Clearly, Emma, you are a liar. Your book, Fly-Over State, is billed as a novella, when everyone can see that it is nothing more than a short story. How do you sleep at night?

I had no idea this interview was going to be so hostile. But, yes, you’re right, it is a short story. It is a long short story, at least by my own standards. When Flatmancrooked approached me about their New Novella series and Launch program, the emphasis seemed to be on the ‘New’ and ‘Launch.’ It is also possible that I am a bad listener. Hopefully, the story is satisfying enough that one feels as though they’ve read a novella.

What is this ‘Launch’ you speak of?

Flatmancrooked is a press run entirely on sugar highs and gas fumes. They have more ideas in one day than you or I have in a month’s time. Last summer, I was in the middle of moving back to New York City from Madison, Wisconsin, and they called me at about 9 o’clock at night, giggly and giddy. They’d just come up with this idea, that they would ‘Launch’ me. The Launch itself consisted of a very hilarious book trailer, and pre-sales of my book, which they were selling as ‘shares in my future.’ I adore those crazy people.

How would you describe Fly-Over State?

It’s the story of a couple who moves from Brooklyn to Wisconsin, and what they find there. A man-child lives next door. Hilarity ensues.

So it’s funny?

I hope it’s funny.

What other writers do you find funny?

Lorrie Moore is very funny, though I think it’s low on her list of priorities and just happens naturally. Tom Perrotta is very funny. Deborah Eisenberg is funny. I like my humor to be run through with sadness, and those writers all do that.

What good books have you read recently?

My father, Peter Straub, published a novel this fall that everyone should read, even if they’re afraid of scary books. It’s called A Dark Matter, and you can find it at your local bookstore. If your local bookstore in BookCourt, in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, then I will sell it to you myself.

I also really, really loved Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge. I put off reading it for a long time because I thought it looked like it was for old ladies, but it was so incredible that I’ve started pushing it on everyone I know. Deep and enveloping. Just a lovely book. I suppose the Pulitzer Prize should have tipped me off.

Is it true that you write love letters to everyone who buys your book?

Yes and no. It is true that I will write a love letter to anyone who buys my book, but I have no way for knowing that they’ve done so unless they send me an email. But yes, once someone sends me an email to let me know that they’ve bought a book, I write them a love letter on my pretty little pink stationary. All the love letters are unique, just like snowflakes, only less damp and cold. I adore writing them, and will happily keep doing so until the postal service ceases to exist.

How many love letters have you written so far?

Hundreds. If I were smart, I would have been keeping count. Alas. But it is certainly in the hundreds.

What are your thoughts on the internet?

My husband routinely threatens to throw my iphone out the window, which is to say, I love the internet. I love Twitter and Facebook and all those horrible things that waste valuable time. No! I take that back. They are not time-suckers, not exactly. I have made a number of great friends on Twitter, and belong to a group called the Virtuous Circle which is made up of about sixty writers, editors, librarians, and other publishing professionals. We meet at the Algonquin and drink iced tea, because we are not Dorothy Parker. It is an incredible group of people, and I would not have made their acquaintance without Twitter. Facebook is more of a time-sucker, but looking at other people’s wedding photos never gets old.

What are you working on now?

Self, you are getting lazy. But I will still answer the question. Right now I’m working on a few new stories and revising a novel. The novel has been through many different incarnations, and it’s just starting to get rolling again.

That’s all?

Well, no, I’m also the co-editor of Avery: An Anthology of New Fiction, which is now reading for its 6th issue. There are some stories I am very, very excited about, but I can’t tell you what they are yet. I’m also getting ready to screenprint about two-hundred posters for the Broken Social Scene’s upcoming tour. If our hands don’t fall off, you’ll be able to buy them on the M + E website.

Has anyone ever told you that your face is wasted on the publishing industry? Don’t you think it’s time you put yourself in the movies?

You know, people ask me that all the time. In fact, I can currently be seen in TWO films. If you pause Noah Baumbach’s incredibly good film ‘The Squid and the Whale’ at just the right moment, you can see my profile, and then my back. You can identify me by my pink shirt and half-ponytail. The other film I am currently starring in is ‘Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields,’ which is a documentary. It’s on the festival circuit right now, but will play at the Film Forum in October. You can identify me by my entire face, and my name, which appears underneath my face on the screen. Anyone else who would like to hire me for extra work in films, please do not hesitate to be in touch.

Last question. How psyched are you that someone finally asked you to interview yourself, given how many times you have done this unprompted?

Very. Thank you, The Nervous Breakdown, for the affirmation that all of those fake interviews I conduct with myself (on Oprah, on The Today Show,  etc) were not in vain. Oh, preparation!

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EMMA STRAUB’s Fly-Over State (Flatmancrooked, 2009) was named one of the best books of the year by the Courier-Journal, the smartest newspaper in all the land. She received her MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she was also the 2008-2009 Halls Emerging Artist Fellow. Her fiction has appeared in The Saint Ann’s Review, Juked, Five Chapters, Barrelhouse, and many other journals. She co-edits Avery: An Anthology of New Fiction, which has published stories by Dan Chaon, Hannah Tinti, and Steve Almond, to name but a few.

Fly-Over State is the story of a young woman who follows her husband to Wisconsin, and is both amused and confused by what she finds there. Bookslut had this to say about the book:

"With a writer like Straub, it's tempting to talk about potential, to speculate about what she might do next. But this book proves she's already realized her potential; she's a fully realized author -- smart, compassionate, humane -- even after just these two stories. It's an amazing debut, and Straub does a phenomenal job of navigating the different geographies -- physical, emotional, temporal -- that make up our lives, and that most others may or may not ever fully get."

If you buy Emma’s book and send her an email telling her that you’ve done so, she will write you a love letter. If you don’t, she’ll have to spend the rest of her days consoling herself with lots of cheese and jam, though not necessarily together.

6 responses to “Emma Straub: The TNB 

  1. Lisa Adams says:

    I am buying 10 copies of Emma’s book so she will have to write to me constantly for the next few weeks. I want my neighbors to think I have lots of friends with pretty stationery.

  2. D.R. Haney says:

    I’ve been meaning to read Fly-Over State for some time, having learned about it in the following way:


    Meanwhile, I enjoyed the interview very much. Here’s hoping you become a regular contributor at TNB.

  3. […] is alive and well thanks to Emma Straub.  She interviews notorious liar, Emma Straub, and asks the tough […]

  4. amm says:

    jesus. make it stop.

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