mortarvilleGrant Bailie lives in one of the poorest cities in the country. His fiction has appeared in Opium, Night Train, Eyeshot, Pindeldyboz and numerous other publications. His first novel, Cloud 8, has been called “mad and fascinating” by Kirkus Reviews,  “an astonishing first novel” by San Francisco’s East Bay Express, and “tender and introspective” by Boston’s Weekly Dig. Boston went on to win the world series that year which can only reflect favorably on the book.

His second novel, Mortarville, was published in 2008. Some people said nice things about that book too, including Dan Chaon, who is a great writer and must know what he is talking about. Grant’s novel New Hope for Small Men is currently being serialized at Necessary Fiction.

Q (Meg Pokrass): What story or book do you feel closest to?

A: Do you mean of my own or others? If it’s my own, the book I am happiest with artistically is called Highway Narcissus, though that book is yet to be placed anywhere still, that is the one I feel comes closer to doing what I asked it to do. It is a very well behaved book in that way and I hope someone takes it into their home some day. Of my own published novels, I do not yet hate Mortarville.

But if you are asking about what book by someone else I feel closest too it is probably Go, Dog. Go! by P.D. Eastman. Elements of that book inform all of my work. Particularly the dog party in a tree at the end. My concept of heaven, such as it is, is based one that dog party.

Do you have a mentor?

No. It seems like a one word answer is inadequate here so I am adding these other words after my answer just to pad it out, even though my answer is just: no.

How do you stay creative? What are your tricks to get “unstuck?”

I think I like to be put in a corner, creatively speaking – something I have to work my way out of. For instance, I started writing one book by having every chapter being based on songs by a group called Sparks. Particularly the album Angst in my Pants. Another trick I am fond of is having a group of words that I must use – some random words that I have no control over picking. I should probably thank Kim Chinquee for introducing me to that method. I find it works very well, so thank you Kim. Also, I would like to thank Ron and Russel Mael of Sparks.

What are your favorite websites?

The ones that don’t ask for my credit card number. Also Zoetrope, Necessary Fiction and Fictionaut, of course. I like Fictionaut partly because it currently has an interview with me in it. I wonder what I think? I fascinate me.

What are you working on now?

A gothic crime novel called The Inheritance. It is something of a departure for me but so far I am really enjoying it. It is more plot driven than my previous work and I have yet to figure out how to work in a dog party in a tree at the end, but, as I said, I am enjoying it so far. Also, I am doing laundry, which I am a little behind on. I have no socks.

How do you attach to characters? I mean, how do your readers attach to characters? Or, what makes you, Grant, as a reader attach to a character?

I guess as a reader it is simple enough: I tend to like characters that I can relate to on some level, though there would be notable exceptions to this in Lolita or Ada or The Postman Always Rings Twice, but even these characters, thanks to the skill of their creators, I can at least understand. I can feel some degree of sympathy to temper the contempt. Take Heatchliff in Wuthering Heights for example. He is as repellent a character as I have ever read, but he is fleshed out completely. There is a complexity there that draws me in even with my hatred.

Now as a writer it is both more complicated and simpler than that. I do not know what attraction or bond I have or will have with any given character, but I have never written from a point of view that was completely alien to my own point of view. This may be a failing of mine as an artist – but maybe only a temporary failing.

What movies (I’m thinking old movies) influenced your way of being, of thinking, of wanting to be, or wanting to think?

I certainly like a great many movies, but as far as ones that in some way influence my approach to fiction (which is pretty close to how I define being, thinking, wanting to be and wanting to think) I would have to say something like 8 1/2 or Magnificent Obsession or Sherlock Junior stuff, I mean, that breaks with reality in some way, that sets up its own rules and goes where they lead. I like fiction, and maybe life too for that matter, to follow the meandering path of dreams. I like the back of my mind to surprise the front of my mind. And I like not exclusively perhaps, but plenty enough movies that do this too. A Matter of Life and Death or Black Narcissus. Blithe Spirit. La Dolce Vita. Too many, really, to name.

What do you think about the importance of having trees where you live? What would happen to you if you lived on a windswept treeless dune?

I need trees. My wife and I went to Arizona recently, and while the landscape was beautiful and awe inspiring we both discovered we could not live long without trees. Real trees, I mean. A tree is as close to an altar as I can get.

The Fictionaut Five is our ongoing series of interviews with Fictionaut authors. Every Wednesday, Meg Pokrass asks a writer five (or more) questions. Meg is an editor at Smokelong Quarterly, and her stories and poems have been published widely. She blogs at

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