Category Archives: Interviews

“Walk With Me Along a Crumbling Cliff…” – A Conversation with Jonathan Wlodarski

img_2555-copyJonathan Wlodarski is the author of “The Cake,” a deliciously disturbing short story from our Winter 2017 issue that we nominated for the Pushcart Prize last month (and is now freely available to read on our site). Our senior editorial consultant Maria Pinto spoke with Jonathan about his fascinatingly twisted tale, as well as first-person plural narration, dystopian fiction, and Fabergé eggs…
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MP: I will never hear the old cliche “a piece of cake” in the same way again. What was the germ of your chilling, Pushcart-nominated story, “The Cake”?
JW: The genesis of this piece came from a question–it’s a tradition to eat cake at weddings, so why isn’t there an equivalent for funerals? I scribbled the words “funeral cake” on the margins of another story I was working on and let the idea bubble and simmer for a few months.

MP: The narrator’s “we” takes a subtly sinister turn in the story so that we find ourselves held hostage inside a lonely, claustrophobic perspective. How did you achieve this unique voice? Were there aspects of the writing of this story that you found difficult?

JW: The use of “we” as a narrative perspective was sort of an accident. In my earliest draft, I wavered between a “we” and an “I,” so the narrator was more obviously individual, but in revisions I realized that the collective–or the false collective–was an important aspect of this story. The most challenging part of writing it was reckoning with the ending, when our town has dwindled to one person and our “we” is really just an “I.” I really struggled to express what that person would sound like and there were lots of verbose, grandstanding monologues that got written and cut.

MP: This is how dystopias are often made or exacerbated in the popular imagination–the thing that brings a population together or eases its pain also catalyzes that population’s ruin. The cake starts out as a palliative for death, but ends up wiping out the town. Is there a real-world problem onto which this pattern maps, for you? What is your relationship to dystopian fiction as a genre?

JW: A conceit central to my fiction is concept-as-metaphor, and in this instance, my concept (the cake) is a metaphor for, at its core, addiction. I suspect that’s the undercurrent thrumming at a lot of our popular dystopian fiction: addiction to power, addiction to normalcy/equality/sameness, addiction to obedience/submission. There are more explicit kinds of addiction in dystopias, too–addiction to virtual reality/the internet seems to be one perpetually on our minds–but I think it’s usually way more subtle.

As for my relationship to the genre, I’d say it’s fairly average. I don’t go seeking it, but I’ve read and enjoyed it. My favorite is Lois Lowry’s The Giver, which surprises and frightens me each time I read it.

MP: Do you have an audience in mind when you write?

JW: My hope is always that the audience that reads my writing is, if nothing else, willing to take a walk with me along a crumbling cliff from time to time.

MP: Who comes to your fantasy dinner party of authors and artists, alive and/or dead?

JW: Jasper Fforde; Viola Davis; Judy Garland; Alexander Chee; Aimee Bender; Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz; Alissa Nutting; Sarah Ruhl; Laura van den Berg; Rebecca Makkai; Whitney Houston

MP: What are you reading right now? What books do you come back to over and over again, especially while you’re writing?

JW: I’m reading Alexander Weinstein’s short story collection (Children of the New World) and the March graphic novel trilogy. I have a near-claustrophobic fear of not reading enough, so I rarely read a book more than once, even if I adored it. One exception to that is The Song of Achilles (Madeline Miller), which amazes me for finding new ways to devastate me emotionally each time I read it. It’s a great example of a book that weaves a complex, subtle tapestry of feelings without demanding the reader feel anything.

MP: What’s on the horizon for your work? Who or what can we look forward to encountering in your coming stories?

JW: I’ve been working for about a year and a half on a collection of linked stories about people with made-up diseases (stomach acid turns into mother-of-pearl, man coughs up spiders, etc.)–I’m wrapping up the first draft of the last piece, so after that it will be a constant spiral of revising and submitting. Ghosts have been on my radar for awhile, so I might crank out a ghost story or two. Something that’s been fascinating me for about a year now are Fabergé eggs, as evidenced by my author bio, so I decided it might be a fun exercise to write a poem about or inspired by each of the eggs the Fabergé workshop made for the tsars.

FLAPPERHOUSE Podcast #3 – Starring Bud Smith & the late William S. Burroughs

The 3rd episode of the FLAPPERHOUSE podcast is now live! Bud Smith talks with us about his killer new novella I’M FROM ELECTRIC PEAK, like why it’s so hard to tell exactly when the story takes place, and why it’s dedicated to Meat Loaf. Plus, the late William S. Burroughs drops by to recap a historic week in the NBA. Hosted by FLAPPERHOUSE managing editor Joseph P. O’Brien. Music by The Cracked Shadows.

Stream or download below…

“Thus, I Kick Sylvia Plath’s Brilliant Dead Ass” – A Conversation with Misti Rainwater-Lites

 mistiMisti Rainwater-Lites is the author of numerous books, including the phenomenal Bullshit Rodeo. Her writing is fierce & vulnerable,  magical & earthy, like a glorious mixtape of punk rock & sweet slow soul & Led Zeppelin & Patsy Cline. Longtime FLAPPERHOUSE readers may remember her piece “Angels Howling in the Trees,” which appeared in our very first issue. 

Our managing editor Joseph P. O’Brien recently spent a day text-messaging with Misti about her writing, as well as Deadpool, David Lee Roth, Gertrude Stein, and much much more…

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Joseph P. O’Brien: Bullshit Rodeo is called a novel, but it feels like one of the rawest, most fearlessly transparent books I’ve ever read. Can you give an idea how much of it is true to life? Or would you prefer to keep a blurry boundary between your fiction & non-fiction?

Misti Rainwater-Lites: People have mistakenly referred to Bullshit Rodeo as a memoir and creative nonfiction. It’s neither. It’s a novel the same way Tropic of Cancer and How to Save Your Own Life are novels. I took my life…the very real horror and heartache…and turned it into a novel. I’ve never had sex with a fry cook. There really was a dead butterfly.

JO’B: The first book I finished in 2016 was The Bell Jar, and you reference Sylvia Plath a few times in Bullshit Rodeo, so that was fresh in my mind while reading your book. I’d keep wondering if Plath’s character might have ended up a lot like your character if she’d been born 40 years later in Texas instead of Boston. Was The Bell Jar a conscious inspiration for you?

MR-L: No, I wasn’t thinking of The Bell Jar when I wrote Bullshit Rodeo. Here’s some background. I was revising a horror novel entitled Mordiscado in 2009. I was talking to a good friend and fellow writer on the phone and he told me I needed to write what I knew. I needed to write Texas. I said, “Shit. It’s hard enough LIVING Texas. I can’t write it!” He brought up a favorite writer of mine, fellow native Texan Larry McMurtry.  The Last Picture Show is one of my favorite novels of all time. Larry took pieces of his life or life he was on the periphery of in Archer City, which isn’t too far from Bridgeport (my birthplace) and Seymour, which is where my parents and maternal grandparents grew up and fell in love, and made it into a novel which later became a damn fine film.

I admire Sylvia Plath, of course, but I can only relate to her on a limited level. She was born to educated upper class parents in New England. She led a charmed, accomplished life…which was rendered null and void due to her severe mental illness. Maybe if Sylvia Plath had been born in Texas to working class teenagers in 1973 she would be alive now in donut pajamas, set to finally receive a BFA at the age of 43. But Plath was genetically blessed. I’m genetically fucked. Or maybe we should flip that. She was brilliant but died too soon in a horrific way. I possess average intelligence and I’m alive in the glorious 21st century where we have billions of options, none of them terribly appealing. But there’s always karaoke and vibrators and Valero coffee. I took my son to see Deadpool last Saturday and made him chocolate covered strawberries for Valentine’s Day. Thus, I kick Sylvia Plath’s brilliant dead ass. Continue reading “Thus, I Kick Sylvia Plath’s Brilliant Dead Ass” – A Conversation with Misti Rainwater-Lites

FLAPPERHOUSE Podcast #1 + an Excerpt from “The Wendigo Goes Home” – Fiction by Sara Dobie Bauer

If you haven’t already heard, the very first FLAPPERHOUSE Podcast has taken to the air! This 30-minute episode features an interview with the incomparable Sara Dobie Bauer, where she reads an excerpt from “The Wendigo Goes Home,” her contribution to our Winter 2016 issue. The podcast is below, and the text of the excerpt is below that, if you’d care to read along…

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CLEVE PACKER PRIDED HIMSELF ON EATING ONLY PEOPLE WHO WERE ABOUT TO DIE. Over his hundred and fifty years of cannibalism, he’d evolved not only his senses but his morality.

While traveling through northern Ohio, he smelled death on a large young woman with blond hair and expensive shoes. The scent was subtle. She wasn’t the one dying, but someone close to her. Cleve approached and made conversation at the local coffee shop. She was happy to oblige, Cleve looking so tall and handsome in his best brown suit.

Her name was Bree Shepherd, the manager of a high-end clothing store in Cleveland, single but looking. She liked to talk about herself, her family. Her mother was going through some sort of aging crisis, embracing hot yoga and spin at her local gym. Bree said she even suspected her mother of shopping in the juniors section at JC Penney, all in an effort to “stay young forever.” Her dad was a retired lawyer who now spent most of his time reading murder mysteries and pretending he would one day write a novel. There was the elder sister, Bianca, who was married with three children. Bree talked most about her little brother: poor Blake, the “hopeless homosexual”—perpetually single, despite his good looks and pleasant, albeit quiet, demeanor. She said he studied science at the nearby university.

Cleve was careful to say very little about himself, other than that he was new in town. He was always new in town.

After a refill, Bree invited him for a late summer bonfire at her parents’ house where there would be extended family and friends, and “Oh, won’t it be nice for you to meet new people in your new city!”

When they parted, she waved and carried the smell of death down a sidewalk lined with leafy trees at full tilt August green. In her absence, the air smelled of coffee grounds and oil from nearby leaking cars.

The sick person could be anyone, really, but Cleve suspected he would meet that person if he stuck close to cheerful Bree Shepherd. Perhaps at the bonfire, filled, she said, with so many family and friends.

It had been weeks since his last feast; nothing satisfactory, just an old woman in a lonely house that smelled of dishwasher soap and Band-Aids. He preferred younger meat. In the early 1900s, there were all sorts of diseases that sprung up and took people by the dozens. Such a holiday, back then! But such feasts were rare nowadays, with advances in medicine and preventative treatment. Still, there was hope for the bonfire—hope for a good, hot meal.

Continue reading FLAPPERHOUSE Podcast #1 + an Excerpt from “The Wendigo Goes Home” – Fiction by Sara Dobie Bauer

Six Questions For FLAPPERHOUSE

Jim Harrington of Six Questions For… recently asked our managing editor some stuff about our origins & our preferences to help give readers & writers a better idea of what we’re looking to publish in our weird little zine. Check it out if you’d care to read about how David Lynch & Transcendental Meditation led to our inception, why you won’t often see 2nd-person narratives in our pages, and the true meaning of flappiness.

…I read David Lynch’s Catching the Big Fish, and after a few weeks of practicing what I’d read in the book, FLAPPERHOUSE came to me & told me it would help relieve much of my disturbance—it would help me amass a freaky chorus of bold literary voices to sing together in the kind of genre-fluid, sanctimony-free space I’d seen too rarely in literature, and it would provide for me the kind of personal & creative fulfillment I’d been lacking for far too long. And so it has…

Six Questions for Joseph P. O’Brien, Managing Editor, FLAPPERHOUSE

“Exit Interview” – Poetry by E.H. Brogan

Dancers – Franz Stuck, 1896

The questions and answers in E.H. Brogan‘s “Exit Interview” are unlike any exit interviews we’ve ever had, but that’s why we love it. It’s one of two very flappy poems E.H. contributed to our Summer 2015 issue, now available via Amazon and Createspace, or at independent brick-and-mortar stores like Bluestockings and St. Mark’s Bookshop. And if you’d like to hear a recording of E.H. reading this poem, click the Soundcloud player below the text!

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A joke, but all it does is cry.
It’s the distant mountains
that you hear, laughing.
Q. What is like a raisin except
too large to enter a mouth?
It is where the letter went,
and not unlike a glove.
Pluck it shriveled from the tree,
sew its long sides up.
Q. If I asked tequila once again
I’d lose it in the waterfall.
This is as it was before. I admit
I bombed the dam.
Last time I swore you not again.
You haven’t tried that pony out,
the chestnut to the race.
Q. Would you dance with me once more?

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image1E.H. BROGAN is a graduate of the University of Delaware with a B.A. in English. She has poetry in or forthcoming from Star*Line, Cider Press ReviewBop Dead City, and others. She blog-runs and co-curates for Kenning Journal. Her house is built of books. Tweet @wheresmsbrogan for more.

Interview With the Database

ImagedatabaseWe’re still a few months too young to be interviewed by the Big Literary Submission Database, but if we were old enough, our answers would be:

  1. Dark weird sexy funny lit
  2. The Straddler, The Alarmist, Gigantic Sequins.
  3. Kurt Vonnegut, Dorothy Parker, Jorge Luis Borges, Flannery O’Connor, Franz Kafka, Ishmael Reed, Kelly Link, Roald Dahl, Stanley Kubrick, Tina Fey, Bill Watterson, Robert Anton Wilson, Haruki Murakami, George Saunders, Tom Robbins, Emily Dickinson, Hunter S. Thompson, Louis CK, Gillian Flynn, Neil Gaiman, Junot Diaz, Octavia Butler, Amy Hempel, Richard Brautigan, Karen Russell, MF Doom, Virginia Woolf
  4. While we enjoy & admire & draw inspiration from other literary publications, our biggest influence is probably HBO.
  5. Poets: Send us your best rhyming poetry, and your chances of being published in our zine will increase. We receive practically zero rhyming poems, because it seems that modern poets think end rhyme is only slightly less disgusting than subway masturbation. But we love good rhyming poetry, and wish we got a lot more of it in our inbox.
    Prosers: Send us your best review of an imaginary work, a la Borges’ “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote,” and your chances of being published in our zine will increase. Real books/ films/ albums/ etc. are great, but imaginary books/ films/ albums/ etc. don’t get nearly enough critical attention, if you ask us.
  6. Our ideal submission can be described by at least one of the following adjectives: surreal, shadowy, sensual, satirical. It throbs with life and wit and colorful details. It exudes tantalizing ambiguity, but the writing itself is clear and precise– not too flowery, yet not pedestrian either. It drags the future back through the past like a rotting donkey on a grand piano.
  7. Pretty much all of our submitters seem like cool people who’ve read our guidelines and have a fair idea of what kind of lit we want. But sometimes writers will get excessively cutesy in their cover letters, which doesn’t exactly go against our guidelines, but it’s “wrong” in the sense that it’s wrong for writers to assume that excessively cutesy cover letters will make their work more endearing to us. And because the number of submissions has been increasing lately, we’ve been kindly asking submitters of declined work to wait about 2 months before submitting again. When such writers then send us more work a week or so later, we tend to get a little cranky. It’s not that we don’t appreciate the enthusiasm; it’s just that for now, we only have so much time and so many eyeballs to read submissions.
  8. We don’t mind receiving bios from submitters, but we try not to read them before we read the submission. Then after we read someone’s bio, if we think they seem particularly interesting, we might google them to learn more. Of course, what we learn about a submitter doesn’t really influence our decision to accept or decline their work, but it might influence us to follow them on Twitter.
  9. We read every submission from beginning to end at least twice, unless the work is splattered with careless errors and lazy writing, in which case we’ll only read it once.
  10. We’ll do our best to make sure a piece hasn’t already been published before we accept it. We forgot to do that once, and later found out some poetry we accepted had already been posted online. We let it slide that one time, but it’s haunted us ever since.
  11. Obsession, rejection, depression, meditation, elation, intoxication, relaxation, titillation, exhaustion.
  12. We embrace modern technologies lovingly, tenderly, yet with a touch of restraint, like an old flame we’re still very good friends with.