The Writing University hosts the 5Q Interview series with authors from the University of Iowa Press. We sit down with University of Iowa Press authors to ask about their work, their process, their reading lists and events. Today we are speaking with A. J. Bermudez, author of Stories No One Hopes Are about Them from the University of Iowa Press.
- Hello! Can you tell us a little bit about your new book?
To begin, I’ll note that it’s out November 14, and insist that everyone please buy a dozen copies. My attention span often lends itself to quite short works, so the book wound up being the ideal size for a stocking stuffer. More seriously, it’s a collection of 20 very brief fictions, running the gamut from dark comedy to queer romance to straight horror. “Power, privilege, and place” is how I’ve seen the book billed in places, and I think that’s just about right. I’m interested in subverting what we mean by protagonism. Ultimately, I think, the book can be challenging in places, but is very hopeful.
- What was the inspiration for this work?
I’ve been captivated, for a long time, by the delineations of object and subject, and the trajectory of transitioning from one to the other. Who makes the rules, who lives by them. The fantasy (and reality) of challenging those paradigms. I’ve spent a good deal of my life unmoored––from many places and none; in numerous respects caught between identities; wanting, often, the feeling of solid earth beneath my feet. These stories are truly all over the map––career criminals and lovable orphans are treated with equal respect––but I don’t write characters I don’t know. I definitely don’t write characters I don’t love. It’s interesting, thinking about your question now: I didn’t set out to write a short story collection, but at a certain point, you look at the stories you’re writing and say, “Well, these are all––eclectic as they are––sort of about the same thing. Perhaps we have a book here.”
- Do you have any plans for readings or events for this book, either in person or virtual?
I’m delighted to have a few events lined up, mostly on the East Coast and in LA, one in London. The first weekend of the book’s release, I’ll be doing a reading at More Than Words in Boston and as part of the Black Box Reading Series at Boston University (both on November 18), then in New York at Golden Bee Bookshop (Liverpool) and Black Spring Books (Brooklyn) on November 19. I’ll do my best to post event information on my website at amandajbermudez.com/events . And I should add that if anyone lives in a badass location and enjoys live readings of weird fiction, please be in touch.
- What are you reading right now? Any books from other university or independent presses?
I’ve been revisiting The Secret Lives of Church Ladies (West Virginia University Press, 2020)––Deesha Philyaw is not only a killer writer but an exceptional human being. Naima Lahbil’s La Liste is on my nightstand (and will likely be there for awhile; I’m a very, very slow reader in French). I’ve recently enjoyed The Woods from Janice Obuchowski (University of Iowa Press). And I’m currently reading David Wallace-Wells’s The Uninhabitable Earth, which, while not from a university press, should be required reading. Both beautifully written and a tremendous drag. Can’t recommend it highly enough.
- 5. What is your writing routine? Do you have a daily routine?
My daily routine is to wake up wild early, make a pot of coffee, meditate, drink the coffee, and then write. Every writer’s practice is different, but I find that the first part of the day is the easiest to protect from external nonsense. The most important component of my routine is to forgive myself when the routine doesn’t go to plan. I’m also a big believer in spending time outdoors, keeping a notebook beside the bed in case of crazy dreams, and ideas that come to you in the shower.