A self-interview is dangerous.  We might find ourselves sitting here for an hour talking about overdone Tater Tots.  Or the pleasures of drinking a Coca-Cola that you have poured from the can into a tall glass filled with ice.

We? I’m fine with whatever you want to talk about.  I don’t think there always has to be middle ground.  But, that is the best way to drink a Coca-Cola.


Are you nervous about the political ramifications of drinking a Coca-Cola?

I’m from the South, it’s like mother’s milk.  Contradictions are necessary.


Did you steal that line about contradictions from Robert Wilson?



Tell everyone about your novel.

Yield is the story of a part-time hustler who finds himself suddenly roommates with his best friend after they are gay-bashed.  It’s about how we find and create new families in a culture of violence—or, how you form your personal and collective identity when violence is everywhere around you.  When people ask this question, I sometimes say that it’s about learning to recognize yourself.  About not missing the opportunity to be a more distilled version of yourself.  I think being the most you is the best way to be, so I wrote a novel about how to become that, and how to find that, among all the distractions that being young and gay and living in New York City can provide.


How did the novel come about?  Or, maybe what I really want to know is how did these characters emerge?  I am not really sure how we did that, to be honest.

I know what you mean—writing can be very mysterious, one is often unsure of how one actually gets it done, and even less sure how it gets done right.  Or right enough for you at that moment.  Simon, who narrates the novel, appeared to me fully formed one evening when I was about 19.  I had been writing for a long time, small things, stories, poems, but I never imagined that I could write a novel.  And here came this person, barreling out of the void, demanding my attention.  Some writers will say that they created their characters slowly, but I am not that writer, and Simon was not like that—he was hiding, complete, behind some fog.  I just needed to find out how to make him visible.  It took ten years, but the book is finally in the world.


Did you have to overcome any great feats or difficult tasks as you were writing Yield?

New York City is the best kind of fuel for a person like me.  Whatever it is—food, people, movement—the volume has been turned way up.  But this can also be very upsetting if you don’t know how to move those feelings from the inside of you to the outside, where they can go away.  So, for me, the great obstacle is the inability to focus.  The great obstacle in Yield, the story, has also lot to do with getting things out of you—bad habits, bad listening, being overwhelmed.  The great feat of writing any novel is learning the lesson that you’re trying to teach your characters.


Do we have a writing process?

I thought for a long time that we did not—you hear from other writers that they have a schedule, or that they go to a certain place to write.  But I have never been that way.  When I was a personal assistant, many years and many jobs ago, I wrote at my desk in between phone calls.  I’d write a bunch of ideas and unfinished paragraphs during the day, and then revise them to be something clearer at night.  But now I just write what I think of as “constantly.”  On napkins or bus schedules, and I am always emailing myself ideas for playing with later.  I guess this is my process.  Sorry, our process.


What else are we working on?

Is this a question that is meant to make us feel guilty that we do not write as much as we think we should?  Because we are watching too many episodes of Lockdown, or The Oprah Winfrey Show, or playing the Ina Garten Drinking Game?  Because we are listening to Ani Difranco bootlegs in the dark with headphones?  Because our anxiety is such that each time we look at a piece of paper we become blinded by possibilities and paralyzed by insecurities?  Okay, maybe we’re over-reacting.  It’s not really like that.  Honest.


[Shakes head; places comforting hand on self’s knee.]

Thank you for that. You know how we can get worked up about our lack of output.  It’s something we are working on.  We are also working on another novel.  This one is very different.  I always thought that Yield, if you transformed it into a texture, it would be a sheet of shiny aluminum.  And this new thing, it’s like one of those unicorn tapestries.  But that’s really just in indication of how I think about language.  As texture.  Not so much as words.


So are there unicorns often in your work?

The one time. when I was maybe in the 4th grade, I decided that I would write a story about the signs of the Zodiac, and how they each had a job to do in getting the world to rotate again, because it had stopped.  And, as it turns out, well, somehow, I don’t remember how exactly, a very, very rare black unicorn had something to do with the solution.


Thank you for this.

It was our pleasure.

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LEE HOUCK was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee and now lives in Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in numerous anthologies in the U.S. and Australia, and in two limited edition chapbooks. His first novel, Yield, was published by Kensington Books in September 2010. He has also worked with Jennifer Miller's Circus Amok for many, many seasons.

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