A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with R&B Musician Tasha Taylor

with Tasha Taylor:

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

Tasha: I started writing when I was 14. My first influence was my father’s music. Johnnie Taylor was my dad, he was a Stax artist.

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

Tasha: I still love the greats: Aretha, Etta James, Bobby Blue Bland. I also love Leon Bridges, Lauryn Hill, Drake, HER and so many newer artists.

Q3: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer/artist/musician?

Tasha: I grew up on the road with my dad, watching him perform from the side of the stage as a kid was all I needed to know this was what I wanted to do.

Q4: Who has helped you most with writing?

Tasha: I write solo and produce my own sic. Listening to great writers always helps.

Q5: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your work?

Tasha: I grew up in Dallas, Texas.

Q6: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far to you?

Tasha: My record TAYLORMADE was a sort of tribute to my dad, so it holds a lot of meaning for me https://amzn.to/3ktUQwz

Q7: Favorite activities to relax?

Tasha: Painting>

Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a song/poem/writing of yours or others?

Tasha: “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Albert Einstein

Q9: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?

Tasha: Yes, working on a new record now.

Other links to Tasha’s music:

https://amzn.to/3zAINSy

https://amzn.to/3lNsblH

https://amzn.to/3ktqRFe

Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Meagan Lucas

with Meagan Lucas:

Bio: Meagan Lucas is the author of the award winning novel, Songbirds and Stray Dogs (Main Street Rag Press, 2019). Meagan’s short work has been published or is forthcoming in journals like The Santa Fe Writers’ Project, Still: The Journal, MonkeyBicycle, BULL, Pithead Chapel, and others. She lives in Western North Carolina where she teaches Creative Writing and edits Reckon Review.

http://reckonreview.com/

www.songbirdsbook.com

https://www.instagram.com/meaganlucasauthor/

https://www.facebook.com/meaganlucasauthor

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

Meagan: I started writing eight years ago as a way to survive postpartum depression. I started with CNF as a way to connect and process, but quickly felt like it was too exposing to people I loved, so I started playing with fiction. Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison, and A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash – both stories of regular, working-class people, and take place within an hour of my house – showed me that people might be interested in what I had to say, it didn’t matter that I didn’t want to write about New York, LA or Seattle, there’s a place for me, too. And now, I think my work fits nicely on the shelf next to theirs: rural, mostly Southern, little gritty, character forward, lit fic.

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

Meagan: Anyone writing women in the South owe a debt to Lee Smith and Kaye Gibbons. But, I want a career like Taylor Brown. Every book of his is stunningly beautiful but wildly different from the one before. I love that he’s always stretching and trying new things. In my most recent short stories I’ve been playing with supernatural elements and horror and that’s because of Gabino Iglesias. My work has always been about monsters, the kind that live in human skin, but I love how Gabino plays with what we can see, and feel, and know, and allows us the grey space to get even deeper – more terrifying, more real.

Q3: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

Meagan: I don’t think there was any particular moment. I just noticed a couple of years in that I didn’t want to stop. That I was happier when I was writing, that I wanted to push myself to get better, and that if that was what I wanted other areas of my life had to give.

Q4: Who has helped you most with writing?

Meagan: I am so lucky to have a wonderful group of first readers: Kevin Whitten (Well Read Beard), Charlotte Hamrick, Edward Karshner, and Andrew Clark, are fantastic writers and readers and I trust them to tell me the truth. I’ve grown as a writer because of their friendship and their suggestions. Nothing is more valuable to me. As the founding editor of Reckon Review I also have the honor of reading hundreds of prose submissions every month, and this too has helped my writing. Editing other’s work is a whole new way of looking at writing, and as I’ve used those skills on my own work, it’s gotten better.

Q5: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing & did any travels away influence your work?

Meagan: I was just talking about this with author Vern Smith; about how I grew up on a small island in Lake Huron in Northern Ontario, Canada, but I now live in the mountains of Western North Carolina and that those two places have more in common than one might think, including that they both have heavily impacted my work. Both cultures are isolated, and struggle with poverty, and a lack of resources. In both there is a focus on self-reliance, an avoidance of authority, a harsh landscape, so many drugs, and, of course, the heavy presence of religion. I’m most proud when a reader tells me they are surprised that I didn’t grow up in the South, that they couldn’t tell because my writing feels authentic. I think though, that it’s less a testament to my observational skill, and more the similarities between the people of rural Northern Canada, and Southern Appalachia. I also think there is a pretty clear connection between these cultures and my work. I’m obsessed with the stories of how, women and girls especially, survive and succeed in this type of world that is seemingly structured to crush them.

Q6: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far to you?

Meagan: The novel that my agent and I are currently polishing, SOFT ANIMALS, I think is the most meaningful thing that I’ve written yet. Told from the perspective of three generations of Southern Appalachian women it explores the expectations and rules that women live under, and what happens when they buck the system (SPOILER: hell breaks loose.)

Q7: Favorite activities to relax?

Meagan: I read (quickly), and I run (slowly) but both every day.

Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem/writing of yours or others?

Meagan: There is a line in Audre Lorde’s poem “New Years Day” that I have printed and framed on my desk: “I am deliberate / and afraid / of nothing” because I need that reminder – whether it’s submitting to a publisher that feels out of my league, or putting something vulnerable on the page.

Q9: Any recent or forthcoming projects you’d like to promote?

Meagan: I have two pieces I’m very excited about coming this fall, both short stories, one called “Sitting Ducks” in Bull that reflects my new home here in the South, and one called “The Only Comfort” in Pithead Chapel that’s an ode to the North. I am also so lucky to have two pieces coming in anthologies this fall, but I think those TOC’s might still be a secret. 

https://amzn.to/3AbiKT8   amazon link to book

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Kate Tooley

with Kate Tooley:

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

Kate: Any of my childhood friends will tell you with widely varying degrees of fondness how I perpetually made-up stories and forcibly cast them in different parts, so that’s probably where it started. As a grade schooler I fell in love with authors who blended fantasy and reality like Madeline L’Engle and authors who could completely immerse you in the past like Mildred D. Taylor. But I read everything I could get my hands on from the shampoo bottle to the dictionary.

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

Kate: Authors like Carmen Maria Machado, N.K. Jemisin and Jordy Rosenberg who aren’t afraid to break “rules” in service to the story and who step all over genre boundaries. Also the writers who have such delicate control of the line that the shape of the sentences is doing work for the story — Kathryn Davis, Marie Helene Bertino, K-Ming Chang. There are a lot of writers who’ve influenced me over the years – I love the modernists for all their play with form – but I’m so grateful to be living in this present moment with its incredibly rich, experimental literary landscape.

Q3: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

Kate: My whole life I’ve been equally confused and fascinated by people. Creating, whether through theater or visual arts or writing, is my way of understanding other human beings and also my awkward love letter to them.

Q4: Who has helped you most with writing?

Kate: So many different people over the years. As a kid it was my best friend Alex, in college my ingenious playwriting friend Daniel, more recently I have to shout out Erika Franz. Since grad school there’s been a glut of incredibly gifted writers who’ve helped me immensely in such a variety of ways that I can’t even start naming them, but I think my professor and thesis advisor Marie-Helene Bertino has taught me more about writing and myself as a writer than any other single person.

Q5: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing & did any travels away from influence your work?

Kate: I grew up south of Atlanta but spent summers outside of Philadelphia with my aunt. I have a deep love for both places, but never felt like I belonged fully in either. A lot of my writing is trying to reconcile that sense of conflicted identity. It left me with a fascination for the ways apparently small cultural differences can create huge divides and a kind of internal sadness about all the failures of communication that make being human so difficult.

Q6: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far to you?

Kate: Every time I’ve been able to write about my experience of queerness has been powerful for me personally. It still seems inconceivable sometimes that I get to do that without being censored, that people read it.

Q7: Favorite activities to relax?

Kate: I love to play my guitar badly. Doing something creative that I’m inherently not good at and isn’t for anyone else feels important as a practice. I also love cooking and making cocktails for friends, exploring the city with my tiny dog, and, of course, I read constantly.

Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem/writing of yours or others?

Kate:

One that I think about often is from Virigina Woolf’s Mondays and Tuesdays:
“But when the self speaks to the self, who is speaking?—the entombed soul, the spirit driven in, in, in to the central catacomb; the self that took the veil and left the world—a coward perhaps, yet somehow beautiful, as it flits with its lantern restlessly up and down the dark corridors.”


I was closeted for a long time and these lines have always both resonated with me and made me sad. I think a lot about all the parts of ourselves we hide and the dark moments they try to call out to us. I wonder what would happen if we started listening.

Q9: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?

Kate: I’m calling this my “Fall of Weird Microfictions” I just had a body horror micro published in Retreat West called “Lilith Comes to Me After I Pray for Wholeness”  https://www.retreatwest.co.uk/lilith-pray-for-wholeness/ and in October I have a film noir micro series, “The End of the World is the Original Femme Fatale” coming out in Gargoyle Magazine https://gargoylepaycock.wpcomstaging.com/current-and-back-issues/

Links:

https://katetooley.com

Social handles: @kate_tooley on Twitter @talking2walls on Insta

https://barrenmagazine.com/the-sapir-whorf-hypothesis/

http://inquisitiveeater.com/2020/04/12/coq-by-kate-tooley/

http://pidgeonholes.com/2020/07/a-story-about-not-going-through-the-wardrobe/

https://www.sfwp.com/quarterly/afterimage

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Carson Pytell

with Carson Pytell:

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

Carson: I was roommates with a man named Larry for a short time in the Summer of 2014. I was into the Beats. I was reading William Burroughs Jr’s Speed/Kentucky Ham. He asked what I was reading and I told him something like: “The autobiography of a tweaker turned drunk.” He advised me against emulation. I told him the author’s last name and he was relieved. I still don’t know why. It was just what I said. Took a minute to tell him it wasn’t Burroughs Sr. too. I appreciated the advice, though.

So we began talking after that. He taught me chess and eventually asked if I had heard of The Columbia Riots. Of course I hadn’t. Being young, all I thought happened that year was the DNC in Chicago. Welp, he was one of the couple hundred or so students arrested. It seems that moment broke him. His parents drove down from Saratoga to check in, but he locked himself in his dorm room because: “[He] was just so fucked up.” That from a some one who favored pitchers of beer and cigars over pot or LSD before he was 21. “I liked my consciousness the way it was,” he’d say.

So he left a little while before I could, and left me his phone number. I’ve lost it. I wish I hadn’t. But Larry is not my first writing influence, not even close to why I began writing. I already had been, at least what I called seriously, for a few months prior to that Summer. Short stories that were sentimental, grandiloquent and embarrassing. Obviously, to me, they were gifts to the world so as soon as they were all rejected by those journals the things deserved to be published in, I got angry.

I stopped writing. In the Spring of 2019, aged 26, I started again. This time poetry. I began submitting as soon as I started and was lucky. In June of that year I had my first publication credit and just short of 200 have come in the two years since. Also four chapbooks. I’m unemployed going on a decade. Too much time on my hands.

But, to answer your question:

Kids started paying me to write their English assignments in middle school. By far the most money I’ve ever made writing. That’s really when I began. It was more serious to me back then too. Probably more so than it will ever be.

Also, my first literary influences were as aforementioned, the Beats. Hunter S. Thompson too. But I don’t do drugs anymore. Still, a portrait of Kerouac hangs on my bedroom wall.

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

Carson: I really wish I’d have put that Post-It with Larry’s number on it in a safe place. Literarily, however, today I cite the following artists as my foremost influences, far from only writers: Yevgeni Bauer, Constantine Cavafy, Erich Von Stroheim, Odilon Redon, Ian MacKaye, Henry Green, the guy who wrote the novel Stoner, El Cid, Emily Dickinson, Charley Patton, Hart Crane, Bukka White, Rev. Gary Davis, Townes Van Zandt, Wystan Hugh Auden, Victor Sjostrom, Ingmar Bergman, Sophia Loren, Vittorio Gassman, anything on Boxing History, Thomas Stearns Eliot, Lauren Bacall, John Ford, Buster Keaton, Paul Strand, Henri Carier-Bresson, Mike Nichols, Fernando Pessoa, Van Gogh, Chopin, Andres Segovia, Artur Rubinstein, Dave Van Ronk, Francisco Goya, Thomas Cole, Edward S. Curtis, Eugene O’Neill, Simon Perchik, Ida B. Wells, Marco Panella, The 47 Ronin, Francis Bacon, Edward Burra, Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Frank Stanford, Emil Cioran, Bertrand Russell, Philip Larkin, Nicolas Martin (painter based in Montreal), and my friend Zebulon Huset. Zeb is my biggest literary influence today. Do yourself a favor and check out his poetry (just Google his name), his journals Sparked and Coastal Shelf, as well as his writing prompt blog Notebooking Daily.

Q3: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

Carson: I’d like to say it happened when I cashed my first serious paycheck earned from my writing, but everyone would recognize the BS in that. Pivotal, though? No moment at all I could pinpoint immediately, just all of them together in retrospect. Nothing special according to me. If I must finger it, however, I’d have to say it happened when my friend paid me to write two poems for an assignment in community college. I wrote them, he turned them in. After a while he got his grade and texted me to come see him. I assumed we didn’t do well, but all he asked was whether he had my permission claim credit for one of the poems which his professor wanted to include in his next semester’s handbook. I was relieved. But, yeah, if not for that I’d have cited a good paycheck if it ever had happened. It won’t. Sorry.

Q4: Who has helped you most with writing?

Carson: By far and away I’ve learned most about the craft from my friend, Zebulon Huset. On second thought, Zeb is really the only person to have taught me anything about the craft.

Q5: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing & did any travels away from home influence your work?

Carson: I was born in Albany, NY halfway through the summer of 1993. I was the first baby my parents got to bring home. I was then raised in West Sand Lake, NY. I have been living there my whole life. Farthest I’ve ever been away from home was a week long field trip to D.C. either sophomore or junior year of high school. I think I’d like to visit other places, just only without all those people around. I’d really like to. But there’s always so many people around. So, given my lack of travel, I can say both that personal travel experiences never influenced me and that second-hand traveling has spirited me as much as a pot of pitch black coffee. Jack Black, for instance. No, not the actor. Jack Black, the golden age hobo, who wrote a book called You Can’t Win. I read that after all the Beat stuff I could find. All of it. My local library spent a month trying to find And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks. They couldn’t find You Can’t Win, so I had to spend almost twenty bucks just to get to read it. I’d like to go hobo myself sometimes, but I’m a Type-1 Diabetic. Life’s a bitch, huh?

Q6: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far to you?

Carson: Ehh. Nothing yet. Just practicing the art is the most meaningful work a writer can do no matter who and at whatever stage.

Q7: Favorite activities to relax?

Carson: Pot is fun. Wine and Brandy too.

Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem/writing of yours or others? Do you have a favorite piece of art?

Carson: “The game enforces smirks; but we have seen
The moon in lonely alleys make
A grail of laughter of an empty ash can,
And through all sound of gaiety and quest
Have heard a kitten in the wilderness.”

I paint also. My favorite painting recently is Edward Burra’s ‘Sugar Beet East Anglia’ (1973).

Q9: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?

Carson: Here’s a link to my books on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Carson-Pytell/e/B08BMY7RCL

Other than those, I’ve been shopping another chapbook length manuscript around and also compiling what I’d like to be my first full-length.

Social Media:

Instagram: @carsonpytell

Twitter: @CPytell93

Website: carsonpytell.wordpress.com

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Courtenay S. Gray

with Courtenay S. Gray

Author bio: Courtenay S. Gray is a writer from the North of England. She has been featured in publications such as Maudlin House, Daily Drunk Mag and Red Fez. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize (2020). Courtenay was a runner up for the 2021 Literary Lancashire Award in Poetry. She also has a poetry collection (Strawberry) out with Alien Buddha Press and is working on publishing another collection called Archie.

Social Media: Twitter – @courtenaywrites
Blog: www.courtenayscorner.com

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences and biggest influences currently?

Courtenay: I started writing when I was four years old. My main priority was short stories that would be classed as flash fiction, but I wasn’t aware of it then. I can’t define my first influences because books, in general, helped propel me into the literary scene. However, I can talk about my current favourites. I am a big believer in individuality, so I don’t tend to have role models. I am particularly fond of Nabokov’s style of prose. He is a master of lyrical writing, which is something I enjoy. I’m not a writer who is critical of the contents of books. I’d much rather be supportive and let people do their own thing. There isn’t one way to write. I love philosophical writers such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus.

Q2: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

Courtenay: I usually tell people that writing is innate for me. I was indeed born with this gift, and I cannot imagine doing anything else. I come from a family of logical businessmen and women, so I didn’t have a familial influence concerning literature. All I know is that my childhood goal was to see a book that I wrote on the shelves in all major bookshops. It hasn’t happened yet, but it’s still a dream of mine. I feel almost like a character from the Sims. I was given the desire to write when they were creating me.

Q3: Who has helped you most with writing?

Courtenay: I am incredibly independent, so I ultimately helped myself. My father once described reading books as training. I am inclined to agree with him. By constantly reading, I had my eyes opened to different styles of writing and a vast vocabulary. I pride myself on doing things alone. I won’t ask for help unless it is necessary. If you have myriads of people moonlighting as teachers, you lose your sense of individuality.

Q4: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing & did any travels away from home influence your work?

Courtenay: I grew up in a small town in the North of England. I have not written a single word about where I live because not a lot goes on there. If anything, I wrote about the things I experienced whilst residing there, rather than about the place itself.

I have been fortunate enough to travel to places such as; Malta, France, Italy, Spain, the USA, Belgium, Ireland, Scotland, and Canada. I can attest to the fact those places have inspired my writing. On the last day of a trip to New York, we were sat in a restaurant. My cousin had spent the entire holiday rewriting a novel, so I was inspired to write one. We walked through the packed streets of NYC looking for a Barnes and Noble. I bought a novel-writing book, and the waiter at this restaurant saw it. “I hope you have a lovely day, and good luck with the novel.

I’ve only been to Paris once, and I was three years old at the time, so I don’t remember it. The literary scene of Paris enamours me, and I hope to check it out at some point. I vow to visit the Parisian cafe’s where the existentialists hung out. I have an unusual knack for writing about places I haven’t been but heard and read lots about. There is so much to be said for immersing yourself in other cultures. It not only broadens your perspective, but it reignites that magic spark you have as a child. I would implore every writer to visit other countries.

Q5: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far to you?

Courtenay: I would say that all of my work is meaningful in one way or another, but I lost someone to cancer in December, and I find myself dedicating every poem to him. His death has been a catalyst for me creatively. Everything I write has a sprinkle of him contained with the ink on the page.

The peculiar thing about meaning is that it’s personal. I can write a poem with great emotion and power, but that doesn’t mean someone who reads it will feel that. However, most people can relate to the experience. They may not know who you are writing about, but they feel your plight.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Courtenay: To relax, I usually watch television. It’s a form of media often dubbed a mindless activity, but it is far from it. I am constantly perplexed by writers who refuse to watch TV because it holds so much inspiration that I feel you’re missing out. If I am in the right mood, I read. Listening to audiobooks helps me relax, and it decreases my list of books to read. However, I would say that television is the thing that helps me relax the most. If I feel like something interesting, I usually find an arthouse film, but I turn to Friends if I want to be comforted.

Q7: What is a favorite line/stanza from a writing of yours or others?

Courtenay: A line from a poem I am currently trying to place is:

“Your face would radiate through the Hemingway smoke and the Camus coffee.”

As for a poem by another, I love this line from “An Almost Made Up Poem” by Charles Bukowski:

“she’s mad but she’s magic. there’s no lie in her fire.”

Q8: What kind of music do you enjoy? Favorite musical artists, influences, songs that inspire?

Courtenay: My favourite band is Pink Floyd. I’ve been listening to their music since I was a small child. I am also a superfan of Lana Del Rey. Her music inspires my writing enormously. Her entire aesthetic and persona mirror my own. My favourite album of hers is “Born To Die (Paradise Edition)”. Last year, I was introduced to the Canadian band Alvvays, and I have completely fallen in love with their stuff. One of their songs inspired the title for my current work in progress.

Q9: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?

Courtenay: I have a blog where I post a lot of my work. All you have to do is type www.courtenayscorner.com into the search bar, and you’re golden. I have poetry and flash faction forthcoming in Sledgehammer Lit and Gutslut Press. You can follow me on Twitter (@courtenaywrites) for all updates

Bonus Question: Are there any funny memories that you can recall during your writing or creative journey?

Courtenay: I am not a prude by any means, but I find writing sex scenes to be slightly embarrassing. I will gladly watch and read sex scenes, but I get silly about it when it comes to writing them myself. I secretly read the entire Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy when I was fourteen, but I still can’t write a sex scene without bursting into hysterics.

Other Links:

https://www.ekphrastic.net/ekphrastic-journal/the-burial-by-courtenay-s-gray

https://www.vampcatmag.com/post/baby-courtenay-gray