Five questions with writer H.B. Hogan

H.B. Hogan’s new book This Keeps Happening is coming out November 15th, 2018 (you can pre-order now) with Invisible Publishing. H.B. talks about a time when she was more interesting, swooning in front of Virginia Woolf’s house and the mood inspiring playlist to This Keeps Happening.

Tamara Jong: Congrats on your new collection of short stories This Keeps Happening coming out in Fall 2018 with Invisible. Self-immolation, eviscerated squirrels, weird kid triumphs. Can you tell us about how this story collection came about and their beginnings?

H.B. Hogan: Thanks. I wrote these stories a while ago, between 2004 and 2009, and then I set them aside to focus on other things. It’s been interesting to work on them now that I am older and less interesting. They all started the same way: someone would floor me with something that they heard or saw or experienced. The squirrel. The weird kid. Or I’ll overhear something ridiculous on the subway or in the elevator. Then I’ll take that snippet and build a whole new story around it until it’s something that every reader can relate to, like self-immolation or coprophagia.

TJ: In sports, rituals and superstitions are part of the game. Former baseball player Ichiro Suzuki takes care of his bats as if they are Stradivarius violinsVictor Hugo used to stand up at a small desk in front of a mirror while writing. Joan Didion will sleep with her novel once it’s close to being finished.  Virginia Woolf said, “Writers need rituals to distract us from thinking too much about how we do what we do.” Woolf used to walk before writing. Do you have any writer rituals?  

HH: I live a life devoid of sport or thundering literary talent. I put my glasses on before using my eyes. I try to avoid eating off a plate if I think my cat has licked it.

TJ: Ever gone on any writer pilgrimages? 

HH: No pilgrimages, but several writer inadvertencies. In 1997, while visiting a friend in London UK, it became necessary for me to sleep off a hangover after being out all night. I was locked out of my room, so I went to Kew Gardens because I knew Virginia liked it there. I can see why; I slept soundly and was not disturbed.

In 2016, I was back in London and was better behaved. I happened to pass through Bloomsbury and took a moment to swoon on a bench out front of a house that Virginia once lived in. Then I went back to my room to soak my feet.

More recently I’ve spent some time visiting a friend who lives near Wingham, Ontario. I buy bananas at the grocery store in town and wonder if Alice Munro also buys bananas at that same grocery store. Think of it.

TJ: Where do you like to hang out to write? Can you share a pic of your space?

HH: I stand at the kitchen counter beside the microwave. I don’t like it. I will not demean myself by providing a picture.

TJ: Do you listen to music when writing? What soundtrack would play in the background for your collection of stories, This Keeps Happening?

HH: Some stories were written while listening to a song or an album on repeat because I thought it captured the mood I was aiming for. Tara Firma was the album Paranoid by Black Sabbath. Danger Cat was Heroes by David Bowie. Words for Evelyn was two songs: Feeling Yourself Disintegrate by the Flaming Lips and How to Disappear Completely by Radiohead. Mr. Gupta was Baltimore – Nina Simone’s, not Randy Newman’s. But most of the time I write in silence. The house could burn down around me while I’m writing and I wouldn’t notice over the roar of the microwave.

H.B. Hogan lives in Toronto with her person and her cat. Her fiction has been published in Taddle Creek, THIS Magazine, and subTerrain. She has a chapbook with Proper Tales Press. Her work has been acknowledged by the Ontario Arts Council and the Toronto Arts Council. When she is not writing, she lawyers. When she is not lawyering, she tries to catch her breath.

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