Brad Listi is the founder of The Nervous Breakdown, an online culture magazine and literary community that now includes TNB Books, an independent press specializing in literary fiction and nonfiction. He is the author of a novel called Attention. Deficit. Disorder., a Los Angeles Times bestseller, the executive producer of The Nervous Breakdown’s podcast series, and the host of Other People with Brad Listi, a twice-weekly podcast featuring in-depth, inappropriate interviews with today’s leading authors. To learn more, please visit

Tell us about Other People.

Other People is a twice-weekly author interview podcast, available for free at iTunes, or at Stitcher. Each show is about an hour long. I’m a big radio and podcast nerd, and I listen to a lot of this stuff and really like the medium. The idea is to do a show that really focuses on authors as people-who they are, where they’re from, why they do what they do, and to be a bit looser and more irreverent and more personal than the average book-related show.

What’s going on for you now creatively?

Well, there’s the podcast. And then there’s The Nervous Breakdown, my online culture magazine and literary community. That’s a big job, and it takes up a lot of time. And then I’m also working on a new novel, which is coming along slowly but well. And I’ve got a one-year-old daughter. That’s pretty much it. That’s all I have time for.

Your feeling about mentors, having one, being one? how you feel about literary mentors…

I think mentors are probably essential in any field, whether they come in the form of a personal relationship or not. The first way, obviously, is to know someone, to be taken under someone’s wing. But you can also pick your mentors based on whom and how you read. And you’re not limited to your field of interest, either. You can learn how to write from a plumber, I think. Or from an astronaut or a priest. It’s just a matter of who they are, and how they live and work, and what they have to say-and how well you’re listening. And of course some of the best mentors out there are the ones who teach us what not to do.

As for being a mentor myself, it’s something I don’t mind trying to do if somebody asks me for help, but I’m not out there actively looking for mentees. I feel like I have so much to learn in my own right. As a writer I’m just getting started.

What tricks do you use to get “unstuck” when blocked creatively?

I read. I listen to music. I might go see a movie. I exercise. Or else I quit. I sleep on it and start over again the next day.

Any prompts or exercises or ideas that get you going?

Listening to an interview with a favorite author is always helpful. It usually winds up reminding me that all writers-great writers included-go through the same stuff. No one is an exception to the rule. You can never hear that enough.

What do you love about what you do?

Almost every aspect of it. The writing. The working with authors and running The Nervous Breakdown. The podcast. It’s all fun for me. I’m very lucky in that way.

What don’t you love?

I’m not entirely in love with technology. Social media, for example, can be wearying.

Who are your childhood heroes (literary or otherwise).

Shel Silverstein was big when I was really young. Edgar Allan Poe. Kurt Vonnegut in junior high. Fitzgerald and Hemingway and Dostoevsky and Camus started in high school. Hunter Thompson, John Kennedy Toole, and Jack Kerouac in college. Céline was big right after college. DeLillo, Bret Easton Ellis, Joan Didion, James Baldwin, DFW, Lorrie Moore, Gore Vidal, Jon Krakauer, Paul Auster, Rick Moody. Writers like that. It seems pretty standard, I guess.

What’s next for you?

Well, the goal is to keep going. To keep The Nervous Breakdown going, and to grow its publishing imprint and its book club. To keep the podcast going. To finish my novel. That sort of thing.

But ultimately, who really knows how things will go? Publishing is changing so fast, and the world is so crazy, there could be things on the horizon that surprise me. I’m trying to be ready for anything.

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 the editor-at-large for BLIP Magazine, and her stories and poems have been published widely. Her first full collection of flash fiction, “Damn Sure Right” is now out from Press 53. She blogs at

  1. Marcus Speh

    I’ve met (in the social media way) some wonderful authors through your various endeavors. One of them, Henning Koch, has even become a good friend by virtue of also living in Berlin. “Being ready for anything” including being ready to be surprised seems a good way to respond to the stimulation and the change out there, especially in publishing. Enjoyed this, thank you & good luck with it all in 2012!

  2. Brad Listi

    Thanks for the kind words, Marcus! Henning’s a fine writer. Have you read his story collection, ‘Love Doesn’t Work’? We ran an excerpt a while back over at TNB. It’s worth checking out.

  3. Robert Vaughan


    So great to see you here! And feel honored to participate in The Nervous Breakdown! Best to you in 2012 and see you “over there!”

  4. susan tepper

    Brad, I really enjoyed what you have to say here and wish you all the best on your many exciting projects!

  5. Angela

    Brad, Thank you for TNB! I love it! It’s my primary disguise to “appear to be working” at the office!

  6. Brad Listi

    Thanks for reading, Angela. Sweet of you to say. :)

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