Editor’s Note: This exchange is part of a series of brief interviews with emerging writers of recent or forthcoming books. If you enjoyed it, please visit other interviews in the I’ve Got Questions feature.
- What’s the title of your book? Fiction? Nonfiction? Poetry? Who is the publisher and what’s the publication date?
My book is Those Fantastic Lives: And Other Strange Stories. It’s a collection of short stories and is coming from City of Light Publishing on October 1st.
- In a couple of sentences, what’s the book about?
Those Fantastic Lives is about outsiders trying to find their way in the world. It’s about how strangeness can make us lonely, but how it can also give us power. It’s about the magic our lives can contain when we are willing to find, accept, and embrace it. It’s about loss and transformation. (Oh, and, among other things, it contains ghosts, psychics, monsters, werewolves, and mermaids.)
- What’s the book’s genre (for fiction and nonfiction) or primary style (for poetry)?
The stories exist in that curious space between magical realism and weird fiction.
- What’s the nicest thing anyone has said about the book so far?
This one is tough because so many people have been very nice so far. I’m especially grateful to Josh Denslow, Shaun Hamill, Fred Leebron, and Jen McConnell for offering such generous blurbs for my book. Shaun compared my stories to those of Ray Bradbury. That really struck me.
- What book or books is yours comparable to or a cross between? [Is your book like Moby Dick or maybe it’s more like Frankenstein meets Peter Pan?]
I like to think that if Karen Russell’s St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, Ray Bradbury’s short stories, Kazuo Ishiguro’s sad novels, especially Never Let Me Go, and George Saunders’ darkly comic short fiction got together for dinner and invited Those Fantastic Lives that they would all have a good time.
- Why this book? Why now?
I don’t think I could have written another book. I actually tried a couple of times. These are the stories that kept finding their way back to me, haunting me and demanding to be told. When I began these stories—back at the end of 2013 with “Restored”—I was at this weird stage in my life where I didn’t know what was next. I didn’t understand my place in the world. I needed to see the world in a different way so I could get it—and, more importantly, myself. These stories revealed themselves as I learned and slowly understood my own self and existence. Those Fantastic Lives was a guide for me, in ways, I think. So, it had to be this book for me. It had to be now.
- Other than writing this book, what’s the best job you’ve ever had?
I’ve worked all kinds of jobs. I was a stocker and cashier at a small grocery store. I was a door-to-door sunroom salesman. I worked at a call center. I quoted insurance rates for medical offices. I’ve taught all kinds of things. English. Visual literacy. Drama. Composition. Teaching creative writing, though, is the one job that makes me feel something otherworldly. There’s just something special about reaching people and letting them tell their stories—and for the students, in turn, to see that their words matter. That they matter. You can’t fake the impact these classes leave on so many students.
- What do you want readers to take away from the book?
I hope readers will see themselves and that they’ll feel something. Maybe they’ll feel less alone. Maybe they’ll embrace the strangeness they contain. Maybe they’ll go outside and look up into the clouds and feel the incredible magic of the great, big, mysterious world.
- What food and/or music do you associate with the book?
I listened to a lot of Sturgill Simpson, Frank Ocean, and Mac Miller as I wrote these stories, and I think the issues these artists speak about in their work fits pretty comfortably inside the worlds contained within Those Fantastic Lives. (I also associate ice cream with this collection because sitting down to read a collection of magical stories with some creamy, cold dessert by one’s side creates a whole other level of transportive power.)
- What book(s) are you reading currently?
I’m currently reading Andrew Siegrist’s collection, We Imagined It Was Rain, and it’s fantastic, being tender and bold and warm. I just finished Becky Hagenston’s The Age of Discovery, which is also really wonderful.
Learn more about Bradley at his website