Sunday, February 26, 2012

LOST WEEKEND 6-PACK Oscars Edition with JENNA BLUM (Those Who Save Us)

When screenwriter and novelist James Goertel (CARRY EACH HIS BURDEN) kindly asked me to contribute to his Lost Weekend blog, which entails me confessing what 2 books, 2 movies and 2 drinks I frittered my weekend away with, he didn’t know what he was getting into. Because GOOD TIMING: James asked me to contribute on Oscars weekend. And around here, in the Black Room, we take the Oscars seriously. Very seriously.

The Black Room

We didn’t always take ourselves or the Oscars so seriously. There was a time, about 40 years of it, when we said, “Oh, it’s Oscars weekend already? Is that what you had said?” and plumped ourselves down on the couch to ogle the stars and snark about what they were wearing. At our most organized, we might throw some Trader Joe’s piggies in a blanket on a silver tray and toss on a ballgown from the back of the closet. (A writer girl needs to take advantage of every opportunity she has to pull out the tiara, in addition to using it to hold her hair back while brushing her teeth.)

But this was before the Black Room–which is what we began calling our study when we painted it high-gloss black. This was way before we got asked to write our own screenplay, based on our own novel, written ten years earlier.

You Will Forgive A Shameless Plug For Our Own Novel, Won't You? Please?

Never mind that writing a screenplay doesn’t necessarily mean the screenplay will get used as anything more than a blueprint, if it’s used at all. Never mind that it doesn’t mean the movie will ever get made, for that matter.

It still gives us the excuse to take ourselves, and the Oscars, very seriously.

Watching the Oscars can now be considered, after all, part of the job description.

And so. We don our tiaras and choose our books, drinks, and movies in preparation for this very important weekend.


In previous years, B.S. (Before Screenplay), we watched the Oscars not to make predictions as to what movies would win which awards but as a barometer of what movies we should see. As in, “Oh, I never heard of that movie–nominated for Best Picture? Cool. I guess I’d better see it.” This year, being much more organized and serious, we actually managed to watch two, not one, TWO, of the Best Picture Nominees before the big night.

The Descendants“–directed by & starring George Clooney (a recommendation in itself), about a family constellation that must reconfigure itself after the mom, George’s wife, dies (and P.S. she was cheating on him. WHY anyone would cheat on George Clooney could be, perhaps, the smallest plothole in this otherwise stellar movie–but we’ll leave that alone.) “The Descendants” screenplay was adapted for the screen by Alexander Payne, who directed “About Schmidt” and “Sideways,” and I have to say I will pretty much drive over my own head to see anything Alexander Payne writes and directs. “The Descendants” is no exception. That’s my review.

The Tree of Life“–directed by Terence Malick and starring Brad Pitt. I have to confess to a vested interest in “The Tree Of Life” because I first heard about it when it was in production from Martin Lisius, president of Tempest Tours, the stormchase tour company I chased tornadoes with for six years while researching my second novel, THE STORMCHASERS (I now work as a hostess, guide & driver for the company). Martin is also the president of Prairie Pictures and Storm Stock, which provide bona-fide storm footage to directors in need. Including, for “The Tree Of Life,” Terence Malick. “I just got to work with Brad Pitt,” Martin told me in 2010. “Pretty cool.”

So we watched “The Tree of Life,” which I can only describe as a poignant family story folded into a Museum of Natural History nature special about creationism. One of my readers commented on Facebook that although this movie confused her, the images played on the edges of her mind for days. My editor for THOSE WHO SAVE US said she thought it was the best film of 2011. See it for yourself & tell us what you think.


THE ODDS by Stewart O’Nan

Back in my other life, B.S., I was a plain old novelist, and you know what, actually, this is still my real job. Next weekend I’ll be at the AWP conference in Chicago and I get to sit on a panel with Stewart O’Nan, who’s one of my favorite writers of all time. (This man can make what happens to the employees of a closing Red Lobster into a heart-stealing plot.) So I figured I should read his latest book, THE ODDS, about a couple on the brink of divorce taking one last gamble to save their marriage by going to Niagara Falls. Does it work? Read the book. What’s the Oscars connection? There isn’t any–yet. Although I think THE ODDS would make a great short film.

THE DESCENDANTS, by Kaui Hart Hemmings

So you thought it was just a movie, huh? Au contraire. Before the film, there was a novel. I’m reading THE DESCENDANTS to see how the book was transposed to screen–a certain amount of self-interest and learning curve involved.


What are we drinking this Lost Weekend while watching The Oscars? As we are trying to dry out somewhat after a Lost Winter of Pinot, primarily Lucky Star, Layer Cake, Red Bicyclette, and that unbelievably cheap but delicious rooster wine from Trader Joe’s (come on, you know you know what I’m talking about), we are switching to:


We have recently relocated from Boston, home of many novelists and writing school extraordinare Grub Street Writers, to a place specifically conducive to screenwriting. Hollywood, you say? No! What a cliche. We live in The Middle now: Wichita, Kansas, and the reason this is specifically conducive to writing a screenplay is that we can pick the brains of the person we live with, photographer Jim Reed, who in addition to being a world-renowned and celebrated fine art photographer is also a screenwriter. To salute our adopted new state, we drink Boulevard, manufactured just up Interstate 35 in Kansas City.


You think this is a boring beverage? Seriously? Then you have not experienced the seismic gastronomic wonder that results when you drink a whole can of this at once and then say to your Oscars-watching partner, “Pull my finger.” Very refreshing.

And that’s all, except that as we sign off, we wish you the happiest Oscars-watching….and we wish we could raise a glass of this to you:

Veuve Cliquot, a.k.a. Wish Juice

…But we are saving this bottle for another very special occasion–the evening we might win the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. C’mon, a girl can dream, can’t she? After all, that’s what writers do best.

JENNA BLUM is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of THOSE WHO SAVE US and THE STORMCHASERS. Jenna is also one of Oprah's Top Thirty Women Authors. Jenna writes writing and advice columns for Grub Street Writers in Boston, where she has taught fiction workshops for over 15 years, and she currently lives with photographer Jim Reed in Wichita, KS, where she's working on the screenplay for THOSE WHO SAVE US and her third novel. Please visit Jenna on Facebook, Twitter (@Jenna_Blum) and at

Thursday, February 23, 2012

ALL 'LIT' UP LOST WEEKEND 6-PACK with FRANK BILL (Crimes in Southern Indiana)

Lost Weekend 6-Pack/2 Movies,2 Books,2 Drinks

How do you follow up a 6-PACK segment with VOLT author Alan Heathcock? You tap Frank Bill, author of another of my favorite story collections from 2011, Crimes in Southern Indiana, that's how. A quote from the TimeOut Chicago review nails what I love most about Bill's gutbucket collection. Jonathan Messinger writes, "Bill’s Southern Indiana is unrelentingly bleak and violent, effecting the sort of cold beauty portrayed in a film like Winter’s Bone or, yes, the landscape of Cormac McCarthy." My suggestion is to stick Crimes in Southern Indiana in your own 6-pack this weekend. ~ J. Goertel

"Depends on how pissed off I am and if the ink is flowing. For me any book written by Larry Brown, such as Joe, Fay or Big Bad Love. A second book would come from William Gay, you know The Long Home, Provinces of Night or Twilight. Another combo would be anything by Daniel Woodrell or Chris Offutt. Or Tom Franklin and Ron Rash. Or Craig Clevenger and Will Christopher Baer. Or Andrew Vachss and Eddie Little. Or Cormac McCarthy and Denis Johnson. I dig language and how it’s used. Sometimes that means fuel, like a stiff drink. Two drinks would be Knob Creek on the rocks, at least two or three fingers full with an ounce of water. If you gotta get picky skip the water and add in 2oz’s of Coke Zero. Beer isn’t out of the question either, I can be a beer snob and get cross-eyed on Dogfish Head 90 Minute Imperial IPA or go the good ole American boy route and toss back six Miller Lites while watching season one of Deadwood (actually every season kicked ass) and Cool Hand Luke. Or 21 Grams and Taxi Driver. Or The Indian Runner and Full Metal Jacket. Or The Devil’s Rejects and Harsh Times."

Southern Indiana writer of literature with grit, noir and a criminal edge. He's been published in Playboy, Granta, The Oxford American, Plots with Guns, Beat to a Pulp, Talking River Review, Crimefactory and many other outlets. His first book, Crimes in Southern Indiana was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux and his first novel, DONNYBROOK hits shelves in 2013. He is represented by Stacia Decker of the Donald Maas Literary Agency. For more information, please check out the links below.

FRANK BILL on Twitter

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Lost Weekend 6-Pack/2 Movies,2 Books,2 Drinks

ALL 'LIT' UP's inaugural edition of the LOST WEEKEND 6-PACK featured two Chicagoland authors, Ben Tanzer and Patricia Ann McNair, last week, so it is fitting the follow-up happens to feature Alan Heathcock, a Chicago native and the author of VOLT, last year's stunning and heavily lauded story collection published by Graywolf Press and a staple of year-end top-ten lists. I am a big fan of this breakout author and have had the privilege to correspond with him during his meteoric rise and the kind of whirlwind year of opportunities and accolades every writer dreams of. Tapping Alan for the 6-PACK was a dream of mine because I know how passionate he is about books and movies and because I was interested to see how the author of the haunting and brutal story The Staying Freight might round out the 6-pack beverage-wise. Alan ended up putting together a sixer I wouldn't mind partaking of myself this weekend. Enjoy - J. Goertel

Alan Heathcock
"We'll call it a weekend, but I'm a consumer with strong legs and have been known to kill a "weekend six pack" on a weekday. The movies would be something thoughtful and beautiful and poetic, like Malick's Tree of Life or Bergman's Winter Light, and then something thoughtful and exciting, something that'll get my hackles raised a bit, like Drive, There Will be Blood, something by Scorsese, or any movie where Hitchcock didn't try to be funny. The books would be something by Cormac McCarthy (for me, there's Cormac...and then all the rest), The Road, Blood Meridian, and Child of God being in regular rotation, and then maybe some poetry--just read It Is Daylight by Arda Collins, which totally blew me away. For drinks, I'd feed my brain cells with some sort of veggie/fruit/grass smoothie, and then I'd kill a few brain cells with a six pack of Miller High Life (I'm a simple man--don't hate me). In fact, this post has inspired me--anyone up for beer and Vertigo?"

Alan Heathcock’s fiction has been published in many of America’s top magazines and journals, including Zoetrope: All-Story, Kenyon Review,VQR, Five Chapters, Storyville, and The Harvard Review. His stories have won the National Magazine Award in fiction, and have been selected for inclusion in The Best American Mystery Stories anthology. VOLT, a collection of stories published by Graywolf Press, was a “Best Book 2011″ selection from numerous newspapers and magazines, including GQ, Publishers Weekly, Salon, the Chicago Tribune, and Cleveland Plain Dealer, was named as a New York Times Editors’ Choice, selected as a Barnes and Noble Best Book of the Month, as well as for inclusion in the Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers series. Heathcock is a finalist for the Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Award, has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and is currently a Literature Fellow for the state of Idaho. A Native of Chicago, he teaches fiction writing at Boise State University. For more information, please feel free to visit

Monday, February 13, 2012


Sucking Up Inspiration
By James Goertel

I have no real routine when it comes to writing. I don't sit in a chair at a desk at a prescribed time until a prescribed time, five days a week. I don't approach it like a regular job. I approach it the way one approaches a passion. Our passions are open to flights of fancy and inexplicable whimsy. I write in the afternoon, in the early morning, well into the night - and not every day. I write for ten or fourteen days on end without a break and often times without concern for personal hygiene. I also don't write for ten or fourteen days at a time with nothing but meticulous attention to my personal hygiene. I write in the car on maps from the glove compartment and on receipts from my wallet. Forget the dangers of texting drivers, - if you see me in a car get out of the way, for god's sake - I write while I'm driving! I write on napkins at bars, on barf bags in airplanes, and on my own hands. The only remotely consistent methodology I have as a writer is that I enjoy vacuuming whenever possible before I sit down to my passion. Vacuuming, in fact, is my other passion. I will resist turning this into a treatise on which models I prefer and are the best bang for the consumer buck - trust me, though, I've tried them all. And, let me not digress about my morbid fascination with my mother-in-law's forty year old Kirby model vacuum cleaner (but if I could just get a peek at that last will and testament of hers).

Vacuuming relaxes me and puts me in a state of mind in which I am most prepared to write, especially when I am tackling a big edit job on a new story or recent chapter. It is the perfect ten or fifteen minute pastime to daydream about characters, scenes, and language. The white noise of a Hoover upright is the quintessential aural think tank. It is, pardon the pun, the perfect vacuum, where the only sound I really hear is that of my writer brain tossing writerly flotsam, jetsam, and, even sometimes, perfection itself around inside my skull. If I could get away with it, I would leave the vacuum running for hours while I am writing. I can change a belt or a bag on almost any model and in the dark to boot. At box stores like Sears and JC Penney I can often be found, near catatonic, mouth ajar, a glimmer of drool forming at the lips, in the home appliance section staring at the new models. My beautiful, brilliant wife, Rachel, tolerates this fetish and my one and only true writing methodology quirk. But, I believe I am in good company.

I once read an interview with Iggy Pop where he replied with all earnestness to an interviewer asking him how he relaxed, that he enjoyed vacuuming. I still smile as I sit here and think about his answer. If Iggy Pop enjoys it, it must be normal - right?

Not only is Iggy famous for having invented punk rock with his band The Stooges some six or seven years before bands like the Sex Pistols, The Damned, and a hundred others stumbled and spit their way across the second half of the 1970's, his stage antics are the stuff of legend. While hippies and love children were still flashing peace signs and sticking flowers in their hair in San Francisco, Iggy was writhing around on the stages of dirty Detroit nightclubs, smearing himself with peanut butter and practicing self-mutilation. The Rolling Stones' ill-fated concert at Altamont, where Hell's Angels hired to provide security stabbed a concert goer to death and beat and brutalized countless others, wasn't the bell toll signaling the end of the feel-good 60's, it was the blood and bash of Iggy and his Clockwork Orange henchmen posing as bandmates. Iggy and The Stooges' songs like Search and Destroy, Your Pretty Face Has Gone to Hell, and I Wanna Be Your Dog were sprayed upon an unsuspecting and, frankly, disinterested public from 1969 through 1973, like the piss of an unwanted feral cat trying to mark its territory in the Gobi Desert. The band eventually imploded under the weight of an indifferent public, near nonexistent record sales, and a 'too much too soon' reputation. Even the God of Glam, David Bowie, couldn't save the band by remixing their 1973 swan song, Raw Power, which crashed and burned like an underpowered rocket, failing to chart. By 1974, the band was no more. Iggy's career was resurrected to a degree by Bowie in 1976-77 when Pop, after a stint in an L.A. area mental hospital, joined him in Berlin, the result of which was Pop's two best known and well-received albums, The Idiot and Lust for Life, both produced and co-written by the Thin White Duke himself. Despite this year reprieve a decade of hanging at the fringes of the rock world followed, until a new generation of 'punks' discovered Iggy and the simple power and pleasures of his frenetic, flip, and often unfocused music, bands like Nirvana and Mudhoney.

Iggy Pop, against the odds it would seem, is still with us, cranking out albums and tours - including a new stint a few years back with the surviving members of The Stooges. He is a survivor himself and, in most circles these days, the recognized father of punk rock, frequently name-checked by chart-topping bands like Green Day and The Offspring who have to some extent cashed in on his legacy.

But for me the legacy and my connection to it begins and ends with his answer to an interviewer's question - "I vacuum." The answer actually sounds kind of punk now that I think about it. If vacuuming led to the Igster being relaxed enough to create an entirely new genre of music, one that many writers of my generation have been thoroughly influenced by, then I think no therapy is in order. Who cares if I ask for room service to bring up one of the hotel's commercial-grade vacuums along with the $14 BLT I just ordered, when I am staying at the La Quinta in Orange, Texas? I'm just trying to relax before the reading, dammit.

James Goertel is the editor of NEXTV Entertainment's literary blog, ALL 'LIT' UP, and the author of CARRY EACH HIS BURDEN, his debut fiction collection. He is currently vacuuming a large section of Berber in preparation to continue working on his novel, LET THE POWER FALL.

Friday, February 10, 2012


Lost Weekend 6-Pack/2 Movies,2 Books,2 Drinks

In this brand new ALL 'LIT' UP segment, I ask authors, editors, and booksellers to put together their perfect 6-Pack of the moment for a lost weekend - two movies, two books, and two drinks. This weekend there are 6-PACKs from two of my favorite Chicagoland authors, Ben Tanzer and Patricia Ann McNair. Cheers ~ J. Goertel

Ben Tanzer
"I can do this. Totally. The movies would be After Hours and Apocalypse Now, maybe the Godfather, the books, The Basketball Diaries and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and the drinks, at least one Gin & Tonic in a tall glass, though likely more than one, followed by a Jack and Ginger, many, and long into the night at that."

Ben Tanzer is the author of the books 99 Problems, You Can Make Him Like You, My Father's House and So Different Now among others. Ben also oversees day to day operations of This Zine Will Change Your Life and can be found online at This Blog Will Change Your Life the center of his vast, albeit faux media empire.

This Blog Will Change Your Life -
Twitter -
So Different Now -
My Father's House -
You Can Make Him Like You -

Patricia Ann McNair

"The weekends of late have been lost to the work of a new semester starting at Columbia College Chicago. The next weekend I will try to steal back: Occupy Weekend! I’ll be finishing A Visit From the Goon Squad (I am indeed the only person left in America — the world, maybe — who has not read this book,) and will be starting a new collection of short stories, A Vacation on the Island of Ex-Boyfriends by Stacy Bierlein. (Note: this so not a chick-lit book, don’t be fooled!) And where would I be without a strong coffee (shot in the dark, coffee and espresso) in the morning, and a cold microbrew in the evening? Lately I’ve been sampling Cane & Ebel from Two Brothers Brewing Company. The movie list grows and grows. Time, I think, to see The Skin I Live In (Almodovar) and John Cameron Mitchell’s Rabbit Hole. Cheerful stuff, you know."

Patricia Ann McNair - author of the acclaimed collection The Temple of Air - has lived 98 percent of her life in the Midwest. She’s managed a gas station, sold pots and pans door to door, tended bar and breaded mushrooms, worked on the trading floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and taught aerobics. Today she is an Associate Professor in the Fiction Writing Department of Columbia College Chicago and is at work on a novel, Climbing the House of God Hill.

publisher site

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


ALL 'LIT' UP's inaugural MY DINNER WITH... segment had to be, needed to be, and so is with author, zinester, blogger, and podcaster Ben Tanzer out of Chicago. He's a New York State boy mixin' it up big time in The Windy City literary scene. I recently read his book Most Likely You Go Your Way And I'll Go Mine and was not only entertained by and enamored with the story, but was struck by the visual nature of his writing. His book seemed to be one of those must-see indie film classics from the late 90's. Ben is a pop culture jukebox, a gifted writer with a unique voice, and the guy you most want to see when you walk into a room full of people - especially when said room is a bar. ~ J. Goertel

Ben Tanzer is the author of the books 99 Problems, You Can Make Him Like You, My Father's House and So Different Now among others. Ben also oversees day to day operations of This Zine Will Change Your Life and can be found online at This Blog Will Change Your Life the center of his vast, albeit faux media empire.

This Blog Will Change Your Life -

Twitter -

So Different Now -

My Father's House -

You Can Make Him Like You -

My Dinner With Ben Tanzer

Ben Tanzer: I know, I know, and I'm sorry, you told me you wanted to eat, had to eat, would not even sit down and do this interview without some food. And yes, you very generously said I could pick the location, and so I apologize for making you drink your dinner. Still, we are in New York City. We were planning on meeting in the Bowery anyway and it just seemed impossible to me not to do this at McSorley's. The sawdust. The 2 for 1 drink specials. The little beer mugs. And look bro, it's not like they don't have anything to eat, I just don't know anyone who would eat here. Do you want another round? Cool. Coming up.

James Goertel: What are some books from your childhood that you remember loving?

BT: Man, so many, I read voraciously, it was like a switch was flipped after I learned to read and after that I consumed any book I could get my hands on. Still, there were books I read again and again, first and foremost, The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll. I would say it was like a drug, but that seems like a bad joke, or at least a poor attempt at a pun. The Basketball Diaries for sure though, and Carrie by Stephen King, The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews, and then all of the John Carter Warlord of Mars books, everything by Judy Blume, and S.E. Hinton. I loved Robert Cormier. I read man, a lot, and all the time.

JG: Were your parents big readers - if so, what did they read?

BT: Sort of. They were big book buyers, we had tons of books in the house, especially art books, my dad was a painter, and psychology books, my mom is a therapist, but mainly magazines, The New Yorker, The Nation, both of which I read religiously, Cineaste, Artforum and the New York Times. Both of my parents, were, are classic New York Jew intellectuals, well-read, hyper-articulate, and loved books, though I should say that in our house it was more about movies, watching them, talking about them, comparing them and remembering when and where we, they, saw them, and what was going on at the time.

JG: When did you know you wanted to write for a living?

BT: You can do this for a living? I wish someone had mentioned that sooner. I can say this, however, I was in a creative writing class a senior in high school, and not unlike when I learned how to read, something clicked, writing made sense, and at first it didn't mean anything to me, but it slowly became all I could think about when I wasn't trying to get laid, and maybe even then. It was a slow build-up, but by my early twenties I was obsessed with the idea of writing, making lists of potential stories, saving clippings of newspaper articles I might reference in the stories I would someday write, but I did not write, and then at 30, I looked at my life, which was good, fine, and thought there must be something else. I wrote my first story shortly thereafter and haven't stopped since.

JG: Tell me about an early attempt at the craft?

BT: The first thing I did that hit me as different, that maybe something might be going on for me with writing was a short story I wrote in my high school creative writing class that was inspired by the Springsteen song "Downbound Train." In the story a guy loses his job and then his girlfriend which drives him to grab his shotgun and blow his brains out. What he finds though is not death, but relief from the tremendous pressure he was feeling. After that he goes for a beer. Today I might have been sent to school counselor or someone would have at least called my parents and expressed some concern. Instead the piece was celebrated and I held onto the feeling, and the possibility of it, for a long time. Not that I got started, or re-started, for many years after that.

JG: When did you think, "I might be pretty darn good at this writing thing?"

BT: I actually didn't know I was allowed to think that. But when I finished that first story, when I finally got started, and I mean literally that first handwritten draft that emerged wholly and in one shot, I knew I wasn't wrong that I wanted to start in the first place.

JG: What authors, books have influenced your writing/thinking and how?

BT: When I first moved to Chicago I had this idea that if I went to see established authors read their work, some of their mojo might rub off on me and allow me to somehow get started, and I had the opportunity to see a great number of writers who I really fell in love with, including Joe Meno, Elizabeth Crane, Lynda Barry, Scott Haim, Dorothy Allison and Don DeGrazia, who made me want to write and sound like them, and if this isn't getting weird, or stalkerish, the idea of wanting to be them and what they represented to me, being an actual writer, something I had obsessed over, was the most profound influence they could have had and did.

JG: Talk to me about writing dialogue - for me that's where most stories/books fall down when they do - you know the kind - where every character talks like every other character.

BT: When I write dialogue I don't necessarily begin by focusing on how I think a particular character should speak, though as a story evolves I will try to pay attention to the rhythms and tics that emerge, but what I do focus on is how I think various characters would converse with one another, in terms of themes and language. I also focus on trying to capture how people speak in real life, and real time, the stopping and starting, the feints and curves. Dialogue is not smooth and flowing, it's like a fight, intimate and jarring, even when funny and laced with references to pop culture.

JG: It can be both a compliment and a curse when someone likens your work to another author's - what are the ups and downs of that?

BT: In general it is most definitely a compliment, and is certainly intended to be. I also think it is mostly an up when you are less established or obscure as I am, and so these kinds of comparisons offer the vast legions of non-fans a reference point. When you're more well known and it becomes more incumbent to own your voice and brand, these comparisons are probably more of a drag, on your ego, and your sense of being something, and someone because of who you and what you do. That said I was talking to a somewhat obscure female writer I really admire and when I finally met her I likened her work to a far more established writer I really idolize and she got fairly offended about it. I think it was because it was a writer she doesn't like, but the reasons were never entirely clear to me. What was clear to me however is that we would probably not be making out after that.

JG: Any nightmare anecdotes about reading out?

BT: Well, the most nightmarish of the nightmares is the paranoia that no one will come to the reading, that you will be somewhere where you are unknown and the event is poorly publicized or that your reading is competing with another one. And this has happened to me a couple of times over the years, and it always sucks, though the worst was at this great indie bookstore near my in-laws' house. This was due in part because it was the first time it happened to me, in part because my in-laws came with me and looked horrified, and in part because the one person who came just wanted me to sign a book so he could leave immediately, but mainly because the publicist at the bookstore could not hide her utter disdain for me and the idea that she thought I would be draw, was not and that it was clearly my fault no one came.

JG: You plug a lot of writers through your various blogs and zines. There's a history in the world of letters of writers tearing down other writers - often in a very public way - and here you are talking them up - why?

BT: I suppose on some level it's a desire to not engage in negativity, I don't enjoy seeing it in others, and I am embarrassed when I feel like I'm adding to it. More so though, I am very fan boy in general and when I get engrossed in something or someone's work I always want to shout about it from the rooftops. For many years I was very self-conscious about this, I think I just decided it was not cool and tried to suppress it, but as an adult that now seems ridiculous and I have tried to embrace it. Further, I always had this hope that I would develop some kind of platform where people actually cared about what I cared about, and so as soon as that seemed like a possibility I decided to run with it. And finally, from very early on I had the sense that I was going to be unknown for some time, maybe permanently, and so I decided it was important to build a brand of sorts. Inspired by the monorail episode of The Simpsons I initially decided that I would portray anything I wrote as something that would change your life and as the idea evolved I thought if I am going to hype the things I love anyway, that should be part of the brand, any and all things I touch or care about will change your life. I of course also believe this to be undoubtedly true and so I am staying on message, here and everywhere else.

JG: Have you had your fifteen minutes of fame yet - if so, what was it - and it doesn't mean you won't get another seven or eight minutes of it down the line somewhere - actually this interview accounts for about five minutes of fame - but, go ahead.

BT: I hope not, though if I had to choose between 15 minutes of fame and a lengthier sustained stretch of mostly, but not completely unknown, notoriety, with an ongoing quasi-cultish following, I will choose the latter. That said, I do appreciate your efforts to minimize my unknownness, and I should add that I did appear on the inaugural episode of MTV Sports which brought me a shocking amount of attention for a 10-second clip, though I should note that this attention while long lasting was primarily confined to the bars in my hometown.

JG: Here's a broad topic - but what are your thoughts on independent booksellers and - is it David and Goliath?

BT: This is tricky, and partially based on whether you mean the publishers of indie books or the stores that sell them. I'm not sure I know whether Amazon hurts those publishers or not. It takes much of the profit, but appears to increase exposure and traffic. It's terrible for indie bookstores though and for me this is the more conflictual response. As a writer I want the exposure and traffic, but as a lover of books, I want to be able to wander into indie bookstores wherever and whenever I want. Amazon's existence ensures that is less likely to occur. Which both sucks and makes me sort of a dick.

JG: Most writers are not Stephen King or James Patterson in terms of access to the marketplace. Can you detail how you went from writing your books to getting your books into a position to be noticed on some level?

BT: So are we assuming I have done so? Because that would make me happy, thanks. If the current books have been noticed, and that is a big if to some extent, it is from hustling, setting up readings, blatantly asking people to take a look at them, swapping books and massive efforts to both social network and cultivate relationships, getting out to meet people, staying in touch, supporting other writer's work and hyping myself. It is also about production, new books, different types of books, a variety of publishers and building an audience, book by book, and fan by fan. I've always approached it like an indie band or a comedian, no one will find you because you are cool and amazingly talented, do good work, get better, promote, promote, promote, don't turn anything down and do not relent, ever.

JG: Are there any screenwriters past or present you admire?

BT: Yes, for sure. Aaron Sorkin for the dialogue, people don't quite talk like he writes, but he understands that conversation is combat and I quite love that. Noah Baumbach is great, whether we're talking his recent string of directorial efforts, The Squid and the Whale especially, or his work with Wes Anderson. Spike Lee, those early movies in particular. Sofia Coppola, who seems to focus less on dialogue than on creating a canvas to work from and then Todd Field for his adaptations, which I find really nuanced and knowing.

JG: Tell me about an adaptation from book to film that worked for you and/or one that didn't and why?

BT: Picking-up on the last question, I think the adaption of In The Bedroom by Todd Field is just fantastic, crushing, taut and well-acted. I also love Short Cuts, Robert Altman's adaption of Raymond Carver's short stories. And what didn't work, I suppose is the adaption of the Basketball Diaries, not only as an adaption of the book, it didn't remotely capture the hinky, scuzzy, jazzy anything goes 1970s New York City vibe of the book. It just wasn't even that much fun, and that book is a lot of fun yo. I could add here, that all three of the adaptions I immediately jumped to in my head are from work by authors I really like, Andre Dubus, Raymond Carver and Jim Carroll respectively, though in the case of the adaptions I like, I saw those movies before being introduced to the author's work and in the case of The Basketball Diaries it was the opposite and maybe it was inevitably going to be a letdown for me no matter what they tried to do with it.

JG: How would you feel if another writer adapted your work for the screen - and changed it or cut out your darlings - be honest, not star-struck when you answer.

BT: I can't be star-struck? You can't let a guy dream? Damn Goertel. Seriously though, I have always read that you have to let go of your attachment to your story and your darlings, and I want to believe I could do that. It will help though if someone pays me a boatload to option it. Do you think someone will?

JG: I can make a few calls as soon as I get more minutes on my track phone. Okay then, keeping with this theme of cinema and writing, can you mention a few movies for which you admire the writing?

BT: Pulp Fiction for the mix, of humor, dread, pop culture references, dialogue and ever-shifting order. Do The Right Thing, again the dialogue and vibe, capturing that place and time. Happiness. In The Bedroom and Short Cuts as I mentioned earlier. Brokeback Mountain. Juno. Swingers, so spot on, I've almost never seen an audience so engaged from word to word and scene to scene.

JG: What's the best TV writing out there right now?

BT: I suppose, no I know, I am drawn to stories of flawed man, good men, maybe, possibly, who are mostly trying to understand why things are so confusing, and what that means, and in that vein, I am endlessly drawn to Justified and Mad Men, but also Louis and more recently Breaking Bad, all fairly sparse and intimate, almost violent, and some cases very much so, but also in terms of how the characters talk and feel things, and they all talk, a lot, and I am certainly drawn to that.

JG: Tell me about a brush with fame you've had - anything besides the MTV thing?

BT: There's talking to you. And the whole MTV Sports thing of course. Other than that, sort of slim really, though one time when my wife and I went to see Oleanna Off-Broadway with my mom I looked down the row and saw Larry "Bud" Melman sitting off by himself in one of his usual dark suits, and though I know as a New Yorker I am supposed to be too cool to gush, I walked over and thanked him for all of the late-night pleasure he had brought me. He seemed very appreciative, though in retrospect my choice of phrasing seems very awkward now.

JG: You're from New York State but live in Chicago now - tell me about the lit scene in The Windy City - the good, the bad and the 2A.M. ugly.

BT: I hadn't started writing yet when we first moved here, so for the most part I do not have a point of comparison. That said, the frequent, and frankly endless, opportunities for group sex at the various readings and literary events are really nice. I wasn't prepared for it, but I have adapted for sure. More importantly though for your purposes, I should probably note that naked writers, and fans, aside, there is an incredibly rich array of readings and events all the time, weekly, even daily it seems, there has really been an explosion of events to attend and absorb, and I'm not sure there is much bad or ugly right now, not everything is equal, and it all may remain a little insular, meaning writers themselves are maybe more into a lot of this than the public is, but the hunger and excitement is contagious, though I understand using that word in an answer involving group sex may reflect yet even more awkward, possibly uncomfortable, phrasing.

JG: What's on tap for 2012?

BT: Always working on the Wham! reunion tour, and here's hoping for this year. I have been working on a science fiction novel which I'm excited about as well as a new collection which I will try not to jinx but will star some of my old friends, Richard Simmons and Vanilla Ice among others,. Otherwise, I hope to get some momentum around catching-up on Breaking Bad before the next season starts and maybe, just maybe start watching The Wire, or Lost, possibly Game of Thrones. Oh, and world peace, that is definitely a goal.

JG: What story/novel of your own would you like to see made into a movie and could you cast it - who would play whom?

BT: I will begin by letting your readers know that I think it's fairly clear that any of my novels have great investment written all over them. Sex. Attractive people. The sets and shoot would not require anything real elaborate in terms of car chases or shooting in foreign countries. Frankly, we could easily shoot in Vancouver. The books are heavy on Sorkinesque dialogue. But there's also sex. And attractive people. Did I mention that? There is also conflict and love. And all of them are guaranteed to make money. People in the industry have said as much. I can't say who, but people, important ones. Important to me anyway. However, if I must pick just one, maybe my third novel You Can Make Him Like You, which is consciously dialogue driven, current, evoking the Obama campaign, skews young, loved by men and women, and is set in the suddenly way cool Chicago, or Vancouver of course, as a character all it's own. I have also already conveniently cast it for you at the MY BOOK, THE MOVIE blog, so your work is practically finished before you start. Plus, Jason Siegel is on a hot streak, so let's get him now, like right now, go.

JG: Well, that’s it, my friend. Thanks.

BT: And thank you for this, another round? Good. I'm on it.

JG: I guess these beer nuts could be considered a meal.