getimage-83.aspx   A psychologically taut tale about a virtuoso pianist plagued by unwanted music in his head Jan, an experienced virtuoso pianist, is about to go on stage to perform his solo. But, once again, the music he hears in his head is not what he is supposed to be playing. Will it go away in time, or will it sabotage his performance? As he struggles with this hidden condition, he thinks about his high school friend Dirk - a magnetic, eccentric personality. It began like a game, with Dirk playfully stealing Jan's first girlfriend. And it continued like a game - a very close friendship with an undertone of danger. They go their separate ways after high school, but when they reunite as adults, Jan wonders: is Dirk really the strong character he appeared to be, and was their friendship in fact real, life-long love? The final game Jan plays - a blind ride on a dark country road - is the most dangerous of all. In this powerful debut, Eric Beck Rubin conjures up a moving tale full of music and raw human emotion, with a virtuoso touch. Out November 17th! Don't miss this absolute gem of a debut novel (pre-order on our shop now).

We're delighted to be able to unveil the beautiful Jonathan Gray-designed cover for Sympathy, the debut novel from Olivia Sudjic out with ONE in May 2017. Sympathy is set in the age of algorithm, when a chance encounter is anything but. This is an electrifying debut novel of obsessive love, family secrets, and the dangers of living our lives online At 23, Alice Hare leaves England for New York - the city of her birth, before she was adopted by a British mother and an American father. As she falls in love with the big city, she also becomes fixated on Mizuko Himura, an intriguing Japanese writer living in New York whose life has strange parallels with her own. Their 'chance' encounter and subsequent relationship expose a dark tangle of lies and sexual encounters as three families across the globe collide, and the most ancient of questions - where do we come from? - can be answered just by searching online. Now the only challenge is sitting tight until May to read it...  

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Our Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction longlisted book Whispers Through a Megaphone is now out in paperback. Full of wonderfully idiosyncratic characters trying to forge meaningful relationships in today's over-connected, social media-driven world, Rachel Elliott's debut is the perfect book club read. Check out the questions below for some brilliant discussion points whether you're reading in a group or going solo.

1. The sight of those envelopes, her own name and address in that small, neat handwriting, made her feel like a real girl in a real house—a person of fixed abode, properly and officially there… When Miriam composed her sentences, the voice inside her head sounded like any other girl. There was an unbroken stranger inside Miriam Delaney—the same age but louder, the same height but taller. 

Writing letters, and receiving them, makes Miriam feel like she exists. For those who don’t feel like they have a voice, writing is essential. How important is it for you – and how different does it feel to speaking?

2. Other people seem to know things. They know what a life should contain, all the simple and complicated things like shopping and Zumba and being physically intimate with another body. They know the rules, the way it’s supposed to go.

Miriam feels that other people are more real than her, and their lives are more important and exciting. Do you think FOMO – the fear of missing out – is a common experience? 3. What does social media provide Sadie’s sense of self?

4. Why do you think Miriam goes into a kind of fugue state for three years? What is she actually afraid of?

5. Beware the madness that looks like sanity, thinks Miriam. It is everywhere.

Different ideas of madness run throughout this book, from serious mental illness to the sanctioned madness of everyday life. How are they explored through the characters of Miriam, Frances and Sadie?

6. Fenella Price may be ‘Chief supplier of objects from the outside world: food, pens, knickers, etc’, but she has a far more important role in Miriam’s life. How would you describe this?

7. Did you feel empathy for Miriam’s mother? Why/why not?

8. One of Whispers’ big themes is absence: The constant spectacle of what isn’t there. Something vital is missing for each of the three main characters, and this is what drives their actions. Do you identify with this – the presence of absence?

9. When Miriam becomes friends with Ralph, he offers her kindness and companionship in the outside world. He listens to her story without judgement, and when Red and Green appear, he is possibly the first person who has ever stood up for her. What does the friendship offer Ralph?

10. The headmaster tells a shocking lie to Miriam’s mother near the end of the book. What do you think drove him to do this?

11. Why did Miriam’s mother jump?

12. Why do you think the author pairs Miriam up with Boo rather than Ralph?

13. This book is essentially about relationships and connections. It’s about the bonds that turn us into families, regardless of the arrangement. Do you think this reflects the complexity of modern families?

14. Ralph and Miriam end up gardening together. What do you imagine the author had in mind here?

Don't Let My Baby-new (5)

Boris Fishman, author of the acclaimed A Replacement Life, is back with Don't Let My Baby Do Rodeo, an unmissable tale of self-discovery, family and identity.

ONE Editor Elena Lappin sat down with Boris to discuss immigration, Moscow culture and the lure of Montana.

Is the adopted American child in Don't Let My Baby Do Rodeo your Russian immigrant couple’s direct route to connecting with America? 

If so, it’s a forced route. Like many immigrants — but also like very many American-born people; frankly, like most people, period, and doesn’t that feel more true today than in recent decades, especially in Britain and in the US — their curiosity about different ways of life is modest, to put it charitably. I should clarify that this is true only for Alex. Maya craves contact with whatever is out there. She’s one of that small tribe of people who either are born or have been converted by some intense personal experience to wonder about lives lived differently. Not in a volunteering-in-Africa-for-the-resume kind of way. They want to know what moves people who are different than they are. All this said, Maya’s curiosity has been sleeping — she starts the novel as a firecracker, but then the great euthanizing effect of Soviet family values quicksands her into a service role. It’s no mystery that my heart is with Maya many times in the novel, but she’s less than admirable many times, too. As the novel starts, she has succumbed. And the encounter with America that occurs through Max is an accident, an accident that sets her free, but an accident nonetheless; it all started only because the Rubins couldn’t get pregnant.

Why did you choose Montana as the American counterpoint to your main characters’ life in New York and New Jersey?

The story of how I fell in love with this place is long but good. Perhaps the most efficient way to tell it would be to send you here.

Maya is so convincingly written that one has to ask: who was the inspiration behind this very vibrant character?

This is very, very gratifying to hear. That was one of the ways I wanted to stretch with this novel after a debut heavily informed by my personal experiences, and so to hear I succeeded is enormously satisfying. The woman herself is an amalgam of women I’ve known — my mother; an older woman with children I was involved with; the Soviet-American women I know who always place themselves last. But the real answer has to do with the way I grew up. I was loved very well by my family. What this means in practice is that I was allowed to connect to my feelings, to let them rise to the surface. The sensitivity you feel in the novel comes from that. (Though perhaps my family has come to regret just how much they supported my saying whatever I felt!) The other piece comes from having grown up around Russian women who were members of this Soviet-Jewish self-abnegating cult of love. Everything for the child, nothing for them. But this is a pose. They continued to need plenty, only that it was my job to read between the lines to understand it. A frustrating, confusing way to grow up — you have to give what the asker herself doesn’t consciously understand herself to be asking — but it sharpens the hell out of your observational skills.

Your writing about the immigrant experience embraces all generations – parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren… Do you think migration affects a family as a whole?

I think the reason that all the generations come into it is because a Soviet-Jewish family is generationally enmeshed to a degree that no American family is. I don’t mean materially, though that, too. Emotionally. The nuclear family has seven members, like that USDA food pyramid: Two sets of grandparents at the bottom, two parents in the middle, one child at the top. Part of that was due to how scarce Soviet life was — you had to save by living together. And partly to the general clustering of Jews, always under threat, in the former Soviet Union. But everything happened together.

Have your recent trips to Russia surprised you in any way? Is your perception of it as an adult very different from your childhood memories?

Again, I’d like to send you to a story that answers this better than I can here. I returned for the first time in 15 years last fall — not to Minsk, where I was born; to Moscow — and fell in love with what I found, a very different reaction than the one I had on my last trip, in 2000, when I interned at the US Embassy in Moscow.

The problem with Russia reporting — just like, say, Iran reporting — is that the political tension makes non-political stories rare. But there are incredibly exciting things going on in Moscow outside politics (which is corrupt and deadly, no argument). What’s fascinating to me is that both seem to thrive — the corruption and authoritarianism, but also the non-political realm: the culture, the food, the architecture, the fashion. I stayed inside the Ring Road because I was reporting a travel piece for a mainstream publication, but I got the sense that it wasn’t a Potemkin village — there are spots of significant material and creative evolution elsewhere in the country, a real growing middle class. And things work — often better than in New York.

The one thing that disappointed me is how aping of American culture “cutting-edge” Moscow culture is. (This is all while America bashing, natch.) Many times, I felt like I could have been anywhere: Brooklyn, Berlin, etc. This global sameness is lethal and depressing, even as I was thrilled by Moscow’s transformation. My next project is a Ukrainian cookbook, for which I spent some time in regional Ukraine. It was less polished, but it was so raw and real. It still had that otherness that made me want to travel the world 20 years ago in the first place. It’s sad to think that this may be disappearing in many parts of the world as they become connected to the mothership of globalized commerce and culture.

 Do you feel a stronger affinity with European or with American literature – or somewhere in between?

I feel a stronger affinity with European values. America’s unfettered worship of money and profit; the frequent suspicion toward the arts, elites, and intellectualism; its very self-regarding sense of itself; the geographic incuriosity of so many of its people — these are not my values. At the same time, America is a far more tolerant society than what I’ve encountered in Europe. I know of no place where the rights of minorities are protected as scrupulously, no small matter for someone who grew up as a Jew in the Soviet Union.

It’s odd then that my literary preferences are with America. But this is not a very useful statement because I don’t read much contemporary literature. There is so much to catch up with from the past, and there I love Graham Greene, Doris Lessing, J. M. Coetzee, Peter Godwin, Aleksandar Hemon, Jeanette Winterson as much as William Styron, Tobias Wolff, Richard Yates, Russell Banks, and so on.

This novel has a very ‘musical’ title – it sounds almost like a song. At what stage in the process of writing did you think of calling your novel ‘Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo’?

The one thing I don’t remember. If I had to guess, it was during washing the dishes, driving, or taking a shower — the three meditative activities of my life.

Max is an only child dealing with parents who don’t really understand his world. Is this theme perhaps even closer to your heart than the book’s more obvious ones – adoption and marriage?

Very astute observation. It’s a great moment when, midway, you realize you’re writing a book about something other than you thought. I am not adopted, but the ironic cost of the great sacrifice performed by immigrant parents is that by releasing their child into America’s hands, they ensure his transformation into an incomprehensible foreigner. For the last 20 years, they and I have been trying to create a new language of mutual understanding. (A divorce between the generations isn’t an option.) We’ve mostly succeeded, but it took a very long time, and very much heartache. I can’t imagine it’s very different from what happens in an adoptive family.

That may seem presumptuous to say, never having been part of one — we live in a time of suffocating correctness about story “ownership” — but if one submits to that, one might as well stop writing fiction altogether.

Love is the main connecting thread running through all your plot lines.  You give your characters a lot of time to figure out who they are and how they feel. Do you think fiction is the best way of understanding ourselves and others? 

Another great question. There’s the common (in my view) misconception that fiction is cathartic, that you work through things while writing. And it may seem so from my answer to your previous question. But I would put it differently: I already knew that the book was about me in this way; it just hadn’t risen up from my subconscious yet. And so I feel like the work of understanding happens largely off the written page. And the written page is the beneficiary of that work, even if you know only the broad strokes of what will happen in the novel when you start it. (As is my preference.)

I love reading because books are where I find people being more honest about themselves, and what life is really like, than anywhere else.

Who is Boris Fishman?

Boris Fishman is the descendant of several generations of people deeply traumatized by Russian and Soviet abuse of Jews; World War II and the Holocaust; and immigration to a country that couldn’t be more different than the Soviet Union.

Boris Fishman has more female friends than male.

Boris Fishman is most comfortable among people willing to be open about themselves. The desire to be this way has nothing to do with booksmarts.

Boris Fishman milked goats just this morning.

Boris Fishman is learning to let go.

Boris Fishman loves children, animals, and old people. Everything in-between is harder.

Boris Fishman is too blunt toward the people he’s closest to, and too diplomatic toward everyone else. This is changing, though.

Boris Fishman once worked as a cook for a roving summer camp of Lakota Sioux kids. Very many, very hungry Lakota Sioux kids.

Boris Fishman reads travel guidebooks for fun.

Boris Fishman has made peace with who he is, and isn’t. For the most part.

 

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Over the past few weeks, the world around us has become increasingly disturbing and distressing. The homophobic hate crime in Orlando. The murder of Jo Cox. The hateful rhetoric evoked by the referendum. And now this. Brexit. I am still in shock.

I sit at my desk, working on my second novel, and find myself compulsively reading the news online – which makes me feel anything other than creative right now. The UK is in crisis, its politics spiralling out of control. The far right are celebrating. Those who voted Leave were lied to in the most outrageous fashion. I am scared of living in an intolerant country, in which xenophobia, racism and prejudice of all kinds are running riot.

Yes, we will fight this, in all the ways we need to. We will hold on to hope, even when we are jaded and low. Slowly, we will interpret this mess. We will find the right words – and when we can’t, we will look to others to give us those words. Not just those involved in politics, not just campaigners and activists, but also artists, musicians, writers and poets, whose voices we need too, more than ever.

I experienced a few of those voices at a literary event on the run-up to the referendum, and am grateful for the language, the hope, the sense of community they gave me – all of which have stayed with me this week. This event, at Bath’s Central United Reformed Church on 21 June, was Shore to Shore: Celebrating Poetry and Community with the Laureate and Friends. The brainchild of Carol Ann Duffy, she and three other poets – Jackie Kay, Gillian Clarke and Imtiaz Dharker, plus musician and composer John Sampson – were stopping off on their two-week tour across Britain from Falmouth to St Andrews, where they are performing at fifteen venues until 2 July. A local poet joins them at each gig. Our guest that night: the brilliant RV Bailey. The tour is a celebration of independent bookshops and a special anthology accompanies it – Off The Shelf: A Celebration of Bookshops in Verse.

Bath’s night of poetry was hosted by Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights, one of the city’s two excellent indie bookshops. When the world makes no sense, bookshops are one of the places where I find solace. Mr B’s has a resident dog called Vlashka, a record player, a bibliotherapy room. They will wrap your books in brown paper, tie them with string and seal them with wax (oh yes). Across town, in Toppings, you can drink tea while sitting by the window in the vast art and poetry section. It’s open every day until late evening, so I often find myself there, flicking through newly published novels, reading their opening pages and – contentious, I know – their closing lines. These moments are solitary, yet it’s also like being with an old friend. In a mad world, bookshops feel safe and peaceful. They are places where anything is possible, great feats of imagination, written or drawn. They are restorative, vital. We need to support these precious spaces, these lifelines – because they support us. They make it possible for us to do things like sit and listen to Jackie Kay reading Extinction (original title: Nigel Farage), a poem so timely, so apt, that it met with huge applause.

The power of poetry, spoken out loud, never ceases to impress me. These poems covered subjects ordinary and momentous, personal and political – from love to loss, being gay in the fifties, losing a parent, losing a partner, growing old, learning to swear, climate change, and meeting violence with love. We laughed and cried, often at the same time. There was elegy and consolation. There was anger and wit and political defiance, all spoken in the writers’ unique rhythms. In other words, a sense of shared humanity.

Poetry finds words for the unspeakable. It affirms us, says I know what you’ve seen and felt, I’ve been there, I got through it and so can you. Often it goes further, says you can be better than this – we can be better than this.

Some poems have stayed in my mind. Like Bailey’s British Red Cross. Kay’s April Sunshine. Duffy’s Premonitions. The evening closed with a standing ovation. I felt changed by what I had heard. That’s what poets do. That’s their power. They can soothe us, egg us on, fire us up, show us what we’re missing, make us stop and look at ourselves, our lives and what we are doing to each other.

Speaking to the Independent in March, after her appointment as Scotland’s new Makar, Jackie Kay said: ‘For every place that you might expect poetry to go, I’d also like to take poetry somewhere unexpected, whether that’s in a prison, an old people’s home or a hospital.’

How wonderful, and necessary, especially now.

Rachel's Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction longlisted debut Whispers Through a Megaphone is out in paperback on August 4th. 

Join the conversation! Tweet us with your thoughts on Rachel's piece.

With the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction winner revealed today, we thought we'd have a big reveal of our own: the Whispers Through a Megaphone paperback cover (our Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction longlistee), created by award-winning designer Jon Gray.

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Author Rachel Elliott commented:

As a big fan of contradictions, what I love about this jacket is how it’s several different things at once. It’s literary and commercial. It’s quirky, slightly edgy; fresh, summery and eye-catching. There’s humour and lightness, while the text on the back reveals the seriousness of its content – these things combined give a sense of this being a darkly comic story. The collage-style image relates to a pivotal scene in the book, which will make sense to readers when they land on it. But the best thing is its warmth – fitting for a novel in which kindness plays a big part.

What do you think? Tweet us with your thoughts!

Missoula

A few years ago I was hired to be a reporter for the alt weekly in the little mountain college town in Montana where I lived then and will live again next month, after a brief, worthwhile, but ultimately failed experimental phase in Philadelphia.

The job seemed too good to be true: not only did a rigorous, well-written, and free newspaper still exist in this idyllic little city of 60,000 people in 2014, but the publisher was willing to pay me to travel around western Montana talking to people, asking them whatever questions I wanted, and writing about what I found out, despite the fact that I knew nothing about journalism. I had a job that could possibly become a career, and I could do it in a town surrounded by green mountains, with snow-capped peaks in the distance and clear and rocky river running through a downtown of dark bars and bookstores. I could do something that sounded legitimate—be a reporter—but I could still spend my nights drinking in the basement bar where my wife bartended and my weekends skiing and sleeping in fire lookouts.

I wrote about an almost-lost Richard Linklater movie filmed in Missoula before Slacker came out. I wrote about marijuana growers whose operations were raided by federal agents. I wrote about a militia member who posed in camo, in the woods, pointing an assault rifle at an imaginary enemy. I wrote about cattle mutilations and UFO sightings.

Mostly, though, the job entailed desperately trying to root out news stories in a town where the most heated political controversies had to with questions like whether the city should build a second artificial wave in the river for surfers and freestyle kayakers. I wrote about flood-map changes, small-town airport improvement plans, recently opened ice-cream shops, new schemes for recycling glass.

But then something awful would happen, and you would glimpse the deep fault lines over which this seemingly faultless city had been built. A rape scandal involving the local university and the county attorney’s office became so pervasive and entrenched that the U.S. Department of Justice launched an investigation and Jon Krakauer wrote an entire book about it. And one night, in April 2014, a seasonal wildland firefighter named Markus Kaarma shot and killed a 17-year-old German exchange student for entering his garage, presumably to steal Kaarma’s weed. Kaarma claimed he was defending his home—a six-bedroom house that his mom bought him—but evidence presented in court suggested Kaarma and his wife had deliberately tried to entice burglars into their garage in order to kill them and exact revenge for a series of petty thefts.

I didn’t know anything about journalism, but I sat in the courtroom with Kaarma and his cavalier common-law wife and his shattered-looking mother and the victim’s family and a whole throng of media from Missoula and Germany as county attorneys laid out their charges of first-degree murder and Kaarma’s expensive defense lawyers tried to portray their client as a frightened victim forced to protect his family. I watched the trial from a back row, with a reporter’s notebook on my lap, scrawling down the details of the deadly night. I began to see what had really happened: a privileged person whose mother had bought him a little piece of Missoula felt it was justifiable to shoot a teenager at point-blank range in order to defend his piece of unearned turf. The jury found Kaarma guilty, and the incident began to take the shape, in my mind, of a parable. But if that’s what it was, what was the moral?

The answer, it seemed, had to do with this place, with the way Missoula attracts people like me—and like Kaarma—who come from elsewhere, who feel privileged just for being there, and who then want to keep the place from being ruined by more people like them. I began to see myself and my fellow Missoulians as the flaw in the marvelous Montana landscape. Who would want to be that? So I quit my reporting job and convinced my wife to leave. Yet ever since I arrived in Philadelphia, I’ve been waiting to go back.

My flaws, it turns out, are my own, and don’t have much to do with where I am. So if I’m going to be a flaw, I’d at least like to be one in a beautiful place, within driving distance of a decommissioned fire lookout and a ski hill without lift lines and a bunch of cold mountain lakes.

Tweet us with your thoughts on Ted's piece: do you ever feel like a flaw? Have you witnessed the beauty of Missoula first hand?

Ted's debut The Minor Outsider is out on April 7th. 

Minor

 

I'm excited to introduce a new feature on our website: ONE AUTHOR BLOG is a virtual 'speakers corner' where ONE authors will post short pieces, and our readers are very welcome to respond. Like the imprint itself, our writers are bold, fresh, and original - not to mention thoughtful and funny. This blog will bring us closer to their worlds. Enjoy! Elena Lappin Editor, ONE, an imprint of Pushkin Press

Whispers Through a Megaphone - Rachel Elliot

‘A beautifully written, funny, moving, life-affirming piece of wonder. I absolutely loved it. I was in love with pretty much every finely-drawn character by the end.’ – Julie Hesmondhalgh (Happy Valley/Coronation Street)

We are absolutely thrilled to announce that Rachel Elliott's wonderful Whispers Through a Megaphone is on the 2016 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction longlist.

If you haven't yet read this sparkling debut, now is the perfect time. Buy your copy!

(For review copies please contact books@wordpress-16778-45445-178323.cloudwaysapps.com)

Fishermen-front

SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2015 MAN BOOKER PRIZE Shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award Longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Award Winner of the FT/OppenheimerFunds Emerging Voices Award Longlisted for the Etisalat Prize for Literature Chigozie Obioma's internationally acclaimed debut The Fishermen is now out in paperback! Passionate and bold, The Fishermen is a breathtakingly beautiful novel firmly rooted in the best of African storytelling. With this powerful debut, Chigozie Obioma emerges as one of the most original new voices of modern African literature. If you haven't yet read this powerful novel, get your copy now.

"I love to publish books where the world is not the same after these books have joined the conversation.” Anna James of The Bookseller talks to ONE Pushkin Press editor Elena Lappin about the direction for the ONE imprint after the Man Booker Prize shortlisting of Chigozie Obioma's The Fishermen. Read the full, fascinating interview below. (more…)

Minor Outsider cover

1. The Minor Outsider was originally a short story published in Vice magazine. What sort of response did you receive from readers at the time, and when and why did you decide to turn the story into a novel?

What became The Minor Outsider began before the VICE excerpt appeared and soon after I crushed my hand in an industrial mixer, while I was working at a bakery in Missoula, Montana, around 2012. At the hospital, a nurse laid me down, put an IV in my arm, pumped me full of dilaudid, and, after listening to my deranged laments, said, very calmly, “Maybe the universe is trying to tell you something.” In retrospect, her insight sounds obvious, cavalier. But I was desperate then, and I tried to listen. The only way to listen to something as inarticulate as the universe, I found, was to try to slow down and pay closer attention to my experience in the universe.

So, during this period, I started to write (one-handed) in third-person about my life, because if my life were my subject, I would have to try to notice it. The stories I wrote were formless and mundane, like my life, so I began to insert lies into the truth I was trying to record. The lies began to give the anecdotes plots, turning them into stories. The stories were all about the same character: a skewed version of me. Stories about one character? That’s a novel, I thought. Or could be, if I did a lot of work, which I put off doing. In one of these stories, this character was in love, worked in a bakery, found out he had tumors growing in his brain, fled to a mermaid bar in Great Falls, Montana, and slept with a young stranger in a primitive cabin. Much to my surprise, an editor at VICE accepted it for publication. When it was posted online, I eagerly went to see my story there, in all its glory. I found a comment from someone from Arizona. It said, ‘I cant fap to this!’ Someone else commented, ‘Faggot.’ Someone else sent me a drawing of the protagonist’s girlfriend lying seductively in bed. And someone else—a German living in London—told me he wanted to make a short film of the story, flew to LA, drove several days to Montana, stayed in my house, and went with me to the Great Falls mermaid bar where the story was set. One thing I found interesting about the response was that a lot of people seemed to believe the story was about a person who was heavily into hard drugs, which it wasn’t. It was about a person who was into smoking a lot of pot and watching people do hard drugs on the internet. Not to spoil anything, but that response informed what I decided to have happen to the protagonist later on in his story, when I decided to expand it.

Over the next couple of years, that’s what I did: I kept writing about this character, assembling these various stories and scraps, revising them and arranging them, adding to them and subtracting from them. And all the while, the VICE story—“The Minor Outsider”—served as a kind of keystone that I built around until I completed The Minor Outsider.

2. Your novel is set mostly in the town of Missoula, Montana, where you have lived for a number of years. How close is this fictional setting to the real one, and how did living in Montana influence your writing?

I tried to carefully document Missoula as I knew it during the writing of The Minor Outsider. The names of bars, mountains, rivers, and streets are all real. So are the backyards, apartments, parties, shows, bike rides, and head shops depicted. ‘Real’ in the sense that they reflect my experience of them. As with anywhere, though, there are many versions of Missoula, many spheres that intersect to various extents. Some barely intersect at all. In The Minor Outsider, I wanted to document the sphere where young adult slackers—many of them privileged, like me—live like they’re still twenty and always will be, riding their bikes to little house parties, seeing fun punk bands at the VFW, smoking weed on a Tuesday afternoon, making their art without expectations, swimming and hiking and skiing in some of the most beautiful and remote locations in the Lower 48. Oh, and drinking. Drinking a lot. It’s an amazing world and living in it allowed me to find and follow my intuition and write The Minor Outsider. Anywhere else, and I don’t think I would’ve.

3. Ed and Taylor’s love story is both beautiful and painful to ‘watch’. Was it difficult to write?

When love first takes over, it more or less erases all other concerns. To the lover, the beloved looks like the solution to all of their problems: If only I had her, I wouldn’t care about anything else. It’s kind of desperate and embarrassing. It’s like realizing you need God: If You do this for me, I’ll do whatever You want. From the outside, when the beloved is obviously just a person—or worse yet, a fictional character—this feeling often seems absurd, dumb. It can be extremely tedious to be around or to read about. There’s no tension. It’s not interesting. What makes love interesting—in a song or a book or a movie—is when you can see the love so close up and with such specificity that you notice the cracks that exist from the very beginning and that will spread and, as they spread, undermine the love. Often, these flaws are the very characteristics that make the love possible to begin with. This makes love interesting in art, but it’s also what makes love so painful in life, it seems to me. So, yes, Ed and Taylor’s love story was difficult to write. And painful. But it was also a pleasure. Anytime you look at something more closely, it becomes more fascinating and beautiful.

4. Almost everyone in your novel is an outsider, in a state of transience. Does this reflect your own experience?

Three months ago, my wife and I sold most of our stuff and packed the rest in the back of a pickup truck and moved 2,500 miles away, to a city where we literally know no one, where my wife had never been, where we did not have jobs, and where we have no reason to be. So, yes, I think I like to put myself in situations where I can be on the outside, looking in, from a vantage that offers a little more perspective. One of the easiest ways to get into that position is to go somewhere new. But if you’re always on your way somewhere else, you’re never able to look long enough, to see anything more than the superficial. I like to move but not travel.

5. How do you feel about the fact that you are first being published by a London-based publishing house?

Publishing a book is something I never really believed I’d do, even as I staked so much upon the dream of doing so. When The Minor Outsider was bought, even my computer didn’t believe it was true: the email containing the official offer from ONE was filed in my Spam folder. So, first off, I’m grateful my book’s being published at all. Second off, I was so pleased by the accidental way in which you discovered it (or I discovered you), via my LinkedIn profile, which I didn’t even know I had and which you didn’t even mean to look at. Third off, I was amazed that the person who found my book in this way was you, an editor not only for a press I greatly admire (Pushkin) but also for a newish imprint devoted to debut writers. It was such a serendipitous and unlikely shortcut for my manuscript to take, from my house in Montana to your desk on the other side of the world and, next, to bookshelves in a country where I have never been. I can’t imagine a better route or destination for my book. In many ways, being published in the UK before being published in the US makes perfect sense. For me, the best things seem to happen the way this happened: via accident and coincidence. Plus, doesn’t it seem fitting for a book called The Minor Outsider to begin its life abroad, in temporary exile?

6. Do you think you might return to Ed and/or Taylor in a future novel?

That’s an interesting question. As a reader, I like to think about the author at work behind the scenes, tinkering with things. For example, I love the great Geoff Dyer novel Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi, which is split into two parts, one of which is told in the third-person and one of which is told in the first-person and both of which seem to be about the same character, who also seems to be essentially the author. The reader wonders who is who, a whole new layer of intrigue opens up, the book assumes another dimension or two. All of which is just to say, I’m working on a new novel now and, while Ed and Taylor will likely return, they will likely do so with new identities, disguised but still themselves.

7. You have had many different and unusual jobs – have any of them influenced your writing?

Some have, some haven’t. There’s this romantic idea that you work some crappy job—washing dishes at a vegetarian restaurant in South Carolina, making omelets at a fake French restaurant in Michigan, moving people out of apartments in Chicago, slicing deli meats in a warehouse in Montana—and you learn about life, about how a wide variety of people live, and this knowledge extends the range and depth of your writing. I have believed in this idea, but in my experience, it’s not that easy. Being a college-educated American working in a restaurant kitchen is not the same as being an illegal Mexican immigrant working in a restaurant kitchen. For one thing, you work eight hours a day and he works sixteen. For another, you move onto graduate school and he gets deported. So, despite enjoying some of them, I don’t think I’ve learned all that much from many of the menial jobs I’ve worked. Except don’t put your hand in an industrial mixer. On the other hand, when you spend your workday, as I did today, writing a 1,000-word biography of a seventeenth-century poet so obscure not even his birth or death dates are known, it can’t help but influence the way you write other things, including fiction. From the years I’ve spent doing this kind of dry reference writing, plus the time I’ve spent as a newspaper reporter and as a staff writer for a disreputable regional boating magazine, I’ve learned the value of treating writing as a method of communication instead of as a means for demonstrating the writer’s cleverness. This was an important—and difficult—lesson for me to learn.

8. When you first thought about writing Ed’s character, did you know immediately that he would be defined by his illness?

Yes, I believe so. One main impetus for the book was an interest in the ways we distance ourselves from our selves. One big example: the internet, a place store your thoughts, memories, and identity while your body deteriorates and you move toward death. We’re becoming like Krang from The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: brains trapped inside machines. And that’s how the medical world treats the body: as a machine, with the brain acting as the computer that operates it. This treatment has always fascinated and disturbed me, in part because I have spent a lot of time in waiting rooms and operating rooms and hospital beds and MRI machines, being prodded and diagnosed and rebuilt and repaired. One of the first things I saw when I started to write about Ed was the tumor growing on the inside of his arm. It was a little bomb of plot implanted inside him. The wick starts to burn when Taylor notices it and forces Ed to see it.

9. Who are your favourite writers and most important literary influences?

Julie Hecht, James Salter, Paul Maliszewski, Geoff Dyer, Édouard Levé, Roberto Bolano, W.G. Sebald, Joy Williams, David Berman, David Gates, Dennis Cooper, James Welch, Tove Jansson, Viktor Shklovsky, Atticus Lish, J.M. Coetzee, Leonard Michaels, Mavis Gallant, James Purdy, Lawrence Weschler, Leo Tolstoy, Gilbert Sorrentino, Samuel Beckett, John O’Hara, Gertrude Stein, Douglas Glover, Lydia Davis, Rachel Aviv, Flann O’Brien, Peter Stamm.

10. Who is Ted McDermott?

Just a guy in West Philadelphia who hates the passage of time, seeks ways to slow it down, and, so far, has found that writing works best.