Interviews
Five firsts: Dana Johnson on identity, code switching, and erasure

Five firsts: Dana Johnson on identity, code switching, and erasure

Every month, I interview an author I admire on her literary firsts. July’s featured writer is Dana Johnson, author of Break Any Woman Down. This award-winning short story collection is complex and provocative, often starring characters in the margins of society.  A black stripper tries to figure out what she wants in her relationship with a controlling white porn star. A woman defiantly goes to bars alone, over her daughter’s protests. They’re stories of power and acquiescence, stubbornness and change — all cutting across lines of race, class, and gender. Dana took a couple stories from Break Any Woman Down and expanded them into a novel, called Elsewhere, California. More recently, she published a short story collection about downtown L.A. — and its gentrification — called In the Not Quite Dark. She teaches at my grad school alma mater, USC. In this interview, Dana talks about code switching, reveals which dunzo DTLA restaurant she misses the most, and gets Libran about identity. Sign up with your email to be entered to win a copy of Break Any Woman Down  — and to get notified of future interviews! ___ Siel: Some of my favorite parts in your stories have to do with language. In Break Any Woman Down, there’s […]

Cake Time interview with The Rumpus

Cake Time interview with The Rumpus

Thank you to The Rumpus for interviewing me about Cake Time and writing! Here’s a quick excerpt from A Funny Inevitability: In Conversation with Siel Ju: Rumpus: You ended the novel on this note of uncertainty with the character in this common adult situation, with someone who doesn’t want to define the relationship. And your main character is suppressing an urge to laugh at life’s absurdity. How did you decide that was where you wanted to end the novel? Ju: I think I wanted to leave it like a continuing journey, because real life doesn’t have neat tied up ends. Chick lit generally ends with a happy ending of the girl gets the guy, so I wanted this book to be somewhat in contrast to that. I wanted the sense that she had learned something, but that there are other things that are not learnable in a way, because life isn’t over. Read the whole thing over at The Rumpus. Talking to Stephanie Siu was a blast — I wish I could have hung out with her while I was in New York last month. Follow her on Twitter at @openstephanie!

Five firsts: Samantha Dunn on salsa, self-love, and success

Five firsts: Samantha Dunn on salsa, self-love, and success

Every month, I interview an author I admire on her literary firsts. June’s featured author is Samantha Dunn, author of Faith in Carlos Gomez: A Memoir of Salsa, Sex, and Salvation. This memoir is funny, irreverent, and heartfelt. It starts with the newly divorced, thirty-something Samantha’s introduction to salsa — via a lover who quickly becomes an ex lover because he turns out to have other lovers — then quickly spirals down to her sleeping with her very short salsa instructor — then spins into a heartwarming story of her actually learning to dance — on the dance floor and off. Samantha’s also the author of a previous memoir, Not By Accident: Reconstructing a Careless Life — which details the self-analysis and recovery following a major horse riding accident. In addition, she’s written a slim novel called Failing Paris, which I briefly reviewed here. In this interview, Samantha reveals what she learned about life through dancing, why you should jump into things with both feet, and how to cope with your book going out of print! Sign up with your email to be entered to win a copy of Faith in Carlos Gomez — and to get notified of future interviews! ___ […]

Five firsts: Rob Roberge on on binge writing, craft, and realistic expectations

Five firsts: Rob Roberge on on binge writing, craft, and realistic expectations

Every month, I interview an author I admire on his literary firsts. April’s featured author is Rob Roberge, author of The Cost of Living, a wild ride of a novel starring Bud Barrett — guitarist of an indie rock band — who goes from reckless days of touring and partying with strangers and hiding his drug addiction to getting sober and confronting the traumas and mistakes of the past. Rob’s most recent book is Liar, a memoir with many similarities to The Cost of Living. He’s also authored three other works of fiction: Working Backwards from the Worst Moment of My Life, More Than They Could Chew, and Drive. In this interview, Rob talks about the vital role played by indie publishers in the literary marketplace, binge writing, and the difference between memoir and fiction drawn from life. Sign up with your email below to be entered to win a copy of The Cost of Living — and to get notified of future interviews! Enter to win! ____ Siel: We have one thing in common as writers: We both have books with Red Hen Press! Yours, a short story collection called Working Backwards From the Worst Moment of My Life, came out […]

Five Firsts: Me on voyeurism, desire, identity

Five Firsts: Me on voyeurism, desire, identity

So usually I post a monthly interview with an author I admire whose book I’m giving away. But since I’m giving away my own Cake Time this month to celebrate its publication, I’ll take this opportunity to link to interviews with me in other places and hope that you won’t think that’s too narcissistic! These are both amazing lit zines that deserve your time and attention. Thank you to the interviewers for featuring me and my work — __ Michelle Ross at Fiction Writers Review: This sensation of watching one’s life from outside the self, like it’s a theatrical performance, is a running theme in your book. And I think it’s a sensation to which we can all relate to some extent or another. Would you talk a little bit about this in terms of your novel as a whole? Why does this topic interest you? Me: …. I think it’s because this sense of watching one’s life from outside the self seems very self-effacing — in a I-cannot-bear-to-be-truly-present-for-this-experience-type manner–yet simultaneously, very self-indulgent — in a I-like-to-spend-my-time-watching-film-clips-of-myself kind of way. It’s both an erasure of the self and an obsession with the self. More at Fiction Writers Review. __ Shilpa Argawal […]

Five firsts: Louise Wareham Leonard on secrets and thinly-veiled memoirs

Five firsts: Louise Wareham Leonard on secrets and thinly-veiled memoirs

Every month, I interview an author I admire on her literary firsts. March’s featured author is Louise Wareham Leonard, author of 52 Men — a thinly veiled memoir written in tiny, flash pieces. Each of the 52 snippets features a guy with whom the narrator had a relationship — some affairs brief, some longer, some intimate, some cruel. The book is sexy as well as scary, tender as well as crude — making for a riveting read. Relatedly, Louise runs 52 Men the Podcast: Women Telling Stories About Men. Each 10-minute episode features one woman writer telling, well, a story about men. My story ran on the podcast earlier this year! In this interview, Louise talks about autobiographical fiction, the shame of secrets — and Milo Yiannopoulos. Sign up with your email below to be entered to win a copy of 52 Men — and to get notified of future interviews! Enter to win! Email Address ____ Siel: I’m curious about the writing process you took to complete this book. The 52 short flash pieces take place over a lifetime. Is this a book you worked on in bits over decades, or within a more focused period of time? Louise: I was living with my […]