B.R. Yeager Interview
I first heard mutterings of B.R. Yeager’s Amygdalatropolis in certain dark corners of the literary Twitterverse last year. Blake Butler described the book as “blood meridian meets 4chan meets DC’s the sluts.” Needless to say, I was intrigued, promptly ordering a copy sight unseen. When I opened the package, I was met by a cover adorned with parasitic worms bursting from an intestinal tract. How could I not love this book?
I devoured Amygdalatropolis, an enigmatic and unrelenting novel primarily shaped like an anonymous message board. Beyond the violence and depravity spouted by a kaleidoscope of incels, the book is deeply philosophical and speculative, a malware carrying the consciousness of Georges Bataille.
But who is B.R. Yeager, and like, what is his deal? I managed to track him down and profess my admiration for his work. Yeager was generous enough to share with Ligeia an excerpt from his latest longplayer, Negative Space, which you can read here.
The new book, out now from Apocalypse Party, is a leap forward for Yeager—sharper, weirder, and grander. Following the exploits of several teenagers as they confront a plague of supernatural suicides, the narrative is packed with surreal, nightmarish imagery that would make David Lynch blush. This is modern horror as it should be.
Yeager generously agreed to correspond with me over email. Coincidentally, our conversation took place as the world descended into plague-ridden chaos. I cannot conceive of a more appropriate backdrop.
I want to begin with your origin story. When did you take an interest in creative writing? Was it something you did as a child, or did you come to the craft later in life? What or who were some formative influences?
I think I’ve always been interested in storytelling, regardless of the medium. I wrote a lot as a child—short stories but also concepts for movies, video games, and tabletop role playing games. Throughout high school and my early 20s, all my friends were musicians, so I more or less abandoned formal storytelling in favor of being in bands. But even then I was trying (and ultimately failing) to tell stories with the music, or create an atmosphere that suggested a story. I was still writing—mostly poetry and song lyrics, but I didn’t fully return to writing fiction until my late twenties (specifically mid-2013).
I was always interested in horror—with books it started with R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike, then Edgar Allan Poe, then Lovecraft and so on. But the dam really broke when my mom handed down her copy of Geek Love. I was maybe 12. That book made me realize that content forbidden in other mediums was permitted—and even celebrated—in literature. That probably set the tone for everything I’ve written so far.
“I do feel like the periods when I was primarily focused on making music/writing lyrics had an enormous effect on how I approach fiction.”
I always appreciate artists who take a multidisciplinary approach. It’s cool how you’ve bridged the gap between music and literature. I think a lot of music can be literary (Prurient comes to mind). Prose can likewise be musical. I’ve always rejected the idea that a person is beholden to a singular medium. Why limit ourselves? Everything bleeds together.
On the subject of childhood, Negative Space takes the “kids on bikes” trope and elevates it to nightmarish levels. Stranger Things this ain’t. The narrative features several shifting perspectives, all of them teenagers. More often than not, when adults write younger characters they miss the mark (usually to cringeworthy effect). I thought you did a masterful job capturing that youthful dialect. What was your approach to rendering these adolescent voices?
God, Prurient is so good—definitely listened to a lot of Frozen Niagara Falls while writing Negative Space. I do feel like the periods when I was primarily focused on making music/writing lyrics had an enormous effect on how I approach fiction, in that I’m still more interested in mood and suggestion than plot and exposition.
Regarding the youthful dialect, thank you, that means a lot. It was something that was very important to me while writing both this and Amygdalatropolis. You’re absolutely correct about most efforts to capture “youth culture” resulting in pandering cringe. Those authors, I imagine, have a very limited view of that age, and the depth of those experiences. Like, teens may have a lack of lived experience, and they may do stupid or risky shit, but that doesn’t make their experiences and the ways they view the world inherently shallow. Because teenagers tend to be unavailable to adults—living a sort of secret life among their peer group—a lot of folks don’t look past the surface, and assume there isn’t any depth there.
I think the key is to just write those characters as people, rather than specifically “teenagers.” The fact that they are teens informs their circumstances (attending school, living with parents, limited autonomy), but not necessarily their personalities. Otherwise, I was mainly mining my own memories, and experiences my friends and I had when we were that age. Over the past ten years I’ve also had a lot of jobs that have had me working with people between like 18-22, so I pulled from that, too.
Yeah, I teach mostly teenagers. I’m often astounded by how brilliant and insightful they can be (often more so than many adults I know, ha!). Reading Negative Space brought me back to those wild teenage years. Kept thinking to myself, “I’ve been in that crummy basement, I’ve bought shitty weed from that creep,” etc. Your characters might lack that life experience like you said, but they are more perceptive of what’s happening than their parents.
You also take on the challenge of writing “the other.” You bring a lot of nuance to a trans character, a young bisexual woman, and a person of color. I’ve been hearing a lot of discussion on this topic lately. Some say white males such as ourselves have no business writing minority characters. Others argue we have a responsibility to create diverse characters, permitted we do the research (I think I fall more in this camp). All the conversations I’ve had about this never end with a clear answer—seems to be a murky debate. How did you approach writing “the other” in Negative Space?
Oh, I can absolutely confirm that I’ve been in that crummy basement, and have bought shitty weed from that creep! I’m glad that rang true. A driving force of this book is that young people are often able to see things that adults cannot—not sure if that’s a result of adults becoming comfortable with their condition or being beaten down by a sense of inevitability, while young people often have a lack of baggage that allows for novel perspectives. I’m not an expert in any of this, but that’s what it feels like.
This is probably going to sound evasive, but I didn’t really see it as taking on a challenge. Ultimately, I think my stance is that everyone is free to write whatever they like, and any reader is also free to criticize it. I’d like to say I wasn’t trying to strike a win for “representation,” because that tends to be self-serving when the author’s background differs from that of their characters, but on a subconscious level who knows? It’s largely an instinctual thing, and I try not to get in the way of my intuition (with varying degrees of success). This was just the way the characters emerged, and it should always be a goal to write characters with as much nuance as possible. That’s what I aimed for, but it’s not my call to say whether or not I succeeded.
You’re right to follow intuition. There’s nothing worse than diversity for diversity’s sake. I think you bring a lot of complexity to these voices. They aren’t caricatures—you’ve made them much more dynamic. I think the characters’ fluid sexuality helps too.
At the center of the narrative is Tyler, but we have a limited understanding of him. We only hear his voice parroted through other characters. We never get inside his head. He strikes me as a sort of chaos agent, almost more like an uncontrollable force of nature than a human being. He seems to precipitate much of the novel’s conflict, but we also get the sense that he too is beholden to an unseen master. How did Tyler evolve as you were putting the book together? Did his development surprise you in any way?
So I’ve been thinking a lot about how I want to broach this, or even whether I want to broach this at all, because it’s a touchy and personal subject. Not just for me, but a lot of people I’m close with. Essentially, Negative Space was instigated by the death of one of my best friends, and his struggles leading up to it. And it feels as though that needs to be said because the book is inextricably linked to that event—there would be no reason for it to exist had that not occurred. There’s an aspect of saying this that feels gross and exploitative, but it feels inadequate talking about it without that context. It also helps that he was a real morbid and melodramatic motherfucker, someone who loved art that mined real loss and agony, and I believe he would’ve loved the idea of a book inspired by his death.
None of which is to say that Tyler is a stand-in, because he isn’t—the more I wrote Tyler, the more he became vastly different from my friend. And maybe the biggest surprise was how different he ended up being. But “chaos agent” and “uncontrollable force of nature” are definitely characteristics that would apply to both the character and his inspiration, for better and worse.
“All the characters' various forms of communion are attempts to reach the space beyond the limits of their senses.”
Thank you for being open about the loss of your friend. I suspected something like that must’ve sparked the book. It has an incredibly intimate undercurrent. Obviously I didn’t know your friend, but the book doesn’t feel heartless or exploitative. I think in a way it honors your friend, like a tribute or testament.
In that sense, there is a devotional quality to the book. Parts of it read almost like a sacred text—incantations, rituals, myths. There’s a wonderful intersection between religion and spiritualism. Characters commune with saints and demons, like Saint Gobnait. Still, the occult permeates everything. I was getting echoes of Lovecraft, but also Christian mysticism, like The Cloud of Unknowing. As a former Catholic turned atheist, I see elements of that faith creep into my own writing at times. Did you have a religious upbringing? If so, how does that inform your work?
I had the complete opposite of a religious upbringing. My parents had extremely religious upbringings (fundamentalist Christianity and orthodox Judaism), which they both rejected completely, so I was more or less raised as an atheist (though not entirely—they have some non-denominational, intuitive spiritual inclinations, but nothing dogmatic). For the most part, I embraced atheism for the majority of my life—sometimes to an extreme degree, which has been shitty at times, and I’m not proud of that. I’ve been trying to be more open, and the last few years I’ve realized that absolute materialism has maybe been lacking. I’ve been working toward recognizing the value of spiritual/religious/mystic practices and communities, even though my actual engagement has been minimal.
Ultimately, my current belief is that it’s not that I don’t believe in God or the divine, I just don’t believe in an anthropomorphic God, or an anthropomorphic rendering of the divine.
But yeah, in terms of the book, it was one of those things where just because I skew toward atheist/agnostic beliefs doesn’t mean the book should be solely populated by atheists and agnostics. All the characters’ various forms of communion are attempts to reach the space beyond the limits of their senses. But even though they’re able to reach that space to varying degrees, it doesn’t mean their beliefs or practices are entirely “correct.” So while a character may pray to Saint Gobnait, the actual entity that speaks back isn’t necessarily her. Or while a ritual may give a character access to that space, individual details of the ritual may not be necessary to access that space. Does that make sense?
I think I get what you’re saying. We’re surrounded by the metaphysical realm without being able to see it. Sometimes people access these other planes of existence—through drugs, rituals, spells. Even if you can reach these dimensions, you can never have a complete understanding of them. How can we process something beyond our comprehension? Again, Lovecraft comes to my mind (probably because I just watched Richard Stanely’s Color Out of Space, ha!).
I wanted to get your thoughts on genre. To me, Negative Space is not only an excellent novel, it’s a masterpiece of modern horror. I put it up there with guys like Brian Evenson. You play with different genres though. The end gets a bit sci-fi, and there are fantasy elements as well. For whatever reason, genre gets maligned in many circles. It baffles me how much of the literary establishment doesn’t treat genre fiction seriously. What attracts you to horror? Why do you think it gets relegated to the gutter?
Shit, thank you so much. Evenson is objectively far better than me, but I’ll take the compliment.
I think the reason horror gets relegated to the gutter is because the genre is foremost centered around exploring base, primordial responses. Which isn’t to say horror isn’t often cerebral—that just isn’t necessarily the focus, much of the time (there is also plenty of theory-fiction out there that proves this statement wrong). I can’t speak to the literary establishment, because I’m not in that world and I don’t pay much attention to it, but I feel as though a lot of folks simply find it embarrassing or childish to incorporate imaginative elements into their stories. Similarly, to be frightened—especially by a piece of media—is to feel like a child. And there’s something embarrassing about that. So maybe horror is maligned by squares as a defense from being seen as childlike.
That said, genre fiction can get awfully stuffy as well. There’s a lot of work that isn’t concerned with trying anything new, just trotting out the same formulas and standard bogeymen, and that’s just as boring to me as a book about rich people getting divorced. Maybe not as boring, but you get my point. Mick Garris often says that the best horror stories are great dramas first, and that you could remove the genre elements and it would still be a compelling story. I maybe agree with that about 60-70% of the time, because there is a lot of horror media I love that would absolutely not fly as straight drama.
But here’s the thing: I don’t want to see horror crawl out of the gutter. Horror belongs in the gutter. That’s where it thrives. I feel similar about the state of literature in general. Aside from the potential of making more money, why clamor for institutional acceptance? What does it matter? When people lament the decline of literature as a force in popular culture, really I think we should be embracing that. The most interesting shit grows in the dark. There’s so much freedom in no one caring except for the hardcore. Build a weird little cloister with other writers and readers who value the same qualities you do, and even then keep trying to surprise and subvert expectations.
“It's everything leading up to death that scares me.”
Amen. Some of my favorite horror movies are utter trash. I wouldn’t have it any other way. There does seem to be a shift towards arthouse horror these days with the A24 boon. Sometimes I’d rather just watch a Troma flick though, ha!
I think you’re onto something with the notion that people shun horror to avoid feeling embarrassed by being scared. I like that Garris quote too—I’m a fan of his podcast. In whatever kind of story you’re telling, the relationships and behaviors of people are usually what’s most interesting. Package it however you want. Throw in some monsters for good measure.
Horror has a long tradition of anti-establishment sentiments, as it should. Keep it underground, eschew the mainstream. True weirdness breeds in the sewer. Negative Space is singular work—I haven’t read anything else quite like it. I’m astounded by the amount of nightmare fuel in the book. The underlying sense of menace and danger is omnipresent, the casual violence unrelenting. Much of the imagery has seared into my brain—geese with beaks sliced off, a dancing rabbit with human eyes, a skin sheet flapping in the breeze. I’m curious, what frightens you in real life? How did these fears or phobias manifest in the book?
Don’t get me wrong—I love a lot of contemporary arthouse horror. I love Robert Eggers and Ari Aster, etc. But that’s largely because there is still an embrace of the gutter in those films—the relentless depiction of physical trauma and manic energy. The sense that a pocket of the world is crumbling apart before your eyes. I mean, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is an arthouse film to me, and Hereditary or The Lighthouse feel like natural extensions of that tradition. On the other hand, you have A Quiet Place, which seems like a conscious attempt at creating a “respectable” horror film, and the result is something that’s utterly boring and unremarkable to me.
Actually just re-watched Color Out of Space with my wife last night (she hadn’t seen it), and it did strike me as the perfect mix of schlock and artistic vision. It does very much feel like a B-movie in a lot of ways (and mostly in good ways), but that doesn’t stop it from being intensely upsetting and compelling. I’m hoping for more in that vein.
There is so much that frightens me. The fragility of the human body. Terrible, irreversible injury. Illness. Losing loved ones. The general threat of population-ending events and the slow apocalypse.
I was talking about the fear of bodily fragility with a friend about a month ago, and he said, “So, dying and stuff?” But dying doesn’t scare me so much—dying is the easy part. You’re here, and then you’re not. It’s everything leading up to death that scares me. So I put all of that into the book. I like your description: “omnipresent, casual violence.” That’s exactly what I was attempting to instill—this sense of an extreme, overwhelming degree of violence that has become normalized by the people living within it, almost as a means of coping.
Which, to be honest, is what many, many people have to deal with. I am a very fortunate and privileged person. I don’t have to worry about violence befalling me in my day to day life. But that isn’t the baseline for most people.
Negative Space has a wonderful combination of real and imagined references to books, movies, music, etc. We get everything from Post Malone lyrics to lines by Márquez. As a reader, I had fun guessing what some of these were. But there is also invented material, like the passages from The Entropic Pantheon. What’s your process like for layering in these fictitious works within a work? How did you go about curating what outside sources your characters would be interacting with?
I’m so happy you caught the Post Malone lyrics, haha! That was a last minute addition. I was driving home from Boston, and I only have a radio in my car, and that song came on, and I just got this image of the kids singing along to it as they danced beneath the dead bodies. One of my favorite moments in the book, very happy that came through the ether.
The in-text books came out of necessity. I’m typically very anti-exposition—I used to have a sticky note at the top of my computer monitor that read NEVER EXPLAIN ANYTHING—because there’s nothing less scary than knowing what’s going on. But I wanted to provide some theoretical context for what was occurring, or at least how the characters were interpreting what was occurring. And because none of those texts provide any concrete answers, and could actually be entirely off base, I believe they dodge the exposition trap.
Earlier this year I was on Joe Bielecki’s podcast Writing the Rapids, and one thing we talked about was the challenges and contradictions surrounding writing about the Unknown. And one thing I believe pretty strongly in is that if you truly want to write about the Unknown, it can’t just be what is unknown to the characters but known to the author, it has to be what is unknown to the author as well. So while I have some ideas about what is really happening in Negative Space, I wanted to make the theoretical context big enough so that even I am in the dark regarding some of the larger questions.
The more incidental elements—the songs the characters listen to, or the movies they watch, and video games they play, etc.—just comes out of imagining what media the characters are engaging with. I think their inclusion can make the world feel more vivid and lived in. Sometimes it means pulling from real world sources, other times it’s purely invention—the latter tends to originate in dreams. I often dream in the style of video games, so I like to include snippets of those when it feels appropriate.
Man, you are speaking my language. I’m much happier living in ambiguity. Nothing kills a work like concrete exposition. But for whatever reason, I constantly hear people voicing the opposite sentiment—“Gee, this is weird and confusing. I wish the author would explain this more clearly.” Rubbish. I suppose people are uncomfortable confronting the Unknown, whereas I prefer diving into the deep end without knowing how to swim. That’s definitely part of why I dig Negative Space so much. There’s no tidy conclusion. I think this lack of closure makes it even more frightening. I see this in horror movies as well. The best ones leave our questions unanswered, the beast unseen.
I know you’re a Massachusetts native. I spent a year in Boston and have fond memories of the city. Beautiful country up there, but also wild and eerie. Remembering those dense, dark woods, it’s not hard to imagine monsters lurking in the brush. You render this environment into an unsettling, hostile place. Everything man-made is in decay, slowly being reclaimed by nature. How have those New England landscapes influenced you and your writing?
Oh, very cool! I’m on the other side of the state, in an area that’s more or less rural-adjacent suburbia. Clusters of towns split up by woodlands, and larger cities to the south. Wild and eerie is absolutely how I’d describe it, and it’s been a perpetual inspiration. I wrote the majority of Negative Space while living in the town of Greenfield, which has this utterly haunted vibe. Tiny and somewhat archaic and surrounded by mountains. I used to get a real bad, ugly feeling whenever I went there, but now I love it. There’s this old covered bridge, the Eunice Williams bridge, named after a murdered colonist, and supposedly if you drive into the middle of the bridge, kill the headlights and wait, you’ll see her apparition, still searching for her family. Definitely tried that a couple times, to no avail.
A little ways up north is a ghost town that ended up inspiring the Abandonments, and a little further is the mouth of the Hoosac tunnel. It’s a railroad tunnel running through a solid mountain range, and earned the nickname “The Bloody Pit” because 200 or so workers died hollowing it out. Purportedly insanely haunted, and when you go up there, you can really feel it—bizarre cold spots and vapors everywhere. The tunnel goes so deep it’s like staring into the abyss.
Then there’s New Hampshire. New Hampshire has that same vibe but ramped up even further. The woods are grander and darker. There’s that “Live Free or Die” attitude that often manifests as casual hostility. It’s probably only because I live adjacent to it, and not directly within, but the landscape and feel there is still incredibly romantic, mysterious and sinister to me. I don’t think I could’ve put Kinsfield in Massachusetts, because Massachusetts is too familiar. It had to be New Hampshire.
Might need to take a field trip to this haunted railroad tunnel—love exploring places like that. I live close to a bunch of Civil War battlefields. There’s a road called “Spook Hill” where if you stop your car and put it in neutral, you’ll start inexplicably rolling uphill. Legend goes that the ghosts of soldiers are giving you a push.
My wife and I spent some time in Vermont and New Hampshire last summer. Stunning woodlands and mountains up there, but I definitely had the vibe it’d be all too easy getting swallowed up by the wilderness. I was surprised encountering that “live free or die” mentality you mentioned. I was expecting a bunch of granola crunching hippies but came across loads of gun-toting Trumpheads. Strange country indeed…
I’ve been digging the snippets of Burial Grid’s soundtrack for the book. Looking forward to picking up the full release soon. I love this concept of scoring a book. It’s a wonder we don’t see these collaborations more often. How do you hope readers will pair the book and the soundtrack? What are the ideal reading/listening conditions? I see myself reading by candlelight in a dark cave with the score playing softly on a warped tape deck, haha.
That’s so wild, because Greenfield has the exact same thing! It’s called Gravity Hill, but there is a reasonable explanation: the incline is an optical illusion. You’re actually going downhill, but it appears as though you’re going uphill.
My wife grew up in New Hampshire and Vermont, and it’s absolutely true. There is also a load of hippies, but there seems to be a truce, haha. One notion that really needs to die is that the U.S. north is some bastion of progressivism, and the south is the inverse. There’s plenty of racism here, from across the political spectrum—it may not always be blatant, but it’s definitely there. You also see a lot of anti-poor/anti-homeless sentiment. This one town, Northampton—which prides itself on progressive values—has been waging an on and off war on the homeless and poor for the past decade. But folks love clinging to whatever high horse they’ve got.
I’m also surprised more people haven’t tried pairing music with literature, though I’ve been told that most people don’t listen to music while reading. So I feel like the music can function as a direct companion to the text, or as an extension of it. I tend to get very obsessive when I find a work—whether it’s a book, film, video game, etc.—that really strikes a nerve and resonates with me. I like to have multiple ways of staying in that atmosphere, in that world. Soundtracks have been a terrific way of doing that, and I feel like the Burial Grid record can serve the same purpose.
The longer I’ve digested Negative Space, the more I’ve come to think it’s an intensely political novel in many ways. The book is filled with parasites, like the “zombie fungus,” or wasps laying their eggs inside a living organism. There’s this through-line of people being manipulated by forces beyond their control, much in the same way our society is manipulated by the media or the government. Were you consciously threading in this political commentary or was this a happy accident? Any hot takes on the dismal state of American politics?
That interpretation is very interesting, but I’d be lying if I said that was my aim. I guess I saw it more as a philosophical question than specifically a political one: the question of whether free will actually exists within the context of our “self” and our beliefs, which are at least partially dictated by factors beyond our conscious control—our nervous systems, our endocrine systems, and who knows what else. But I am a total layperson with regard to these issues, so I imagine my thoughts on the subject are highly flawed. The great thing about literature and art in general is that it allows even the layperson to explore and dabble in these issues without necessarily worrying about being correct.
That said, my views and observations about how social structures impact people within them inevitably informed aspects of the book. Beyond all the spooky bullshit, Negative Space is ultimately about people trying to maintain while their basic social infrastructure crumbles. That could be called a political slant, but it’s also just recognizing that one’s environment and condition impacts how they exist in the world. Maybe I’m hesitant to accept the political label because there’s so much art out right now using shallow allegory to prop up shoddy work. I’m about as far from being an “art should be apolitical” guy as you can get, but then I’ll encounter something so cringey it almost makes me reconsider, haha.
That said, let’s loop back around to the horror genre in general and look at something like Dawn of the Dead. Intensely political, and successfully so, in part because it avoids the straight allegory trap. A lot of people focus on the “critique of consumerism” angle, but it’s so much broader than that. It’s about the attempt to return to a “normal,” middle-class existence after the possibility for such has crumbled. What could be more relevant now? An easy target is the faux-nostalgia pitched by Trump, but that’s also what Biden and the DNC are pitching now. “Let’s go back to a time when you didn’t have to worry about what was going on in Washington. Ignore the fires and floods, ignore the fucking bodies piling up, don’t get involved, we’ve got it all under control.” But we’re long past the point of no return. There’s no going back.
I tend to think the most effective “political” art are works with a documentarian objective rather than a didactic objective. Again, thinking about Dawn of the Dead and Night of the Living Dead, or Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or Invasion of the Body Snatchers—those are works about capturing the madness of the time, rather than trying to instill specific lessons or values.
“Once you see the wheels of capitalism start grinding to a halt, and you see companies taking actions resulting in major financial losses, that's like the canary in the coal mine.”
Oh, trust me, I could talk horror all day. I think horror has always been inherently political, Romero being a perfect example. The medium forces humanity to stare into its ugly reflection. The various Body Snatchers incarnations also illustrate what horror does best—capturing a society’s unique, contemporary anxieties through a timeless theme, like loss of autonomy/identity. Definitely why so many of these films still remain relevant. I just had a rather Dawn of the Dead-esque experience trying to buy toilet paper, haha. Expecting there will be a wave of plague-based horror after the coronavirus scare.
I’ve been digging your selections as guest editor at Hobart recently. You’ve got a good eye. When you’re reading other writers’ work, what are you looking for? What are the essential components to a compelling piece of fiction? What turns you off?
Oh same, regarding being able to talk horror all day. It’s my fucking lifeblood, haha. It does feel like a particularly bizarre time to be alive. I’d been taking the reaction to the pandemic pretty lightly up until last week [Editor’s Note: Yeager is referring to the first week of March 2020], just because corporate media has such a tendency to blow things out of proportion. But once you see the wheels of capitalism start grinding to a halt, and you see companies taking actions resulting in major financial losses, that’s like the canary in the coal mine. I’m definitely taking it a lot more seriously now, and it’s hard not to get a feeling of “Shit—I’ve seen this movie before.”
[Hobart] was actually my first attempt at editing for a lit magazine. In terms of what I look for, my answer is going to be terribly boring: it’s a gut thing. At this point I almost feel like I know less about writing, and especially what constitutes good writing, than I ever did before, particularly from a technical, or even a critical standpoint. It’s driven by intuition and visceral response. I don’t think it’s necessarily a good or bad thing—it’s just how it is.
I suppose one thing that almost always turns me off is too much scene setting. “It was me and [x person], at this [x place], doing [x thing],” going on for a full paragraph. Unless the setting is profoundly interesting, it probably isn’t going to excite me. Also, any attempt at being twee or cute is likely going to rub me the wrong way.
What a coincidence we happen to be doing this interview as society descends into anarchy around us. Strange times, my friend …
Since we’re all trapped inside, what better time to talk about books and movies. Something to stem the anxiety, haha. What are you reading and/or watching these days? Any cool new discoveries, whether it’s old or new stuff?
Right now I’m in the middle of reading Confidence Man by Anthony Dragonetti, and Love Hotel by Jane Unrue. Both are terrific, though completely different—the first being a collection of thematically connected short stories about secrets, lies, trauma, etc., somewhat reminiscent of Jesus’ Son, and the latter being a novel that puts you in the position of a fractured psyche navigating fractured locales. Also just recently finished The Artifact by Germán Sierra, which is this brilliant navigation of damage and technology and the damage technology inflicts, and the ways we grow new skin around that damage. I’m not nearly smart enough to fully grasp or describe it, but thankfully Sierra is such a great writer that you don’t have to fully understand it in order to enjoy or appreciate it.
I was lucky enough to grab a sugar cube of LSD and a quarter of psilocybin mushrooms before going into isolation, so I’ve also been spending a lot of time studying the patterns in grass and wood grain, haha.
What’s next for you? I’m excited for Pearl Death. Any other projects you care to tease? Long lost manuscripts stuffed in a drawer waiting to be excavated?
Thanks man! I’m excited about Pearl Death too (which is good, since I still need to finish it!). Otherwise, I’m going to be contributing to an anthology-novel being compiled by 11:11 Press—that should be out this summer. I’m looking forward to seeing how that turns out.
I’ve also started working a little bit on what might be the next novel, though I’m going to refrain from talking about it. It’s in such early stages—we’re looking at something that might be two or three years away.
B.R. YEAGER reps Western Massachusetts. He is the author of Amygdalatropolis (Schism Press).
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An Audience at the Cumberlisheen Regional Historical Society, 19th August 2018, 4:12pm
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