Q & A with Joseph Grantham, author and editor
Joseph Grantham lives somewhere in America. He runs Disorder Press with his sister and his book of poems, Tom Sawyer, is forthcoming from CCM. You can follow him on Twitter @misterjgrantham and Instagram @josephcgrantham. Swing by Disorder on Twitter @disorderpress and Instagram @disorderpress, too.
GB: Joe, thank you for taking the time for this. My first question is usually: Can you share a little bit about yourself? Got any background info worthy of telling the readers? Or any works you’d like to self-plug?
JG: I was born in Kansas City but I grew up in a boring suburb called Dublin in the San Francisco East Bay. My mom sells propane, but not the way that Hank Hill does. My dad is a high school teacher. He teaches world religions and social justice. He writes stories and poems too. My parents are both readers, and they read good stuff. I had a safe, middle-class childhood. One time my sister smushed a strawberry Pop-Tart into my hair and rubbed it around. I went to high school where my dad teaches, and luckily everyone liked “Mr. G”. Students would come up to me and say, “Does your dad smoke weed? I bet he does.” I think to high school students “smoking weed” is a sign of humanity in an adult. I went to Bennington College, because I found out that that’s where Bret Easton Ellis went and I loved The Rules of Attraction when I was in high school. I guess I still love that book. I did some comedy there, wrote a couple plays, painted a little bit, but mostly I just wanted to write the fuck out of some stories. Mary Gaitskill has a story in Bad Behavior about a Joey who went to Bennington. Maybe it’s about me. I started smoking cigarettes there because I was stressed and wanted a slow suicide. Now I only smoke every once in a while, just to make sure I get some cancer.
GB: On top of being a writer, you work for a bookstore, right? Does that inspire your writing at all? How about your work with Disorder Press?
JG: Yeah, I work at a bookstore in Manhattan. I’ve worked there for about a year, and I’m leaving in a few weeks to go live in West Virginia for a month. Not sure where I’m gonna go after that. Definitely not New York City. Working at a bookstore can be good, because you’re surrounded by books. I can look out for small press books that I care about, and try get them in the hands of people who might never pick up a small press book. But it can also be torture, because you can’t really read any of the books while you’re there. You have to be at a cash register, or shelving books. Always gotta be moving! Move move move! Keep busy! I always thought I was gonna get fired. But that’s probably just my anxiety kicking in, thinking everyone’s out to get me. I did write a lot of poems on bookmarks there, some of them were even okay. I like to complain about my job, but really it’s not the job, I’d probably complain about any job. Working with my sister on Disorder Press is fun. Editing and acquiring manuscripts, figuring out the design, mailing books, working with writers who become our friends, our family. That’s hard to beat. Hell, we put out Bud Smith and Rae Buleri’s book and right now I’m living with those guys. Basically, if we publish you, we get to come live with you. That’s our rule.
GB: What’s your process like? Where do you produce the time needed to create? Are there any obstacles or roadblocks?
JG: My process is, I write when I want to write. And I usually want to write when I’m cracked out on coffee. So, chances are, if I’ve had a lot of coffee, I’m gonna start writing stuff down. Whether it’s on my phone, a piece of paper, or a computer. Sometimes I use a typewriter, which is dangerous because people will make fun of you. You’ll get your ass kicked. But it’s helped me out because it slows me down. When I’m writing on my computer, it’s too tempting to highlight everything and delete it. And also, I don’t have a printer, so it’s one way of printing shit out for readings, etc. In terms of obstacles, nah. I can always find time to write if I want to write. People like to make a big deal about that. But if I can find time to go to the toilet, I can find time to write a lil poem or story.
GB: What authors/artists have had the most profound influences your work?
JG: Leonard Michaels’ stories were huge for me. My favorite short story writer may be Joy Williams. Roberto Bolano is a guy who I’ll never write like, but I like to think we’d get along. I loved Cormac McCarthy in high school, another guy I’ll never write like. Dennis Cooper is a god to me. But honestly, I owe everything to all the small press books that exploded in my face. Shoutout to Two Dollar Radio, Tyrant, Lazy Fascist, CCM, and on and on and on. They helped me out a lot. I was obsessed with Randy Newman for a while. I even did a horrible painting of him. It still exists somewhere in northern California. Lately I’ve been going to sleep to the music of William Tyler. His songs don’t have words, but they’re like stories nonetheless. It’s a good soundtrack to a life. Ted Hawkins’ music is in my blood, I grew up on it. And, I love the band Wilco, which is why some people think I am a ‘dad’. But I’m not, I have no kids. Not yet. But really, Jeff Tweedy’s voice is my favorite voice. And I think he’s a good poet. Snooze.
GB: Who and what is on your MUST-READ list?
JG: Recently, I’d say, you have to read the George Miles Cycle books by Dennis Cooper. Read Person/a by Elizabeth Ellen. Read anything by Scott McClanahan and Juliet Escoria. Read anything by Jarett Kobek. Flowers of Anti-Martyrdom by Dorian Geisler. Splash State by Todd Colby. Short Letter, Long Farewell by Peter Handke. I like books.
GB: What does “success” mean to you? What keeps you going?
JG: Success means not feeling depressed everyday. Not wanting to hurt myself. My family and friends keep me going. Whoa.
GB: Is there any advice you have for someone looking to start a new press or publishing outlet? Do you have any tips for the writers out there, perhaps thinking about going that route?
JG: I would never start a small press. I wouldn’t have it in me. But luckily, my sister and her friend did. When her friend had to step aside, I jumped on board and helped steer. Now we’re sibling owned and operated. It’s fun and I think we’ve built an aesthetic of some sort that’ll change and change and evolve. But yeah, I became a part of the press after the hardest part was done. In terms of advice, not really. If you really like books and want to pay a lot of your own money to put more books out into the world, then start a press! I guess I must like doing it because I don’t want to stop doing it yet.
GB: What’s next for Joseph Grantham? Got any future projects we can look out for?
JG: I have a book of poems called Tom Sawyer due out from CCM (Civil Coping Mechanisms) Fall 2018. I’ve been recording a dumb podcast with Bud Smith. It’s just something we do when we’re bored. I’ll keep publishing great books with my sister. Woo hoo.
Interview originally published in September 2017 at ONLY HUMAN. If you enjoyed this conversation, please recommend, comment, ❤ and share. Spread the love and be better, friends!
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