(In conversation with Chris Kelso)
1. You’re quite heavily associated with the Bizarro movement – how did this come about? Is there an Aussie Bizarro demographic?
The Bizarro movement has been incredibly good to me. When I was writing my first book (A Million Versions of Right) I wasn’t familiar with Bizarro. The first morsels of interest in my book began to occur from within the Bizarro scene. From here I met many Bizarro authors and fans and developed strong friendships within the scene. These friendships have persisted and it would seem that new ones are introducing themselves to my life every day.
I haven’t become aware of any scene specifically labelling themselves ‘Bizarro’ within Australia. Since the formation of LegumeMan, it has become apparent that other Australians are writing weird fiction, but to my knowledge, this hasn’t been associated with Bizarro in an official way. However, this is pure speculation on my part. I leave the house rarely.
2. How did you come to be involved with IYR? What attracted you to the magazine? Can you offer some background on the cover design you chose?
Garrett Cook and I have been friends since LegumeMan published his book, ‘Archelon Ranch’ in 2009. Since that time we have maintained varying degrees of contact and increasing (I think) mutual respect. Garrett kindly contacted me during the formation of IYR to inquire about a cover design. I was happy to oblige.
I feel it’s important to note that I didn’t design the cover for IYR; rather I selected the image that would ultimately be included in the design. Undue credit makes me uncomfortable. In selecting the image, the criteria were simple. It has to reside in the public domain. Possess a resolution that allowed for print and, most importantly, evoke the title of the magazine. I believe the image was originally used during French political activism, which seemed appropriate. The image also contained a certain ambiguity, which is something I am drawn toward.
3. What was the most surreal thing that happened to you in 2012?
2012 was an amazing year for me. Now that it’s over, I don’t fear jinxing it by saying it was my best year in memory. I was given so many opportunities and embraced as many as time would allow. Among some of my highlights: Finding an agent willing to represent my work (my second book, ‘The Tumours Made Me Interesting’ is currently on submission in the UK). Designing my first LP cover (Vanessa Rossetto’s, ‘Exotic Exit’). Sales for my third book (How to Avoid Sex). The sheer quantity of design I did was staggering. 55 books alone. Ultimately though, it was the friendships I made in 2012 that allowed it to be such a special year. I have been honoured to form close friendships with some of the most creative and intelligent people I’ve ever known.
That doesn’t really answer your question, but I really can’t choose a single thing.
4. Tell us what else is on the horizon for you? Evidently you’ll have a mental schedule – between designing all that cover art and running Legumeman Books, how do you find time to write? Is it difficult juggling it all sometimes?
I’m finishing my next book (Basal Ganglia). I’m reluctant to announce the press who intends to release it because it’s wildly different from anything else I’ve ever written and they may run a mile when they receive it. Should they not run, it will have a very good home. Beyond writing, I have been in conversations with some of my absolute favourite record labels and musicians of all time and will be designing for them in the near future. This is a reality that hasn’t completely sunk in yet. Book design has started off very intensely. It’s rare for a day to go by without someone asking me to design something for them. This has been quite a shock. This design caper happened by accident. I’m amazed that people dig what I do.
I should also briefly note that my contributions to Legumeman are as a co-owner. One of three. I seem to have been made the public face of LegumeMan, but my contributions are among the least important. The business side of the press is largely managed by co-owners, Brooke Walters and Robert Hamilton. My business acumen is largely non-existent and were as much responsibility given to me as people seem to think I have, we would have ceased being a press years ago.
5. Tell IYR a neat fact about Australia…
We are a film directed by Béla Tarr.
6. What have been some of the biggest influences on your own writing?
(Please note: this answer was ripped directly from an interview I did for Word Riot).
In terms of writing, my influences stem largely from classic absurdist fiction, typically of the Russian tradition. Authors like Daniil Kharms, Alexander Vvedensky, Nikolay Zabolotsky and Konstantin Vaginov embody the classical style of Russian absurdism that I have found most interesting. Nikolai Gogol’s short story ‘The Nose’ changed my life, opening me up to a whole world of possibilities. It would be remiss of me not to mention authors such as Franz Kafka, Flann O’Brien, Jorge Luis Borges, Jane Auer Bowles, William H. Gass among many, many others too numerous to list. Beyond this, I am also heavily influenced by the absurdist television and radio that has come out of the UK, exemplified by the likes of Chris Morris, Steve Coogan, Armando Iannucci, Peter Serafinowicz, Robert Popper, Peter Cook and many others. There is something very unique about the UK, which somehow allows them to truly understand the absurd – no other country comes close.
7. Rugby or Cricket, if you HAD to…which one would you abolish?
I’ve never heard of those countries.