The first time I met Amelia Gray was at the release party for Scorch Atlas (Featherproof) by Blake Butler, here in Chicago. Amelia read “Go For It and Raise Hell” and I knew immediately after her reading that I was going to be a fan of her work. I picked up a copy of AM/PM (Featherproof) after the show and read it the next week. The following year when I went to AWP Denver, and had the chance to hear her read again, she apologized that she was going to be reading “Go For It and Raise Hell” again, but to me, it was like going to see a rock band you love, and hearing your favorite song. I knew what was coming, and that her reading, her performance, would be epic. Imagine:

Carl is coated in the filth of the world. He sees that you never know what is enough until you know what is more than enough.”

The second time I met Amelia Gray was the very next night. I did a Quickies! reading with her and many other talented voices at the Innertown Pub. She read several snippets, threats scribbled on slips of paper, that she hurled at the floor in a flourish of disgust and satisfaction, a mix of disturbing imagery and hilarious innuendo. Consider:

“My truth is a sucking chest wound. The field doctor will apply a makeshift occlusive patch crafted from cellophane, aluminum foil, and duct tape. You are far from home.”

This was my introduction to her work – the southern transgressive fiction of raising hell, busty waitresses and Carl; the elusive but connected couples and their touching stories in AM/PM; and the violent and sparkling eyes of a young woman possessed and ready to exact revenge. I was hooked.

So when Museum of the Weird came out (winner of the FC2s American Book Review/Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize) I knew I had to pick it up. Several of the stories I had read before, so it was like hooking up with an old friend, albeit a friend that likes to saw off her own toes to make a stew, the idea of eating human tongues sautéed in buttermilk not quite enough to satisfy her cannibalistic foodie needs. The collection is indeed a grouping of curiosities, but instead of a cabinet, these are human lives we’re looking at, peering in the bars at the monkey house, unsure of what manner of horror or surreal juxtaposition will happen next. For example:

“One morning, I woke to discover I had given birth overnight.”

Instead of a standard interview, I decided to go back and look over her work from the last couple of years and give her a series of prompts, 101 to be exact, to see what she had to say about her work, her fellow authors, and the issues of the day. Here are the results.

Thank you Amelia for your time and your thoughtful, entertaining responses.

001. Arizona

The red license plates were better.

002. Kristina Born

Smoldering cake pile.

003. AM/PM

Dish of Werther’s Original.

004. Hot dogs

Who hasn’t eaten a hot dog? Bring them to me.

005. Blake Butler


006. Museum of the Weird

Hard-boiled eggs.

007. EWN

A factory that produces only hugs.

008. MFA/No MFA

News flash, you’re going to die either way.

009. Five Things

Every time we do one I feel like a mom and it’s my mom birthday.

010. “The Pit”

Is it easier or harder to love someone in a pit.


If this website wanted me to sign its high school yearbook I’d write “2good + 2b = 4gotten”.

012. Grape-Nuts

Even though they are probably scraped waste from the All-Bran machine, Grape-Nuts remain chief.

013. “Waste”

Keep wanting to read this to a crowd and deciding it’s too gross.

014. Jac Jemc

Smells good and is a lady.

015. Farmville

Fuck Farmville.

016. Handjobs

The frozen food of sex acts.

017. Aaron Burch

Snack Pack.

018. Wesley Willis

Too soon.

019. Chevy Camaro Iroc-Z

If I had one I would crash it for fun.

020. Kyle Beachy

Beat me at arm wrestling once but I been practicing.

021. Halloween

My favorite day to stay home.

022. Raton Pass

Considered driving through there last week but sense kicked in.

023. Laura Owen

Was a boss when I met her in Academic Decathlon remains a boss to this day.

024. Threats

I keep looking at this picture of nuggets.

025. Lindsay Hunter

If there ever was a bucket of candy wrapped in a spangled vest.

026. Rob Lowe

Rob Lowe movies Rob Lowe action Rob Lowe kitchen Rob Lowe crying Rob Lowe eyes.

027. Your first novel

What about it?

028. Austin

Feels gorgeous now but it’s a trap.

029. Twitter


030. Mary Hamilton

Coming to visit for Halloween we’re gonna stay at the Radisson.

031. Taco Bell

Saw a kid doing tricks on his fixie outside the ‘Bell tonight.

032. Touring

Seems like the easiest way to see people.

033. Matthew Simmons

Ate corned beef hash with the man.

034. Cotton candy

Don’t need 150 pounds of it that’s for god damn sure.

035. Kickstarter

Saved my summer.

036. SXSW

Brief glimpses of enjoying it mixed with wide swaths of pretending to enjoy it.

037. Mood clothes

My mood: wondering if people are wearing mood clothes.

038. Michael Kimball

My landlord’s brother-in-law.

039. Dunkin’ Donuts

The only days I didn’t skip Sunday School was when I knew there’d be Munchkins.

040. ASU

A cereal store where you can buy an individual bowl of cereal like a chump.

041. Owen Egerton

Was a one-man show before getting a one-man show.

042. John Mayer concert tee

John Mayer just quit Twitter.

043. Greyhound buses

Cheaper than an MFA.

044. Lit vs. commercial

Relationships have suffered over the distinction, whatever it is.

045. Quickies!


046. TSU

Spent some time curled up on the top of a desk trying not to vomit.

047. Sean Lovelace


048. Armadillos

Don’t cross the street guys it’s not a good plan.

049. Night terrors

Last night I woke sitting at the foot of the bed .

050. Shane Jones

Hopefully he and Melanie got some time to be in the backyard this year .

051. Wunderkammer

Your body is a wunderkammer.

052. LDM

Show machine.

053. Featherproof

True friends and book wizards.

054. William Walsh

Makes a great gift.

055. Javelinas

Combo of cute and terrifying.

056. Sleepingfish

Issue #8.

057. Tom Grimes

Talked me through some crises.

058. Human tongue sautéed in buttermilk

We’ve all seen better days and worse too.

059. Hobart

Machine or magazine? Yes.

060. Molly Gaudry

Preparing to level the East Coast.

061. Plate of hair


062. PANK

Many good links lead to PANK.

063. Kyle Minor

Heavyweight champion of the world.

064. Cottage cheese

There’s some in my fridge, I’m going to eat it so fast.

065. Annalemma

Gorgeous x3.

066. Sam Pink

I like Sam Pink.

067. Trichobezoar

There’s a secret to arm wrestling and I have forgotten it.

068. Keyhole

Taught from the Digest this summer.

069. Matt Bell

Has been so nice to me.

070. Juked

Squirrel respect.

071. Kevin Sampsell

Ate a steak bit with him once.

072. Ronald Reagan

Yesterday I said “I think Ronald Reagan was handsome” and my friend said “not the fifties Reagan, the President Reagan” and I said “I thought the President Reagan was handsome too” and this story was not worth typing.

073. Monkeybicycle

Tiny cymbal hands.

074. Mary Miller

Read with her last night, find her just ducky.

075. Snake farms

They are out there and they are full of snakes.

076. Caketrain

I picture some kids with baseball caps over their hearts.

077. Lydia Davis

Has me checking for cockroaches.

078. Paring knives

I have one, it’s quite sharp.

079. Pear Noir

Reviewed their last on my blog.

080. Miranda July

I wonder if she’s eating a sandwich right now.

081. Vultures

Turns out there’s a lot of carrion in West Texas.

082. Dzanc

Best of the Web.

083. Benjamin Percy

There’s a reason why I was looking at Benjamin Percy’s website before.

084. Facebook

“No artwork created by someone with a healthy grasp of social media thus far has proven to be anything other than disposable.” –John Mayer

085. P.O.D.

P.O.D. is an American Christian Metal band formed in 1992.

086. FC2

If it were a person it would find an innovative way to brush its teeth in the morning.

087. Brian Evenson

Three of his books on my shelf. One’s gnawing itself.

088. Ebooks

If you’re into that sort of thing.

089. AWP

Baby bottle full of whiskey.

090. Barry Hannah

The kind of guy who would be happy enough with a gun and a dog.

091. Nobody reads

Well whatever then.

092. Squirrels

Life’s too long for self-loathing.

093. Rikki Ducornet

If she’s not on your radar, buy a new radar device.

094. Lit vs. genre

Whole relationships, down the toilet.

095. Lemons

When life hands you lemons, spend four hours reading about lemons on the internet and then go to bed.

096. DFW

Someone write a doxology about that man.

097. Quiche

I make a bad quiche.

098. JSF

You know I bet he slices a tomato real thin.

099. Zach Dodson

Mails me words to read.

100. Goodreads

Haven’t logged on in a while.

101. “Go For It and Raise Hell”

Good advice.

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RICHARD THOMAS is the author of three books—his debut novel, Transubstantiate (Otherworld Publications), and two short story collections, Herniated Roots (Snubnose Press) and Staring Into the Abyss (Kraken Press). He has published over 75 stories online and in print, including the Shivers VI anthology (Cemetery Dance) with Stephen King and Peter Straub, PANK, Gargoyle, Weird Fiction Review, Midwestern Gothic, Arcadia, Pear Noir!, Word Riot, 3:AM Magazine, and Opium. He has won contests at ChiZine, One Buck Horror, and Jotspeak and has received five Pushcart Prize nominations to date. He is also the editor of two anthologies: The Lineup (Black Lawrence Press), and Burnt Tongues (Medallion Press) with Chuck Palahniuk, both out in 2014. In his spare time he writes book reviews, as well as a column (Storyville) at Lit Reactor. He is represented by Paula Munier at the Talcott Notch Literary Agency. He can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and his blog.

6 responses to “Interview with Amelia Gray – 
101 Prompts”

  1. […] go check out the review up at The Nervous Breakdown, pick up copies of AM/PM and Museum of the Weird, and track her at Twitter and her blog. […]

  2. […] find an interview with Richard Thomas at The Nervous Breakdown in list form, and learn what I really think about Farmville, Rob Lowe, and the Chevy Camaro […]

  3. Caleb J Ross says:

    Great idea for an interview. Quick to read yet full of implied understanding of the author.

  4. Nik Korpon says:

    Excellent job, both. I think #89 is my favorite. So many connotations.

  5. Yes, indeed. Love this interview format. It’s like a Twitter chat that I can actually follow.

  6. Richard says:

    Thanks Caleb, Nik and JAG, appreciate it. Wanted to try something different.

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