Michael Andreasen on sci-fi, crossword puzzles & ‘bizarre little video games’

Michael Andreasen’s surreal short story collection, The Sea Beast Takes a Lover, just hit shelves, but it’s already getting tons of buzz from places like Publisher’s Weekly and the Chicago Review of Books. One of our Inventory Managers, Raul, calls it “Magnificent, enchanting, and full of literary verve.” Check out Andreasen’s answers to The BookPeople Questionnaire below. 

michael andreasen

BP: What are you reading these days?

MA: I’m always cheating on books with other books. Right now I’m juggling Helen Oyeyemi’s What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, Kim O’Neil’s Fever Dogs, and Max Winter’s Exes.  They are all simultaneously blowing me away (hence the cheating).  I also cannot wait to get my grubby mitts on Ramona Ausubel’s Awayland.

BP: What books did you love as a child?

MA: Literally any musty paperback on the Sci-fi / Fantasy carousel at the Millard Public Library in Omaha.

BP: What’s the best thing about writing?

MA: The invention process, before the walls close in, before you can even see the walls. You’re building a world out of nothing, and literally anything is possible. Few excitements can compare to that excitement.

BP: What’s the hardest thing about writing?

MA: Knowing when to stop editing. I still don’t know. I never know.

BP: What’s your favorite word?

MA: I keep a running list on my phone and add to it regularly. Recent entries include: array, shifty, stateside, dwimmer, flummox, and cunning

BP: What’s a sentence you’ve loved and remembered from a book?

MA: Thanks to our current political whatever-the-hell-you-call-this, I keep coming back to a line from George Saunders’ essay “The Brain-Dead Megaphone”: “In the beginning, there’s a blank mind.  Then that mind gets an idea in it, and the trouble begins, because the mind mistakes the idea with the world.” Saunders is talking about the run up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but every day I see minds reacting this way – including my own – and it’s more than a little terrifying. On the fiction side, there’s a line from Richard Brautigan’s The Hawkline Monster that’s always stuck with me. While describing a frontier town known for its horses, he writes: “A politician once came all the way from La Grande to look at those horses. It was even rumored that the governor of Oregon had heard of them.”  Not, “The governor of Oregon owned one of those horses,” or even, “The governor of Oregon had heard of the horses,” but, “It was rumored that the governor of Oregon had heard of them.” If a more laughable example of faint praise exists, I haven’t seen it (though it’s possible I am rumored to have seen it).

BP: Do you have any weird writing habits?

MA: I don’t know that it would be considered “weird,” but I like to do at least one crossword puzzle before I start writing. To me it’s kind of like stretching before a run. A good crossword puzzle loosens the mind, forces you to think creatively, to remember obscure names and facts, to come up with words you wouldn’t think of otherwise, all of which are useful when approaching a piece of writing.

BP: Who are your literary influences?

MA: I return to Saunders, Kafka, and Barthelme again and again for inspiration and tutelage. Others include Steven Millhauser, Aimee Bender, Kelly Link, Karen Russell, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, and Katherine Davis.

BP: What’s your favorite place to write?

MA: Noise for drafting: campuses and coffee shops, anyplace with caffeine and people and energy. Quiet for editing: my bedroom, or a table the Newport Beach Public Library with a view of the ocean.

BP: What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer?

MA: Probably designing bizarre little video games in a basement somewhere.


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