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ss-mugYou received a lot of rejections before you finally started publishing and exhibiting your work. Do you have a favorite?

Yeah, an agent in NYC wrote to say I should take my typewriter and put it on the top shelf of my closet and then nail the door shut. I didn’t hate her but when I heard she died a while back, I felt pretty good.

 

Do you feel pretentious doing a self-interview?

Yeah, sort of.

 

Who are your favorite characters in BigCity?

Bitch Bantam, Slab Pettibone, Fritter McTwoBit, FuzzyWuzzy the Bear.

 

Did you always want to be a writer?

When I was a kid I wanted to be a bank robber or Hell’s Angel which, at that time, seemed more likely than writing books and having gallery shows. The idea of calling myself a writer/artist always seemed like a great excuse to run wild, gathering stories and experience rather than holding on to a real job.

 

Do you have a favorite novelist most people have never heard of?

Erskine Caldwell who was/is best known for his wonderful white-trash novels, Tobacco Road and God’s Little Acre, which he wrote in the 1930s. I discovered him in the 1980s and he definitely set a tone for what I wanted to write when I finally got around to writing.

 

Who was your favorite writer when you were a kid?

I really loved Edgar Rice Burroughs, who wrote all the Tarzan books as well as a lot of science fiction adventure stories. It’s funny, I kind of went directly from Edgar Rice Burroughs to William S. Burroughs. It probably shows in my work.

 

BigCity is a little over 400 pages, do you have an elevator pitch?

I find it easier to write a 100,000 word novel than to encapsulate said novel into a single paragraph. BigCity is filled with characters and story lines weaving together in loops and turns and twists. It’s a tall-tale adventure, a literary satire, a comedy, a love story with sex and drugs and violence. Cowboys and pit fighting women, unscrupulous tycoons with perverse proclivities, guttersnipe pickpockets and a bear with yellow fur. It’s set in postbellum America, bringing in the birth of pornographic movies, women’s rights, media superstars and brand name branding. That’s the slow-elevator pitch.

 

Do you worry about the survival of the arts under the current political regime?

Not really. In a fascist state the writers and artists are among the first to go to the guillotine, but they are also the last to submit to corruption. Writers and artists are traditionally political martyrs and each one you take out inspires ten more to take up the cause. We are already on the outlaw fringe list so we might as well pick up a Molotov cocktail and express ourselves.

 

You are publishing your first novel at 67 years old. Do you think having all those years to look back on makes you a better writer?

It makes me a better writer but that doesn’t mean it makes me a better writer than someone who hasn’t yet acquired a life of stories. Take a 50 year old barroom-fighter with scar tissue on his knuckles and pit him against a twenty-five year old choirboy with ten years of Tae Kwon Do and it could well be a even match. It doesn’t matter how we get to where we are, only that we are here.

 

What’s your favorite word?

Scofflaw.

 

What’s the most irritating thing people say to you when you tell them you have a novel coming out?

Is it fiction or nonfiction?

______________________

SCOT SOTHERN (b. 1949) spent forty unsettled years hustling freelance photography. Scot worked in department stores, churches, bowling alleys, sports events and high school proms. He worked in a cave at a tourist-trap in Missouri, making and selling photo mementos. Traveling with a portable studio, knocking door-to-door in suburban America, he made and sold children’s portraits and novelties–photo buttons and key-chain viewers. Scot shot model’s portfolios, head-shots, and nude magazine layouts. He spent three years in Tallahassee, Florida, with a photography studio, three seasons with a high school yearbook studio in Los Angeles, and has been employed in three different cities as a darkroom technician. Forced into commercial retirement by the crippling byproduct of a motorcycle mishap, Scot now writes books and has continued making photographs. In 2010 Scot’s first solo exhibit, lowlife, was at the Drkrm Gallery in Los Angeles. In 2011 Lowlife, the book, photos and text, was published in the UK by Stanley Barker. Scot has since been in solo and group shows on both coasts of the US as well as Ottawa, Canada, and London. His work has been reviewed and lauded in the US and in numerous publications throughout Europe. In 2013 Scot took a two-year stint writing biweekly columns, Nocturnal Submissions and Sothern Exposure, for VICE Magazine. Scot’s memoir, Curb Service was published by Soft Skull Press, July, 2013. An American Lowlife, a digital photo book was published, by Powerhouse books, in July, 2013. Streetwalkers, stories and photographs was published by powerHouse Books in February 2016. Writer, Jerry Stahl, called it “An absolutely amazing and essential book.” BigCity is Sothern’s first novel.

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Fiction Editor J. Ryan Stradal lives in Los Angeles, where he works as an editor-at-large at Unnamed Press. He is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel Kitchens of the Great Midwest and the editor of 2014's California Prose Directory anthology.

Associate Fiction Editor Ana Ottman is a writer living in Los Angeles. Her stories have appeared in Eclectica Magazine, The Rumpus, and Uno Kudo, among other publications.

Associate Fiction Editor Leah Tallon's book reviews, interviews and fiction have been published at The Manifest-Station, The Collagist, The Rumpus, and other places. She lives in Milwaukee.

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