I tried to order his short story collection when it came out in Springs, but that Barnes and Noble never delivered for some reason and I'm trying my luck again with this one in Fort Collins.
I guess in celebration of his short story collection being put out, Bookslut conducted this interview and the guy comes across as very humble and very funny. Here are some great moments:
Supernatural experiences are a big part of your fiction, but while there are other writers, like Kelly Link or Amiee Bender who use the supernatural or the fantastical as devices in their fiction, I don’t see you as part of that tradition. Do you?
Not so much, though I like those. Those are the types of writers that I think are interesting. I think all that stuff is neat. If there’s a magic pony in the story, chances are I’ll read it. I feel like I write about magic ponies a lot. Part of that is what keeps me interested, but also that I have a hard time telling the stories or, not so much the stories, but the sort of emotional transformations that occur to me, as possible and interesting to describe. I always have a much easier time with the help of a magic pony or a crabby angel or a ghost of a suicide or whatever.
The Children’s Hospital is a really big book. Was it longer when you started editing, or did it just keep getting larger?
Eli [Horowitz], the editor at McSweeney’s, and I cut out about four hundred manuscript pages. Almost none of it was stuff that happened on the hospital -- except for the big zombie scene.
I’m really, really upset that I’m never going to read the big zombie scene.
The zombie nurse attack.
That’s unbelievable. You’ll have to send it to me.
I tried to find it. When I was doing readings, I thought it would be more fun to read from the stuff that had been cut. But the zombie scene is now truly lost.
One day someone will find it in a trunk, like Emily Dickenson’s poems. The big zombie scene.
I like the sequence. I like ending with “Why Antichrist?”
The book was supposed to be called “Why Antichrist?” but they wouldn’t let me call it that. I wanted it to be a black cover with a little upside down white cross on it, but they seemed to think no one would buy it.
And then I’m doing a goofy kids book.
A kids book? That’s interesting. Is it already written?
I wrote one draft of it, and it got rejected from about, I guess, fourteen or fifteen children’s book publishers. The common refrain was, “What made you think this was suitable for children?”
That’s hilarious. So, have you found someone who does think it’s suitable for children?
No, but my editor at FSG is interested in seeing it. He heard a little bit about it and thought it sounded relatively neat, so I think he probably will say the same thing, but his being interested in it made me go back and look at it again. It’s fun to work on it anyway.
Incidentally, I don’t think of you as a gay writer, or someone who’s writing gay stories, but you’re clearly not in the closet either.
Someone looking hard enough at my books could probably find some stuff that makes sense in that way. But I never thought I warranted a cover with a shirtless guy with 3D nipples. That’s what seems to be on the cover of a lot of gay writers’ books. You get the shirtless 3D nipple cover.
Is it something you prefer people not mention?
No, it doesn’t matter.
Does your gayness go over at divinity school? Has it been an issue at all?
Everyone else is gay there too. Not really, but there are a lot of gay people there. It is decidedly not a problem. I’ve been lucky in that way. There are a lot of gay people in pediatrics too.
There’s this gay doctor who appears in your all of your books, Doctor Chandra…
Whose name…at one time you could rearrange the letters of his name to spell Chris Adrian.
I wondered how much of was a self-flagellating kind of thing. You’re always sort of bullying Dr. Chandra in your books.
I think of him getting bullied, not so much because he’s gay but because he’s incompetent. I guess it’s gratifying in some way to exaggerate that aspect of myself in a way that’s scary for the poor patients, I bet. I had a mom realize that I was the person who wrote that just as I was about to put a needle in her son’s back.
Really, it's a fantastic interview and you can read it all here. Then, go out and read The Children's Hospital or Gob's Grief, or A Better Angel, but I haven't read that one yet.