A Conversation with xTx

She calls herself xTx; get over it. Her writing would be no less extraordinary if she called herself Bram Crampleton or Stink Tinkleton or Fuque McGoo. In fact, what xTx’s writing has taught me is that the author does not matter; it’s the work. The writing is the author’s identity. There was a post on HTMLGiant a few years ago claiming that xTx shouldn’t “hide” behind a pseudonym. To claim that xTx is hiding from anything is ridiculous. Her writing is so brash and beautiful; it’s time we stop talking about the name and start appreciating the work. (Yes, I’m aware that I just made an issue of her name; I’ll stop now.)

xTx is a writer living in Southern California. She has been published in places like The Collagist, [PANK], Hobart, Puerto del Sol, Smokelong, Wigleaf, and Monkeybicycle. Her story collection, Normally Special, is available from Tiny Hardcore Press; her chapbook, Billie the Bull, is available from Dzanc Books. xTx’s story, “The Mill Pond” won the 2012 storySouth Million Writers Award. She says nothing at notimetosayit.com.

If you’re not convinced that xTx is a goddess, then read these lines, from her new novel, Today I Am a Book (Civil Coping Mechanisms, March 2, 2015), and read a full excerpt here:

Put your face against mine. Let them melt-stick together. Let them become one giant face. A four-eyed, two-mouthed, mass of wrong.

KEVIN CATALANO: xTx, I am so grateful and excited that you came all the way out here to my houseboat to do this interview. I’ve been a fan for some time. So let’s start with some warm-up questions: Do you like my houseboat?

xTx: This is a fucking AMAZING houseboat!! What’s with all the half-naked dudes chained to the walls, though?


Err … they came with the place. What do you have in your purse right now?

Too much shit. Seriously. A hairball of receipts is in there. Some free-range tampons. Makeup shit. A journal. And lots more shit.


Baba Booey or Fafa Fohi?

Neither. Flah Flah Flow-Hai.



Great! You got most of those right. Now, onto Today I Am a Book, your short novel that just came out from CCM Press. How would you describe it?

It’s less like a short novel and more like a collection of becoming something new every day. That is how I would describe it.


You are a magician with language; there’s no doubt about that. How would you describe your relationship with plot?

My relationship with plot I would describe as “pure luck.” I don’t usually write with plot in mind. I write driven by emotion. If a plot develops out of that, then fine. I just want to make the reader feel as much as possible.


Of your own stories, which is your favorite — or the one you’re most proud of — or the one you’re most mystified by?

One of my all-time favorite stories of mine is in my collection, Normally Special. It’s called, “An Unsteady Place,” where a womanmother on a seaside vacation starts losing her mind.

I am most mystified by most of my stories. I’m usually always like, WTF, me?


March is Women’s History Month, so I’d like to ask your thoughts on women and writing.

I don’t have many of these thoughts. I leave that for the smarter people. I WILL say that some of my most inspirational and favorite writers are women: Amelia Gray, Lindsay Hunter, Roxane Gay, Alissa Nutting, Sarah Rose Etter, Paula Bomer, Diane Cook, to name a few.


One of the many things I admire about you is that while you may have hidden your ‘true identity’ (See note above.), you didn’t hide your gender, even though you probably could have. Is it important for you to be known as a woman writer? Or would you prefer a writer who happens to be a woman? Or, god forbid, just a writer?

At first, I think I tried to hide my gender or at least leave it ambiguous. I liked the guessing game. Now that I’m older, I think I like being thought of as a woman writer.


Are you a bad feminist?

Probably.


I know from previous interviews that your early inspirations were Stephen King and Chuck Palailjigaliglhglhdglniuk (Did I spell that right?). What is so awesome is how you and Roxane Gay and Lindsay Hunter and Amelia Gray and Paula Bomer and … I know I’m missing others … how you all are a force of dark, dirty, gritty, disturbing fiction. This was a kind of writing that was once considered men’s territory. But I love that it’s a gang of surly ladies pushing the boys around. Do you see it this way?

It’s sad that this kind of writing was considered mainly men’s territory before. As mentioned above, I find a lot of the darkness I enjoy has come from women. Is that because we have had to hold on to it, keep it hidden longer than men have because it’s unpretty? Maybe the length of our wounds festering has grown some beautiful infections that are now being squoze out onto the world via our words.

I don’t think we are surly. I don’t think we are pushing. I think we are finally at a place we can let our ugly out and fuck the boys.


What’s going on with Alt Lit? There was that matter last year (to put it lightly, though it’s not a light subject) with Tao Lin and Stephen Tully Dierks, resulting in many calling Alt Lit a “boys’ club” and casting HTMLGiant as a purveyor of alt-lit sexism. Do you, or did you ever, identify yourself with that genre/community?

Early on, I was classified and included as alt lit, and so I guess I did consider myself part of alt lit. Early on, I felt my writing DID feel alt lit. But then alt lit started evolving and changing at a point when my own writing was evolving and changing, and I think I fell out of the alt lit group because I felt my style ‘didn’t match.’ Like me and alt lit had ‘grown apart.’ Not to mention I was way over the age limit of most alt-litters.

Now, I am included in alt lit things here and there, and I am proud to have been ‘raised’ alongside alt lit when alt lit was being born and sucking teats. I love having been part of the ‘beginnings’ of alt lit. I love the freedom of alt lit and how so many of these young people have found a place for their thoughts and feelings in words. In other words, thank you, alt lit!!


I’m curious about the novel you’re currently working on, since I follow you on Twitter. It seems you’re almost finished? Is there anything you’re willing to tell us about it?

I am finished and now doing some revisions on a novel. The flavor of the novel is ‘magical realism.’ It is really dark. It has really powerful language. It has beauty and it has lots of cruel. I love it so.


Last question: It’s only a matter of time before your novels get published by the big houses. Seriously. When that happens, what author photo will you include on the dust jacket?

That is a good question. We will see. I’ll just say, Sia has something good going on, and it’s making me love her more and more.


Thank you, again, for taking time to talk to me. If you’d like, you may take one of the chain-dudes on your way out.


Interview originally published on 3/27/15