Come Out and Play: A Conversation with xTx

Dear Orphans,
In the following interview, LO had the great pleasure to talk to the inspiring xTx–we talked about baked goods, Roxane Gay,  Neutral Milk Hotel, book covers, and her upcoming novel. Without further ado (we’ll leave the blabbing to the end), read on!


1. If your writing style was a bakery good, what kind of bakery goodness would it be?
It would be the bakery goodness of a brilliant yet bi-polar pastry chef who thrived on creating fucked up, against the grain, nonsensical treats that defied all culinary logic yet satisfied each who ate one in complete and unique ways.  Identical desserts from the same mixing bowl would produce varieties of reactions in those that ate them; some tasting nightmares, some weeping with orgasm, some collapsing into balls of thrust and hurt.  The lines for these treats…always around the block.

2. So why do you do it, why do you write? Why do you [insert bakery good]-it-up? Is it for the fame and easy money?
Definitely the fame and easy money. See how I live?  See the Rolls Royce-izz?  See the pool of swimming?  The duck confit?  The razzi of papa?

3. Who are some of the authors out there right now writing the best words you can think of?
I have been swimming in Roxane Gay lately and that’s all the words that I can think of right this very minute.

(Roxane Gay’s two latest: An Untamed State (novel) and Bad Feminist (essay anthology). –Ed)

4. What’s the number one thing wrong with the American publishing industry right now?

I have no idea.  Oh, yes I do; they don’t yet have my novel I need to finish so that I can sell it to them and they can buy it and then also sell it.  That’s what is wrong.


5. What does your writing space look like? Paper? Laptop? A study? A bedroom? A car outside a Dunkin’ Donuts?
It looks like my lap and it looks like a jailhouse lunchroom with no windows.

6. Where do your ideas for writing projects come from? Do you sit down and actively brainstorm, or does the jelly-filling just hit you walking down the street?
Definitely the jelly-filling. Or sometimes a jellyfish.  It’s definitely a hitting though.

7. When you’re in your special writing place, writing out the jelly, are you listening to music? If so, what kind(s)?
I usually like to listen to anything by William Basinski when I am writing because they are all the same and they all put me into trances.  Right now I am listening to Wye Oak.  This one time I co-wrote an entire book listening to Neutral Milk Hotel’s, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.

8. What book was that? (that you co-wrote listening to Neutral Milk Hotel)
It was “Shudder Pageant,” co-written with the awesomely talented and bearded Mel Bosworth.

9. Was there a particular moment that spurred you to submit your work?
Yes.  Before i started submitting stories I was only blogging.  One of my blog friends posted that he had a story published in an online zine.  It was an amazing story.  I had no idea there were such things as online magazines.  I started exploring.  I got the courage up to submit.  Here we are.

10. You and Roxane Gay have an amazing partnership and friendship; can you talk about the first time you interacted with her?
All I remember is that her online presence intimated me.  She accepted one then two stories from me for PANK and tentative email communication began from there.  It was an unfolding that is continuing to this day.

11. Is there anything you can share about the novel you’ve been writing?
It is a dark novel about a magician set in a world that bends different than ours.billie-cover

12. I love the cover of Billie the Bull, were you involved with choosing that image? Is there a story behind it’s choosing?
I love it too!!  I worked with J.A. Tyler on that.  All books in the Nephew series had similar covers; a bold color and a graphic image that pertained to the book in some big or small way.  There was a passage in Billie the Bull about her beloved dolls, so we chose a doll for the cover.  Dolls are creepy.

13. What do you think is the best trait a writer can have?

14. Do you receive any hate mail?
No.  Not yet, anyway.

15. What is the most satisfaction you’ve ever felt as a writer?
Lately, none.  In the past, plenty, although fleeting.  Usually at the completion of a very good story, or getting a story placed at a zine I’ve been trying to get into for a painful amount of time.  Getting nice letters from readers.  But now I really need the satisfaction of finishing this novel.  OH PLEASE GOD PLEASE.

16. What’s something that would surprise people, something beyond the obvious, some motivation that you hold close to your heart when writing?
Yes, but I can’t tell you.

17. What’s the hardest part about writing your latest book?
Not knowing where it’s going and how it will end and if it will be what I want it to be.

18. When you say that your upcoming book’s world bends differently than ours, can you give away any tidbits about that? (If it’s too soon I understand!)
I think ‘bends differently than ours’ says it all without giving anything away.  I’ll leave it at that for now.

19. What inspired you to write about a magician? Are we talking fantasy with real magic magician, or now-you-see-it/now-you-don’t magician?
We are talking both of those types of magicians combined.  I was inspired by my “story” title, “Nobody Trusts A Black Magician.”  I thought, who is this black magician?  And then I saw him, in a decrepit one room apartment, sitting on a wilty bed, underneath a flickering light bulb hanging from a cracked and peeling ceiling, his hands on his knees, his head wanting to be buried in those hands and he looked so sad and so pathetic.  It was then I knew I wanted to draw him.  Find out why he was so sad.  So that’s what I’ve been doing.

20. Do you think we should separate the art from the artist?
Yes and no.  Not sure that is possible.  I think it depends what you want to attach and what you want to separate.  Those things are able to be sorted out maybe, but overall, if it came from me, it is of me, I think.

21. Is there anything I should have asked you, but didn’t? Anything you want to say to your readers?
You’ve asked me plenty.  Thank you for wanting to.  I want to tell my readers, if there are any of them left, that I hope you will still be there when I come back out to play.

This is a full-circle moment. I (Mike Joyce, Editor-in-Chief) had the very lucky opportunity to impede on writer xTx’s busy life with this interview. I can’t tell you how important of an influence her work has had on my life. I stumbled across her writing via a link on Facebook, I think, back when I thought all great writers were in print. Some ex-classmate must have shared it, and I haughtily clicked on the link, wanting a moment of increased ego after a series of unhappy moments fighting with my word-processor. I was so ready for that ego boost. I mean, no one wrote for free on the internet except dem silly bloggers. Right?

Five hours later I was clicking on the last of the links to her published pieces on her blog. Her writing was real and vivid and sang and spoke to me in a way no published or unpublished writing ever had. As I clicked away, I gained humility. As I clicked away, I lost hope. I realized I had decades of work to reach her level as a writer. But I also realized that maybe, in the meantime, I could do something else worthwhile. Each click was like a different planet, with its own aesthetics. As I USS Enterprised away, I had a moment. The moment was a feeling of punkzine perfection, a sense of community, a sense of magic–reading her works framed by the unique looks of sites like >kill author and PANK and Word Riot and Zygote in My Coffee and all the others made me feel I’d pushed my way through the proverbial wardrobe–that is the reason The Literary Orphans Journal has different background images for each story and poem. That is the magic we try and recreate every issue of LO.

xTx is the moment. She is directly responsible for this journal (yikes, maybe that isn’t something she wants!), and this journal has overtaken my identity the past two years. Ironically, it has been these past two years that xTx has been busily working on longform works including her upcoming novel, and largely absent from the journal scene. And while two years in this community inevitably means the rise and fall of 50 journals and 500 new-now-old-writing-faces, those that have read any of her works have not forgotten. In the last line of this interview, xTx asks her readers to “still be there when I come back out to play.” Be sure that you are–her work is bound to be one of the biggest things to come out of the indie lit community in a long time.

If you’re new to this community and haven’t heard of xTx, well, you’ve got some homework to do, son. Check out her blog, check out her debut collection (the first piece published by Roxane Gay’s Tiny Hardcore Press), check out her novel Billie the Bull from indie-home-town-hero Dzanc Books.
In solidarity,
Mike Joyce