1. What’s your least favorite thing about writing?

The occasional (or maybe frequent) moments when you spend all day wrestling with some problem like how to move a character across the street, and then you think: wait, this shit is pointless. Nobody cares. That can be disheartening.

  1. Which author would you like to have a drink with (Dead or alive. Them, not you).

I’m not sure why, but my first thought on this was Martin Amis. It’s not lik ehe’s one of my literary heroes, and I feel like we might get in a fight by the end of the night. But i bet he’d have some great stories. Plus, he must have access to high-quality booze.

  1. Who is your favorite author that you don’t know personally? Who is your favorite author that you do know personally?

Percival Everett is so good and so smart and Erasure is the kind of book I could never even dream of being good enough to write.

Because of the work I do with Barrelhouse, I’ve been able to become friendly with Stewart O’Nan, who is a really good writer, but also is a model for how a big, fancy writer should conduct himself in the world. He’s so generous with his time and humble. And he’s great company at a baseball game.

  1. What about your discipline (fiction, poetry, etc) do you wish you were better at?

I’m terrible about planning ahead, which means the plots in my early drafts are scattered and messy. Actually, more often than not, the plots in my early drafts barely exist, and then I have spent a ton of time trying to work some energy and movement into the story. I do compile a lot of notes before working on a novel, but then I start writing and half of them end up in the trash anyway.

  1. What kind of creative rituals or patterns do you have?

I don’t have many rituals, or at least not effective ones. I try to wake up early every day, whether I’m working or not, and get at least a couple hours of writing in before I log on to social media and fill my head with dozens of terrible stories about the world. Before I waste my day being angry at people I’ve never met. On days when I stick to this system, I can be very productive – 4000 or more pretty okay words in a morning. A lot of days, it’s much worse than that. Then my ritual is mostly about the cycle of guilt and self-flagellation and vows to be better the next day.

Bonus question: favorite Halloween costume? Either that you’ve ever seen or ever worn.

I was a bad Halloween participant, because I was one of those annoying surly teenagers who just put on an Eagles jersey and said I was dressed as a football player. But when I was younger, I dressed as Destro from G.I. Joe four years in a row. I wrote a little about that in this essay.

My true favorite Halloween costume probably is the one designed by my father-in-law, who was an enormous, gentle man who loved Halloween more than anyone I’ve ever known. It’s sort of hard to describe. It’s like a mixture of a goblin and a member of Jem’s backing band. He put so much effort into it, and every Halloween he had to explain exactly what it was supposed to be. Mostly, he loved how shiny and purple it was. I don’t know. Here’s a picture.

Tom's father-in-law .png


Thank you so much for sharing this picture, Tom. A true Halloween champion and inspiration.

Come out Tuesday, October 10th and hear Tom and our other readers at Writer & Words! 7pm, Charmingtons. It might be a spooky good time. Or just an ordinary good time. I guess you’ll just have to come out and see for yourself.

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