"I cannot live without books." -- Thomas Jefferson

Monday, July 10, 2017

Michelle Latiolais: Interview with Molly Ash


Molly Ash: Hi Michelle! It is such a pleasure to finally meet you. Your home is simply gorgeous, thank you so much for having me! Let's dive right in.

I was absolutely blown away by She and so thrilled we have chosen it as our (Book) Soup of the Month this month. One of the things that struck me most was the unique form. It's not a novel but it's not quite a short story collection either . . . Somewhere in between the two, if that's possible. At times, it almost feels like poetry to me. Was this ever your intention when you began to write it, or did it just sort of happen that way?

Michelle Latiolais: I love your sentence “somewhere in between [being a novel or a short story collection] if that’s possible. It is possible, as anything is possible in language. Language is absolutely amazing in its ability to construct just about anything you want to construct. Written well, or even just well enough, writing can make you think and feel just about anything. But what it’s called, its genre—in answer to your question—well I am rarely very interested or much concerned by that. I loved that my editor John Glusman at Norton said, “we’re going to call it fiction on the cover.” I thought that was perfect, almost a challenge. I love poetry, or I love reading lines that sing, that conjure powerfully, that constellate in my senses. And if I can make sentences do that, a paragraph, even just a little, I stand the chance of feeling okay that day. It’s the quality of the experience of the language that I’m concerned with. And poets set the standard for that, and it’s way up there. The standard, I mean.

And sure, I had a reason for embedding stories in an ongoing narrative, one in which a young girl, almost fifteen years old, makes her way through a huge metropolis.  She is surrounded by stories, by people with stories, some of whom she may encounter, and many, many more whom she won’t, but which make up the energy of a city, its depth, its layers. “Hospital,” I think, questions where one finds family, nurture, and the woman is not in Los Angeles in that story.  So, it’s contrapuntal, and, I hope, suggestive, and hugely so.






MA: One of the things I loved most about the book is that it really does a great job of capturing Los Angeles -- not just as a city but as a state of mind. Do you have a love/hate relationship with LA? What's your favorite thing about it? Least favorite?

ML: Oh Molly, you’re going to get me in trouble, because yes, you’re right, I don’t like Los Angeles all that much. I always say I’ve made peace with Los Angeles, but it’s the coldest city I’ve ever lived in. I miss the civic exchanges one is always having in New York or Chicago or San Francisco. In those cities, there’s that feeling that you’re all part of something, and that you’re in this together, or would be if you had to be, you know, if there were a situation in which everyone had to pull together, the “sure, we’re Chicagoans, we’ll get through this.”  Los Angeles is every man for himself! So, I  miss talking to people in a non-indexical way. LA, people look you up, look you down, walk away. Fine, I’m self-entertaining, but that is boring.
   That said, there is so much in Los Angeles. I love the botanical collections.  For all intents and purposes, there’s a twelve-month growing season here, and the orchid and camellia cultivators are incredible. There’s architecture here that is astounding, when they’re not tearing it down! And of course, after being here over 25 years, there are people here I love, and love very deeply and who make my life happy. But you know, one of the things that makes me sad about Los Angeles is that the generations are so divided here. You rarely see older people sitting with young children, or all the generations mixed up. I don’t love that, and I think there is a great loss in that. Contrary to a Los Angeles ethos, I’m not much afraid of growing old. My face looks like shit, but okay, whatever, both roads well traveled and right across my face, but I think I’m not against how much I’ve now read, and how much wiser I can be about people, about situations. It’s easier for me to live within this sack of bones. And because of that, maybe I’m better for the younger people I’m around. I don’t resent their energy and beauty; I really love it . . . but it is really hard being young, and I don’t forget that. Los Angeles may be a bit of a mind fuck that way. I hope I’m not being oblique.

~

MA: Not at all! And your face definitely does not look like shit, for the record. I hate to ask anything about the writer's process because to me that is such a mundane and clichéd interview question, but where's your favorite place to write? Do you have a certain series of rituals or anything like that which you need to do before you can sit down and really start typing? 

ML: I have so little time to actually write, that when I DO get time, I write. I’m not precious about it, have no insistences or stipulations, because the minute you have those, WHAM, they get taken away. So, I just need time. I do have an office at home that I refer to as the wilderness, or concomitantly as the room where a bomb went off. I don’t like the mess, but it’s just reflective of all the things afoot in my life.  If you look at my desktop, though, you’ll see it surrounded by dictionaries, the grammar handbook, the box of Kleenex, ear plugs, all the things I need when I’m working. I never open anything on top of my writing in the computer, you know, online dictionaries, that sort of thing, or web research. That to me is like being mesmerized by watching a fire burn, and then having someone walk in front of the fireplace, and turn around and start talking at you about taxes.
So, I surround my computer with the reference books I need, and whatever else will keep me open to the world I’m writing, and closed down to the world beyond that.

~

MA: I hope you know you're going to have to show me this room where a bomb went off. Do you keep a journal? If you do, is it as big of a mess as mine?

ML: God, no. I can barely brush my hair every day, let alone write in a journal. I like that your journal is a mess. That sounds right to me, that a journal be a mess, a place where all the jumble gets put down, and it’s completely okay.

~


MA: Hair-brushing is overrated anyway. There are so many different steps and obstacles in getting published. I'm curious to know what you think the most difficult part of writing a book is?

ML: So, you want just one “most difficult thing?” It’s such a war zone it would be hard to find the arch villain of this conflict!
But . . . I suppose self doubt is the most difficult aspect for me. That’s probably why I can’t or won’t keep a journal. Self address is a little unpleasant for me.
The writer MacDonald Harris said he thought that even writing a bad book was hard work. I don’t know. I do try to keep in perspective how friggin easy my life is, ass down in a chair in a comfortable house with food a few yards away and only my dominatrix of a mind to singe the edges of my little idyll. I ain’t saving the world. So, even though I’ve done the unseemly and aggrandizing by using a metaphor of war above, writing is not usually an activity of extremity or hardship. It takes a certain amount of distance and perhaps even comfort, or at least the creatural requisites in place, to finally write. When you’re running for your life, you’re not thinking about your attacker’s childhood and whether or not he was ever hugged, you’re not jotting down ideas, writing paragraphs, you know.  
But what I’d say is that we have a tremendous responsibility because of this work that we do and must do in relative comfort. We have a responsibility to create the finest and most complex experiences again, so they may be looked at, experienced in thought, in language, which is thought. We have this three and a half pounds we carry up top, and it needs to understand experience. That’s a serious responsibility, it seems to me, to aid that understanding.

~


MA: Woah, I love that. So She is fiction, but most writers do pull from real life experiences. Do you find this to be true with your work? Are any of the characters based off of real people? Are any of them based off of yourself? 

ML: It’s interesting that you ask this question, because I’ve been thinking a lot about why people seem to respond to writing in which they feel they’re finding out something about you, the writer. I’m not sure I read that way all that much.  Maybe because I know so many writers and they’re so different from their work. I do always say in workshop that I want to read the emanation of an individual mind, not some product of committee consensus. The writing is a performance in language, and that has a striking individuality, which I also think must be protected, fought for. It’s not “real life,” but it is real and individual thought.
I haven’t answered either your question, or my recent interest or query. So, absolutely, almost everything and anything in my life is useful for the making of the page. I’m kind of none of what’s on the page and all of it at the same time.
I say this last honestly: I can’t ever fathom why anyone would care to know the actual details of my life. Really?  You want to know that I became inordinately happy upon finding cheese leaves again after being completely out for months?!

~

MA: I don't know Michelle, I'm pretty into cheese. Especially in our current political climate, I appreciate that you have so many strong female characters in your writing. I think that's really important. Tell me a little about the strongest woman in your own life. In what ways has she influenced and inspired you? 

ML: It makes me happy, Molly, that you read the characters as strong, because I hear that a lot of people feel they’re just strange, or that they’re weird. I don’t know that I purposefully set out to write strong women. I think I am interested in how people actually navigate in the world, and I am fairly intensely bored by depictions of women as superheros or as having supernatural powers, which is its own kind of chest beating “I Am Woman,” kind of stuff.  I know I’m supposed to love that, but that’s a little like getting me to like people’s cats. Not going to happen anytime soon. The complexity of a mind, and sure a specific woman’s mind, that compels me, and sure, that can be intensely powerful. That said, some of the strongest female minds I know, or rather minds in female bodies, don’t necessarily use that mind for their own ends, or their own advancement. That choice that I see so much of in women is always interesting to me, and there’s a lot of strength in that choice. I think?  I think there is? I don’t know. I’ve been working up to writing a young mother, a kind of  power she derives from self-erasure, or maybe it’s the power of working from behind the scenes. Power is of course something quite distinct from strength, but I’m not sure the culture makes a very clear distinction, and therein lies just one of the problems of how women are perceived who are strong. By which I mean, they are threatening to a lot of people, but that is often strange to me because they have psychological resources, but they don’t have power.
~


MA: Power certainly is quite distinct from strength. Thank you for that. Moving right along: you teach English at UC Irvine, is that right? Have any of your students read She? Or would you rather not know? ;)

ML:  Poor things, they’ve all read it. My wonderful colleague Ron Carlson bought all the graduate students copies last spring when it was released, and then I think the newbies were given copies, too, upon arrival. They are all pretty amazing writers, and so it’s always interesting to hear their thoughts about why certain choices were made. Last spring I read at Irvine, and because it was our crew primarily, I read the two things I worried the most over, whether because of struggling to write it or because I was unsure of how it would come off. They’re working writers, and a tough audience, and they listen more carefully than any group I know, and so I read them the two things that had caused me the most anguish. I didn’t do that to see if the passages now worked; I did it to say writing is taking up the challenge of the writing, and these are passages that were black boots to my neck for years.

~

MA: I adore the fact that you respect your students that way. We need more professors like you. Alright, no pressure, name your top five favorite authors off the top of your head. Go. 

ML: Henry James, Virginia Woolf, William Faulkner, Willa Cather, Edith Wharton, Colette. I could go on and on, because I don’t really have favorites. I really tend to love whatever I’m reading at the time, whether it’s good or something I’m trying to figure out why it’s perhaps not so stellar, but Faulkner’s in my blood, and James gave me license, and Cather’s smaller books, like My Mortal Enemy, seemed deeply, anguishingly true.

~

MA: Great taste! Not that I'm surprised. What are you reading right now? 

ML: I just finished re-reading James Baldwin’s Go Tell It On The Mountain.  Amazing, painful, so brilliantly written.  He has a sentence about the son’s death, something like “the knife kicking in his throat.”  That verb!  Holy shit.  I read The End of Eddy, and I’m about to begin two collections of short stories by Charlotte Holmes, Gifts and The Grass Labyrinth.  I just finished re-reading Elizabeth Tallent’s new short story in The Threepenny Review, “Rawness.”  I am always in awe.  Lighting Field by Dana Spiotta, I just finished, and I’ve been treating myself to a story every few days from The Dinner Party by Joshua Ferris.  I read Women Without Men by Shahrnush Parsipur, which I found fascinating.
May I add a question, because it’s the question I always ask my students: What books would you like to read soon?
I have a little over a thousand pages in manuscripts right now in my office waiting to be read, and that’s fine, but I have the following books staring me down, asking to be read.  The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing, Eveningland by Michael Knight, The Pickup by Nadine Gordimer, Death in Spring by Mercé Rodoreda, Epitaph of a Small Winner by Machado de Assis.  The wonderful writer Azareen Van Der Vliet Oloomi just gave me these titles to read, An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter, Cosmos by Witold Gombrowicz and Faces in the Crowd and The Story of my Teeth by Valeria Luiselli.

~

MA: The End Of Eddy destroyed me. We'll have to chat about that later. To wrap this up here, what's your favorite bookstore in Los Angeles?

ML: You know, there’s this little store on Sunset, very unassuming, very welcoming, and they hire young people, which makes me really happy, too, and they link books and food in their name, and when food is made with books, I’m really happy. They’re always my store of choice. It’s called something like Book Gumbo, or Book Broth, or maybe it’s Book Cassoulet—oh no, wait, it’s called Book Soup! I love that store.

MA: Thanks Michelle! We certainly love you too. And thank you so much for sitting down with me today. You are a gem and I am officially a fangirl.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

She by Michelle Latiolais is our pick for July Soup of the Month!


Ok, I admit it. I picked up Michelle Latiolais's She originally just because I liked the cover. I have an affinity for palm trees, for street signs, and for all things LA. And to me, the cover of this book screamed LA. So yes. I do that thing you're not supposed to do: I judge books by their covers. But with this one, I'm sure glad I did.

After reading She twice, I can say that I like the cover even more. It is as if you are seeing the world through the main characters eyes. The girl who is mostly referred to throughout the book as She (a reminder to all of us writers that sometimes the most simple possible title is the best possible title) is a fifteen year old who ran away from the home where she was badly abused. She ran to, of course, the city so many of us run to: Los Angeles. When I came here I may have been twenty-five and not fifteen, but I was certainly still running away from something. The palm tree, the street sign, and the shockingly blue sky on this book's cover paint a scene not unlike the one She saw upon her arrival in the fictional (though stunningly realistic) city of Los Angeles, CA. 

She meets all kinds of different people along her journey. Some who are there to help her along, some with selfish and rotten intentions. Some who painfully remind her of her dysfunctional family members, and some who teach her that not everyone out there will. The girl in this story is young, but you need not be to enjoy this book. In fact I think it's better enjoyed when one is decades away from fifteen so that reading this will aid in looking back and saying "Ahh, yes, I remember what that felt like" and thanking your lucky stars that you don't feel that way anymore. 

The word 'fiction' on the cover is true: this is not a memoir or a biography. It is not a true story. But to me, it's not quite a novel either. Nor is it short stories. It is written in a form entirely new to me, actually: a series of stories that tell a story when read in chronological order, but can stand alone on their own just as well. When I pick up the book and open to a random page and read that page, it is a different experience than if I were to do that with your every day novel. It's like reading long-form poetry, every word and every sentence singing its own heartbreaking song that together make up a damn beautiful album. 

Latiolais's characters are raw and relatable, and at times funny. This gritty and honest coming of age story is so much more than that. It is an anthem for men and women, the old and the young alike. Love it or hate it, Los Angeles as a state of mind shines brightly through every poetic line, letting us know that your geographical location may not be everything, but it will dictate certain details of your life no matter how hard you fight it. She is not just about a city though, it is about the institution of family, the idea that running away from where you came from doesn't mean you didn't come from there in the first place. It's about learning not to blame your parents for how messed up your head is, and giving trust to complete strangers - though that doesn't mean they'll ever stop being strange. 

I absolutely devoured this book, and it is one that I am certain I will again and again. 

- Molly Ash, Book Soup Newsstand Coordinator

Michelle Latiolais will join us for a reading group discussion of She on Sunday, July 30th at 12pm. You can order a copy of the book HERE
 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Fire Next Time is our January Soup of the Month





We’ve considered making James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time a book of the month for a while now. Originally published in 1963, it’s since been discussed in conversations about Black Lives Matter and its recent protests. In August, Scribner published an anthology titled, The Fire This Time, edited by Jesmyn Ward, which features contemporary writers responding to many the same issues that Baldwin raised.

Despite these conversations, I’ve found it hard to describe exactly what The Fire This Time, a collection of two epistolary essays, accomplishes, perhaps because I have such a love for Baldwin’s fiction and perhaps because in this confusing era, I am seeking direction and what Baldwin gives us instead is experience.

In the second and longer letter (from a “region of my mind”) Baldwin describes his experiences as a young preacher, a meeting with Elijah Muhammad, the founder of the Nation of Islam, and, finally, his (and America’s) position at “the center of the arc, trapped in the gaudiest, most valuable, and most improbable water wheel the world has ever seen. . .Everything now, we must assume, is in our hands; we have no right to assume otherwise.” By this third section, Baldwin describes a bereft society eerily similar to our own, but the prescription for healing remains vague.

Maybe this is the challenge of writing about Baldwin’s non-fiction. He forces you to examine what’s in your own hands, to question yourself. There are no easy answers when the question is you, your responsibilities, your experience. In Raoul Peck’s upcoming film I Am Not Your Negro, Baldwin says, “There are days when you wonder what your role is in this country and what your future is in it. . . the white population of this country’s got to ask itself is why it was necessary to have a nigger in the first place because I’m not a nigger. I’m a man, but if you think I’m a nigger it means you need it, and you’ve got to find out why and the future of the country depends on that.” He offers both question and condemnation.

I rue the absence of Baldwin’s thoughtful, brave, and articulate discourse on our country. Intelligent, contemplative commentary now is a chimera. Artists and activism are further denigrated, subjugated to either/or slots. Don’t you be creative, powerful and tell me what I don’t want to hear. Still, what are we to do?

If fiction can deliver a more poignant message, a more useful compulsion than non-fiction, then we should look to Baldwin’s stories for our mandates. I can tell you easily what Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” is about: listening. It’s about the black experience. It’s about addiction. It’s about brothers. It’s about music. It’s about discovering what our closest kin really are. Late in the story, Sonny, a jazz musician struggling with heroin addiction says to his brother, the narrator,

It’s terrible sometimes, inside. . .that’s what’s the trouble. You walk these streets, black and funky and cold, and there’s not really a living ass to talk to, and there’s nothing shaking, and there’s no way of getting it out—that storm inside. You can’t talk it and you can’t make love with it, and when you finally try to get with it and play it, you realize nobody’s listening. So you’ve got to listen. You got to find a way to listen.

A clearer instruction can rarely be found. Later, Sonny’s brother watches him play piano for (seemingly) the first time and thinks,

For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn’t any other tale to tell, it’s the only light we’ve got in all this darkness.. . .I seemed to hear with what burning he had made it his, with what burning we had yet to make it ours, how we could cease lamenting. Freedom lurked around us and I understood, at last, that he could help us to be free if we would listen, that he would never be free until we did.

In Baldwin’s fiction, you are the character, we, they, that’s empathy, that’s experience, that of reading, that of understanding, and, in either his fiction or The Fire Next Time, Baldwin provides us the mandate we crave and, ultimately, that we get—listen carefully, everything is in our hands.

Marion Bright, Book Soup General Manager






Friday, September 2, 2016

Fanboys and Girls Rejoice! An Interview with Night Vale Creator Joseph Fink

This week, our Bookseller Ben S. spoke with one half of Night Vale creator team Joseph Fink. A fanboy through and through, Ben didn’t shy from going deep past the walls of Night Vale and asking extensive questions about their creative process. Please enjoy highlights from the interview below, and we hope to see you at our Welcome to Night Vale event Thursday, September 22nd at 8pm at the Regent Theatre!

Ben S:  I was curious about when you started. Did you have the idea of wanting it to become a podcast first? Or was it a story idea which evolved into the format?
Joseph Fink: No, the format came before the idea. I knew I wanted to make a podcast, and I knew I didn’t want it to be like any of the other podcasts out there because they already existed, and eventually I came up with the idea of Night Vale.
B: Very cool. We’re in a weird place where podcasting has now become the golden age of radio – the golden age of internet radio.
J: Podcasting is a wonderful thing because the barrier to entry is very low. In terms of what you need technically, you don’t need very much money to make a podcast that sounds on the same level as a professional podcast. I mean you do need a lot of time, and things like that, but the technical barrier is pretty small to be distributed at the exact same level and at the exact same channels, basically, as This American Life or, you know, WTF, or whatever.
B: And I think that’s true for both the makers and the listeners. It’s not that hard to get online to hear it, or to put your content out there.
J: Yeah. That’s an exciting thing.
B: Listening to [Night Vale], and then reading the book, there’s definitely a lot of influences in there. Are there any specific authors or stories or artists that you can cite as “this is kind of where I got some spirit behind it?”
J: Yeah. There are two we kind of point to for the language, usually. There’s a third that it’s less about the language and more about content – and that’s Thomas Pynchon. Thomas Pynchon, in all of his books, creates these huge, meaningless conspiracies that go nowhere and mean nothing and kind of exist as a stand-in for the chaotic randomness of life. I think, I learned a lot about writing complicated, fake conspiracies from reading Thomas Pynchon.
In terms of language, the two we point to are the novelist Deb Olin Unferth. She wrote a book called Vacation, that I read when I was twenty-two. I just picked it up because it had a cool cover and it blew me away. It was just one of those moments where you realize, ‘Oh.’ Even after years, even after pretty much since I understood what writing meant, working on getting better at writing,  I was like  I’m nowhere near good enough. I need to learn how to do this. She was just doing things with language that I’d never seen anyone do before. I knew I had to learn how to do it.
The playwright Will Eno is the other one. He’s a, I believe, Massachusetts-based playwright. He writes these sentences where the – there are surprises even within the sentences – the sentences will land in places you didn’t even see them, at the start of the sentence. I’ve seen a bunch of his plays at this point. Jeffrey was a big fan of his, and he introduced me to him. I would say that if you took -  especially the early episodes - the language of Deb Olin Unferth, and the language of Will Eno, and combined them, that was pretty much the voice of Night Vale we were working with.
B: Very interesting, very interesting. Alright so also—going off the uniqueness of the show—I’m a big fan of all the different characters. My personal favorites are Leanne Hart and Pamela Winchell because I’m a little afraid of them. Are there any [smaller characters] that have brought weird, gleeful joy to you? I mean, you don’t have to pick a favorite child, but is there anybody?
J: Ahhh, I mean. In a lot of ways, like if a small character is interesting to us, they’re not a small character anymore. We have the power to sort of bring anyone to the forefront. So Steve Carlsberg was a minor character until he became interesting to us. Michelle Wynn, the owner of Dark Owl Records, I think was very, you know, kind of a one-joke character, one line of the script, and then we got interested in her and now there are several, kind of, scenes from her point of view.
B: Yeah, she had the September monologue.
J: Yeah, I mean, and then Kate Jones has been in a number of the live shows and we’ve written a number of live scenes for Michelle. It’s a lot of ways that if a character becomes interesting, they are no longer a side character. There are certain characters that have, I think, a lot more to them that we just haven’t gotten around to exploring...For the most part it’s like yeah there’s not a character that we haven’t featured that we wanted to feature because the joy of this is that we can do whatever we want with the story.
B: Well,  speaking of the freedom to do what you want, one of the things that I really appreciate – both in the novel and in the podcast –is that it’s very inclusive because you don’t have to feel like you have to cater to the generic –we’re out here in Hollywood, so we get a lot of that straight white-dude bias—and I really appreciate that there’s a lot of variety and representation in Night Vale. Is that a thing you guys set out to do from the beginning?
J: I think it came mostly from trying to write honestly about the world. The thing about the world is that it’s full of all sorts of kinds of people. If you write about the world in such a way that there’s only a few types of people you’re not writing about the world. You’re writing about TV shows you’ve seen and books you’ve seen. You’re just kind of regurgitating what has been given to you. You’re not actually trying to write honestly about what you’ve seen. Jeffrey and I, we lived in New York City.  We’ve interacted with people of the downtown New York theater scene. If we made everyone in Night Vale straight white people then that would be us denying the world we lived in. The only way to write honestly about the world was to make a world as diverse as the world actually is.
B: I’m sure a lot of fans are interested in hearing that you guys were coming out with more material. Was it mostly coming from a place of something more that you wanted to talk about that you felt like you couldn’t really get out in Night Vale?
J: No. It’s more just experimenting with different types of storytelling. Our first new show, Alice Isn’t Dead was something I wrote. We’ve been doing this touring live show of Night Vale. I think after this next tour we’ll have done over two hundred shows and 16 countries. So we have just travelled a lot and have spent a lot of time in vans and so forming a story, shaping a story in the form of a road trip was interesting to me.
The thing about Night Vale is that there’s a certain tone to it that includes comedy. I was kind of interested in writing a story that was one hundred percent horror with very little comedy. That was what Alice was. And then Jeffery had this idea that was found audio from alternate universes—specifically relaxation tapes from alternate universes—which turned into Within the Wires. He read a novel by a woman  named Janina Matthewson called A Thing Gone Astray and absolutely loved it and then we ended up meeting her in London and he asked her to write the show with him.
It’s been this way of just experimenting with different types of storytelling. And then the third show, kind of moves into our bigger goal which is trying to get artists that we think do really good work that aren’t in podcasting at the moment and bring them into podcasting. This next show, creatively, Jeffery or I are not involved at all. It’s some people that we think do really great work that have not worked in podcasting before. We want to bring them into that world.
B: So we have an event coming up with you this month. What can we expect from you guys at our event here at The Regent? I always expect good costumes from the fans, I’m probably going to be in a costume too. I was wondering if you guys were bringing anything new, besides the books, obviously.
J: I mean, we’re bringing ourselves. We’re bringing Kate, who is just a delightful, fascinating person. We always enjoy spending time with Kate and I think the audience will too even if they don’t know her. Or if they do, they’ll be even more excited. I think she’s doing really interesting work. It’s going to be us talking about writing and about Night Vale.
B: I feel the more I listen, the more the world of Night Vale kind of infiltrated my real world -  I’ve had a lot of weird things [happen to me] walking around here in Los Angeles. Have you ever had anything odd happen to you since you’ve switched to this frame of mind where – strange town, weird things happening, we all just kind of walk about it?
J: Well. It’s weird that you should say that. I ordered something from Amazon a couple days ago and it showed up just this afternoon in an envelop. And I opened up the envelop and the envelop was full of ants. You know those big black ants, carpenter ants or whatever, just swarming.
B: I’m sorry to hear that.
J: Well. Amazon.com sent me just an envelope full of ants.
B: Did you order ants?
J: I did not.
B: We kind of touched on this before, but we’re in a very interesting time for creators. You know before podcasting was a thing, YouTube became a thing. People who are creative, with the advent of the internet, we can kind of get out there. I know you’re reaching out with the network to bring people who aren’t doing podcasting to podcasting.
Would you have any advice on what to do when they’re just starting out? How to get them over the hump and maybe start getting out there getting their art out?
J: I think the best thing you can do is make it and make it in a way that is enjoyable to you, which is to say work with other people. I think working with other people forces you to work. It puts you in a situation that you could disappoint other people. If you’re like most of us you will have no problem disappointing yourself, but if you tell someone else you’re going to do something you’ll feel bad about disappointing them. So it sort of forces you to stay on track and keep making a thing.
Also work with people you enjoy working with. Succeeding, in a way of popularity, or commercially succeeding, is such a weird luck thing. There’s not really a step-by-step guide to that. So the best thing that you could do is make something that is good. That you know is good, that you can stand behind as good. And make it with people you really enjoy. Because then, the worst case scenario is that you’re making something really good with people that you enjoy working with.
I think that if no one had ever really started listening to Night Vale, that if it still only had a few thousand downloads per episode, we’d probably still be making it because we enjoy making it interesting to us. That’s really the best thing you could hope for. If anything else happens that is a wonderful piece of luck that often has very little to do with anything you did.