Let’s get down to it. What made you decide to publish your first novel, Year of the Goose, at age 28? Why not 30? Everyone knows that no one knows anything until at least age 30. On the other hand, why not 13? You could’ve been a child prodigy. You could’ve appeared on 60 Minutes.
What can I say? Mistakes were made.
Speaking of mistakes, it’s a well-known fact that many individuals nurse hobbies and interests such as playing tennis, folding origami, and crafting old-fashioned toys such as whirligigs, pinwheels, and kites. Why not pursue one such hobby or interest? In other words, why spend years of your life bumbling along in Beijing and writing a very weird book about ridiculously wealthy Chinese folks?
I don’t like to talk about it, but there was once an unfortunate incident involving a pottery wheel and a stubborn would-be vase that absolutely refused to take shape. Suffice it to say, I tried hobbies. Hobbies didn’t work.
Hmm, I see. But you could’ve, I don’t know, just stayed in America and written a book about ridiculously wealthy Americans, right?
Please. In the Debase Race, which is the Space Race of our day and age, the Chinese are kicking America’s figurative rear end. Here is a nation that has generously given its public such delightfully offensive figures as Watch Uncle (an official who was photographed creepily smiling at the scene of a tragic traffic accident and who was known to wear multiple Rolexes on a single wrist) and House Sister (a mean lady who illegally acquired a shitload of apartments [the government places limits on the number of properties one can own]). With that kind of material at my disposal, do you really think I could get all hot and bothered over a racist Manhattanite with a peculiar hairstyle running for high office?
Ooh, look at you playing the Trump card—maybe if this whole novelist thing doesn’t pan out, you’ll land a gig as a late-night talk show host. Also, didn’t you register as a Republican when you were 18?
I apologize. Let us return to literature. Year of the Goose features a weight loss camp for obese children. One of the book’s characters has his heart preemptively replaced in Cuba. Another makes his fortune selling hair extensions to celebrities. Clearly you have a fixation with improving the human body. Have you yourself had any work done?
Look, publishing is a notoriously vain industry, and any writer who claims not to have work done is a lying sack of crap. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve dyed my hair, that I’ve had all four of my wisdom teeth yanked, and that I recently had all ten of my fingernails removed and replaced with Jelly Belly brand jelly beans.
Good choice. Literature though, am I right? Let’s talk about literature.
So, at the center of your novel is a fictional food conglomerate, the Bashful Goose Snack Company. How did you first happen upon the wide world of snack foods?
I came to snacking fairly early in life. According to my parents, I started walking at nine months, and from then on out, I’d just be ambling around their apartment sucking on strawberries, leaving sticky trails of red juice and saliva all over the carpeting. They lost the deposit on that place—family members of serious snackers make sacrifices, let it be known!
Noted. But I do recall reading somewhere that most snack connoisseurs categorize strawberries as a fruit and not a snack food. What say you?
I say, give me a break. I had no teeth. But believe you me, the millisecond those lil’ suckers popped outta my gums, I went to town. Cheerios. Rice puffs. You name a toddler-appropriate snack, and I guarantee you I was shoving that toddler-appropriate snack down my gullet.
Sounds gross. By the way, have you ever wondered how toddlers grow and develop and so forth when all they seem to eat is fish sticks and chicken nuggets and Cheerios? It’s pretty weird, right? Makes you wonder if nutrition is a lie.
Yes. This is a question that has actually kept me up at night. It angers me. Here I am, eating kale and quinoa and healthy non-meat protein sources, and yet I can barely muster up the energy to get out of bed in the morning, much less grow taller and learn new things. Although, come to think of it, I may always be tired because I’m staying up all night stewing over this question…
So is it safe to assume that you do most of you writing in bed?
Well, I also write on the sofa and at desks and tables and—
Oh, hold up! I just had an amazing idea. You should pose for an author photo on a bed. I remember seeing such photos of lady authors in Spin and Vanity Fair when I was a teen. Perhaps (and this is just a suggestion), you could tousle your hair, and wear a button-down shirt (half-unbuttoned) and a pair of sexy glasses to illustrate to Jonathan Franzen and other great men of letters that you’re both “a writer” AND “a female folk.” I mean, it’s likely that such men will merely glance at the photo, conclude you’re a washed-up, pill-poppin’ ex-child star, and return to more important manly matters such as going on safari and adopting Iraqi orphans, but it’s worth a shot, isn’t it?
Yes. OMG, you are killing it today.
Thanks. Not to brag or anything, but my mom tells me I have a lot of really good ideas.
I’m sure she does. Hey, at the risk of straying from the topic of literature yet again…do you wanna hear a joke?
Yeah, I guess. Mostly because it’s not socially acceptable to answer “no” when people ask you if you want to hear a joke, even if you do not particularly want to hear a joke.
Okay, here it goes. Yo’ momma is so generous with doling out compliments…
You’re supposed to say—
Oh, right. Um. How generous is she with doling out compliments?
Yo’ momma is so generous with doling out compliments that she also told me that I have a lot of really good ideas!
Oh, day-um! Daaaaaaaaamn! Daaayummmmm!!! Too far, Hallman. You’ve gone too far. Has anyone ever told you that before? That you’ve gone too far? That you shouldn’t talk smack about people’s mothers? That you’re deranged and tend to stray off topic in very bizarre ways? That you shouldn’t refer to Donald Trump as a Manhattanite when everybody knows he’s from Queens? That questioning the validity of nutrition and/or other fields of hard science in an author interview is terribly irresponsible behavior? And that you should never, ever, under any circumstances make a joke at Jonathan Franzen’s expense if you plan to have a career “in this town” (Literature City)? Has anyone ever told you any of that?!
Um, I hate to nitpick here, but you were the one who said that thing about Jonathan Franzen.
Irrelevant. Answer the question(s), Hallman. Has anyone ever told you any of that?!
No. But I’m kind of wishing now that someone would’ve mentioned it…
CARLY J. HALLMAN has a degree in English writing and rhetoric from St. Edward’s University in Austin, TX. She lives in Beijing. Year of the Goose is her first novel.