrenaline rush.
GI: Donuts or brownies?
AK: Brownies. But why would you make me choose? Now I want both and have neither. Everything is terrible. THANKS OBAMA.
GI: If you could turn one story from your collection into a short film, which one would it be, why, who would play the lead, and who would you like as a director? Was that question too loaded? It was too loaded. You can tell me.
AK: No no no not loaded – super fun!
It would be Love Hotel and the lead would be Parker Posey and the director would be Takashi Miike, and I choose it because I think it could be made visually arresting and with no dialogue and would work well as an atmospherically driven short and could give immense leeway to the director.
GI: I saw a man working near my house and told him he was being a Really Useful Engine. Are cartoons part of your discourse now? Do you have any favorites?
AK: I talk about children’s cartoons constantly because pop culture is one of the easiest ways to immediately connect with your peer group. Also, any type of media you’re subjected to on a constant basis begins to color anything in your life. Most of my current decisions are preceded by wondering what Daniel Tiger’s mother would do in the same situation. And speaking of Very Useful Engines, have you ever spent way to much time thinking about the economy of Sodor? Because lots of other people have and it’s fascinating.
I generally do not get to choose what to watch on TV in my house, but as far as cartoons that I’m subjected to on a regular basis, Madagascar and Monsters University are probably my favorite. (I know Monsters University is a controversial choice, I know most people like the original better, I know there are HUGE inconsistencies between the original and the sequel that don’t make sense and I DON’T CARE.)
GI: You keep things mellow/cool/positive on social media; did you not get the memo about having breakdowns, insulting others, and sharing nonsense?
AK: I use Facebook to relax. Obviously, it’s not always a relaxing place but if something serious and controversial is going on that I really want to talk about, I usually do it privately in one-on-one conversation. Besides, it’s not like there’s something profound that I’m going to say that’s going to change the direction of the discourse/change people’s minds. Also, I’m pretty conflict avoidant and believe that cute animal videos are the highest and best use of the internet.
GI: What was the last metal you listened to?
AK: Guns n Roses? Unless you’re looking for something more serious, like Slayer. If so, it was Slayer, but I have listened to Guns n Roses more recently.
GI: If you had your own press for a day, who’d you publish and why?
AK: Oh man. Like a one-shot anthology? Sean Kilpatrick, Amber Sparks, Lauren Becker, Sara June Woods, Roberto Montes, Kristine Ong Muslim, Kuzhali Manickavel, Lindsay Hunter, Barry Graham, Alissa Nutting, Cameron Pierce, Amelia Gray, Roxane Gay, Ben Mirov, Catie Disabato, Paula Bomer, Brandi Wells, Erika Wurth, Kate Bernheimer, Samantha Irby, and Cami Park in memorium. I’m sure many more if I thought about it for the rest of the day, but that’s a start.
GI: We need more Andrea Kneeland words. Where/when/how can we get some?