Just in Case There Are Any Odd Little Paste-eating Girls Reading This, I’d Like to Give Them Some Small Ray of Hope: An Interview with Julie Innis

Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, Julie Innis now lives in New York. Her stories and essays have appeared in Post Road, Pindeldyboz, Gargoyle, and The Long Story, among others. She holds a Master’s in English Literature from Ohio University and is currently on staff at One Story as a reader. She is the author of Three Squares a Day with Occasional Torture, now available from Foxhead Books.

RV: What made you decide to be a writer? Was there a definitive moment? Was it cumulative? Are you still deciding?

JI: I’ve never shared this story before, but because you’ve so kindly asked, here you go: One day as I was walking home from school, I came upon a burning bush, quite fortuitously because I’d just failed another math test and needed a way to destroy the evidence. On that fateful day as I watched that test burn, my eyes full of smoke and tears, I raised my fist to the indifferent skies and swore I’d do anything, anything with my life, as long as it didn’t require algebra. And lo a voice replied, a high, reedy voice, the voice of my pyromaniac little brother hiding in the weeds and though what he suggested is not fit for reprinting here, I took it as a sign and from that day forth, I called myself A Writer.

RV: Tell me the biggest life change with your new Foxhead Books release, Three Squares a Day with Occasional Torture?

JI: I try avoid big life changes the way that divers try to avoid the bends. So that would be the biggest change—more avoidance.

We omitted this next one for mysterious purposes.

RV: You have a thing for animals. Pretend I’m a cheetah, and trying to run away. Help me find my way back to you.

JI: At this point, I feel I should clarify that I am married to a human, just in case anyone is wondering what, exactly, “a thing for animals” might mean…That said, I am a firm believer in that old Sting adage, “if you love someone, let them flee.” Especially when it comes to carnivorous animals because, as much as I’d like to flatter myself in thinking it’s because of my great hair and fabulous personality, in all likelihood that cat’s only interested in me for dinner, so good riddance, go find yourself a baby addax or an aging wildebeest.

RV: If you could live anywhere other than New York City, where might it be? How does your environment feed into your work if it even does?

JI: I’ve happily lived in many places and hope to happily live in many more places before I die, the likelihood of this having increased exponentially now that I’ve given up trying to co-habitate with cheetahs and such. As far as NYC goes, I’ve certainly been influenced by its sights and sounds, thanks in large part to my many neighbors who leave their windows open and their lights on, as well as by its dreck, in particular the gross stuff I somehow always manage to mistakenly sit in when I ride the subway.

RV: What is something in your closet that you ought to get rid of?

JI: Have you read my work? Next question, please. Nothing to see here. Nope, nothing at all.

RV: Who is a writer you read when you were in your teens that made you puke? Made you sing?

JI: Interestingly enough, I’ve been told that my singing voice makes people want to puke. But to your question, as a general rule, I try to neither sing nor puke when reading. Distracting and, frankly, very messy.

RV: Last reading that blew your socks off (if you were wearing them) and…part 2…boxers or briefs?

JI: First, I’m always wearing socks and second, my primary goal at any reading is to escape unblown. I mean, there’s often free wine and a lot of very heady lit’ry talk, the lights are low, the seats are verrrry close together—Czeslaw Milosz, if you’re reading this, I’m still waiting for that call…wait, what? He’s dead? <makes mental note to adjust Bucket List accordingly> But, as far as the last reading I saw that scared the shit out of me, that’s easy: Scott McClanahan at the Franklin Park Reading Series here in Brooklyn. I mean, wow, talk about a performance. McClanahan did things with his cell phone that I’ve never been able to figure out how to do with mine and I’m pretty sure at one point he was speaking in tongues and if there’d been a chicken on the scene, that bird would’ve done had its head bit off for sure. Everyone got blown that night. Scary talented, that guy.

RV: I think you are hilarious. Were you always funny? Tell me one time when you were and someone either didn’t get it, or took you the wrong way.

JI: Um, what time is it? If it’s past noon, there’s probably at least five people I’ve encountered today who didn’t find me all that funny, and one of those people I live with. Or two if you count my dog. I mean, I really should count my dog because there are days she finds me quite funny, especially if I happen to have chunks of meat on me at the time. Then I’m a real laugh-riot.

I do remember being made keenly aware in pre-K that, as a girl, you could be pretty, or smart, or sweet, maybe all three at once if you’d hit the genetic trifecta. Given my penchant for paste in those days, I think it’s safe to say that genetics weren’t on my side. So, I took the path most oft’ taken by odd little girls like me and that has made all the difference. Not really, but just in case there are any odd little paste-eating girls reading this, I’d like to give them some small ray of hope. Or, at the very least, offer myself up as a cautionary tale.

***

Robert Vaughan’s plays have been produced in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Milwaukee, where he resides. He leads two writing roundtables for Redbird-Redoak Studio. His prose and poetry have been published in over one hundred fifty literary journals such as elimae and Metazen. He is a fiction editor at JMWW magazine, and Thunderclap! Press. He co-hosts Flash Fiction Fridays for WUWM’s Lake Effect. Here is his blog.

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