C. James and Jessa Bye: The TNB
By TNB Fiction
December 14, 2012
JESSA: Can you bring me a glass of water?
CASEY: Yeah. Why do you always wait until you’re in bed and I’m not yet to decide you want a glass of water?
JESSA: Because I’m great. And I deserve to have you take care of me.
CASEY: Shoot. We forgot to do that self-interview for The Nervous Breakdown.
JESSA: What were you gonna say?
CASEY: The standard stuff. It’s an anthology of fiction, nonfiction, interviews, and comics but done in a huge coffee table format. Curbside Splendor is publishing it this month. And we’ve been working on it for nearly two years.
JESSA: Are you gonna mention we came up with the idea while lying in bed one night in our old place in Rogers Park?
CASEY: Yeah, but they can read about that in the Editors’ Note.
JESSA: Are you gonna mention all the fun people we did interviews with and solicited pieces from?
CASEY: I always like to say how we have three members of The State contributing comics and interviews. Or how we just asked Etgar Keret for a blurb, but he was so sweet he just sent a story instead. Or maybe how Mary Roach gave me her phone number and I called her and she was really sweet and funny and even laughed at my jokes.
JESSA: You sound like a sixth grade boy talking about calling a girl to go to a dance where you’d both just end up standing on opposite sides of they gym, never talking.
CASEY: That is exactly my relationship with Mary Roach. And I’m extremely proud of it. Are you hot? It’s hot. Can you turn down the heat?
JESSA: I just got comfortable.
CASEY: I’ll do it.
JESSA: Make sure the back door is locked while you’re up.
CASEY: I want to talk about the ridiculously talented people in the book who aren’t on TV.
JESSA: Like all the great writers connected to Chicago. Like Billy Lombardo, J. Adams Oaks, Megan Stielstra, Tim Jones-Yelvington, Lauryn Allison Lewis, Robert Duffer, Simon A. Smith, Dakota Sexton, James Tadd Adcox, and Jeffrey Brown. But then the interview sounds like a lot of name-dropping and not a lot of substance.
CASEY: And that’s without even mentioning that Steven Seighman did the design and layout, which is awesome because he’s done amazing things for St. Martin’s and Dzanc before. And I love Drew Shannon’s illustrations for the front and back cover.
JESSA: They’re very simple, but full of detail. They feel almost tactile.
CASEY: Yeah, he’s got aspects of like a Darwyn Cooke mixed with Craig Thompson comic book sort of feel.
JESSA: No one knows what you’re talking about. Don’t just write nerd references. Tell them a story. Make connections. You met Drew through Knee-Jerk, right?
CASEY: Yeah, he did some illustrations for Knee-Jerk Offline Vol 2. He was the first person I thought of for the cover. Ugh. Can you get the dogs to roll over toward you some? They’re like both on my legs. Thanks, that’s better. Who else you wanna name drop?
JESSA: Maria Bamford. Her interview is right near the end of the book and she’s still super funny, but she also takes the questions, even though they’re all about sleep and stuff—not like about her craft or anything—very seriously. And she goes kind of dark and pretty personal with it.
CASEY: Yeah, that’s one of my favorite parts of the book specifically. And about the book overall—there’s a huge variety of tones and voices in this thing, but they work together. They play off each other.
JESSA: I like how if you read closely, the pieces line up so there’s kind of an overall arc to the book, even though it’s written by over 60 people and none of them had any sort of communication to make it that way.
CASEY: Yeah. There are themes that keep popping up just based on the subject matter, no matter how tangential the bed or sleeping might be to the plot of that piece. So it was fun teasing those things out a bit in how the pieces read back to back.
JESSA: Yeah so you could pick it up and flip through and, if you’re inclined to, just read a short-short and put it down…
CASEY: Like a quick story in bed before you fall asleep.
JESSA: Right. You could pick and choose pieces and read through like you might a magazine. But then you could also start from the beginning of the book and follow the dramatic arcs and recurring themes and tone shifts from hilarious to tragic from very down to earth moments to magical realism. It’s organized kinda like a mixed tape.
CASEY: Say “Hybrid Text.” It sounds fancier. But exactly. Like the very last line of the very last piece in the book is “It’s time to sleep, I’m going to dream now.” I mean, that doesn’t happen on accident.
JESSA: Yes, we are very talented editors, honey. Now go to sleep and worry about writing the interview in the morning.
CASEY: What if we sound pretentious? I mean, maybe I could subvert the fact that we are doing a lot of name-dropping and self-praise by just mentioning that we know it’s pretentious. But, come on, I mean that’s what gets a reader interested in checking out a book, right? “Oh, Roxane Gay, Steve Himmer, Brandi Wells? Those are fun writers. Maybe I should buy that.” Right? I just don’t want it to come off too cutesy. The book isn’t cutesy. I mean, yeah, bits of it are cutesy, because it’s got something for everyone, and some people like cutesy. Is it too pretentious? Too cutesy? Hun? Pumpkin? Are you asleep?
C. James Bye is the co-founder and Arts and Media editor of Knee-Jerk Magazine. He insists on being the little spoon, despite his six-foot three-and-half inch frame.
Jessa Bye was the web editor of Monkeybicycle for three years. She kicks off her socks when she sleeps, and her husband has to pick them up. Like, every single morning.
Artists in order of appearance: Julia Wertz, Drew Shannon, Nathan Holic, Kenny Keil
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