Tony Rauch’s fiction is absurd and hilarious. I first came across his work when I read eyeballs growing all over me…again. Here we delve deep into this man’s psyche.
1.) Tell me a little something about yourself.
I’m an architect living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
I have three collections of short stories published and three more collections under consideration for publication.
I’ve been writing stories since I was in elementary school, though those were created as pictorials that had a narrative to them. When I was a kid I used to draw pictures and write funny, irrelevant, thoughtful captions for them.
In college I took courses in creative writing, and enjoyed them. I was published in the school literary journal several years in a row, then some friends started their own lit journal, which continued to publish my stories, then a few years later they contacted me about doing a collection of my work, which became I’m right here. At first I thought they wanted to put out a chap book, or maybe even a series of them, but they meant a perfect bound book, which they ended up doing.
2.) There are a million things you can do with your time. Why write?
Yes, there is much competition for my limited free time (And I do have other hobbies and interests, including all the pesky and time-slurping career maintenance that goes along with my line of work).
I write because art really inspires me, art in all its forms and guises – music, painting, drawing, collage, etc. So I have this need to be productive in a concrete way. I need to see my progress and have something concrete to show for my efforts. I used to draw and paint, but then when I was finished, I only had one thing I could give to only one person. And my drawings, paintings, and collages were basically stories anyway, only written down. Or they were interesting fragments of scenes that could become interesting tales. So I found that by writing my drawings down, I could create art that many people could see, as opposed to just a few who could see a painting, drawing, or collage of mine.
The other reasons I write are similar to the same reasons people follow their passions – as a way to take my mind off things, as a means to get away from things, as a way to keep that side of the brain alive. Plus, I’m pretty creative and have a restless mind, so it’s a way to feed my mind, or a way to take what my mind thinks up during the day and apply those thoughts to a positive outlet. It’s also a good way to develop good critical thinking skills.
Also, as I settled into life after college, my life started becoming more routine and predictable. I got the feeling I was losing that sense of discovery about life. Writing was a way to have new and strange adventures similar to when I was younger, when everything was new. So writing adventures was a way of infusing my life with that sense of discovery and limitless possibilities.
3.) How did you hook up with Eraserhead Press?
They emailed me. They liked my first collection of shorts (which was published by a local Minneapolis press, Spout Press). I have no idea how they got a copy of my first book, I’m right here.
They said they saw a notice of mine on a website where I posted that I was looking for a sci-fi press to publish some of my strange sci-fi and young adult stories.
They asked if I had any books similar to I’m right here that I could pitch to them as they were looking for authors outside of the West Coast. I had tons of material saved up just waiting, so I sent them several packages (book proposals) and they happened to like what I sent.
At first, I thought they only did horror or slasher fiction and tried to convince them my stories were not a good fit. But they said they did other types of fiction too, which was true, and that they wanted to expand into other areas, other themes and forms.
But that’s the hardest part – finding a publisher who is into what you do. Then marketing becomes the next challenge – just getting the word out about your books. I haven’t had much trouble coming up with ideas or developing my stories. That part seems to come fairly easy at this point as I’ve grown more efficient at what I do. It’s the marketing that’s the tricky step right now.
4.) Do you have any trunk novels or novellas sitting around or do you
work solely in the short form?
I have a novel and two novellas, but they are more mainstream fiction.
I also have two collections of mainstream short stories ready to go, three collections of odd shorts which EHP is considering at this time, and I have at least three more odd collections I’m working on, one of which is about 85% complete.
But that accounts for about seventeen years worth of work, so over time you accumulate binders full of stuff.
Basically, I have two mainstream story collections and two novellas no one seems to want.
For some reason my speculative work stands out to someone, so go figure.
It’s a strange game for everyone. Seems hard work, dedication, and luck come into play equally. Maybe all that early, unpublished work is just practice for what gets published in the end?
I mostly work in short form as that’s all I have time for and what’s easiest for me. Also, long work to me feels bloated and could use trimming, whereas short form seems to get to the point without messing around and wasting time.
I have been working on longer stories though, expanding my tales. So that’s been a nice evolution and a happy surprise – to get into 12 page, 18 page, 22, 36, 50 page epics. I think it’s good to stretch your wings, grow, and try new things, new forms and formats – to keep things fresh, mix things up.
5.) Do you think you can write your way out a paperbag? If yes, how so?
Oh sure, you bet I can. I can also write circles around one, both inside and out, assuming we’re talking about a standard dimensioned, regulation paper grocery bag and not a regular old lunch bag.
Though I wouldn’t mind just settling inside of one for a while, writing wise, just to see what that would get me.
If I were in a paper bag and had a pen, I could write and write because of so much surface area. I could also poke through the bag with the pen, but then again, why would anyone want to? Everyone needs some peace and quiet, some time to themselves.
6.) What or who inspires you?
Well, artistically – music, art, writers of strange adventures, writers of experimental fiction. These items get my mind reeling, really get me thinking creatively.
There is a “things I like” section on my website for more detail. The site also has story samples and info on my books –
7.) Any advice for new writers?
Keep writing. Write all the time. Write what you want, what interests you.
Send your writing out to get published all the time as this will build up material and may attract publishers.
Figure out why you are writing. Set goals. Work to those goals. Stay focused, don’t become distracted by what others want you to be. Find a good editor to review your work before you send it out.
Read a lot. Look for inspiration from other art forms to keep your work fresh. Experiment and play around with ideas, language, form.
Have a good work ethic, get efficient, but have a good life balance in order to draw ideas from other areas.
8.) What projects do you have coming out in the future?
Probably in this order –
– I just finished three new collections – one absurdist, and two that are similar to my last short story collection, eyeballs growing all over me . . again – which are imaginative, whimsical, dreamy, absurd, surreal fantasy, sci-fi, and fairy tale action adventures. You can visit my website (listed above) for samples of the stories and updates on new releases.
– After those collections are released, I will continue to work on marketing and promotion for them. It’s tough to get the word out about the books. That’s the most daunting challenge – marketing. It’s tough to find places who will review your work.
– Then I’ll work to finish the last collections I’m working on. I have several other collections of shorts started, but they need a lot of work.
– After all that, hopefully I’ll finally get some sleep for once, maybe get some housework done, maybe go outside to see what’s out there as it sure looks interesting from the window.
I don’t know what’s next after all that. I suppose that’s the sense of discovery in it all though – in finding out what’s next.
That brings up a question that I struggle with – what is success?
To be an artist you can’t just coast on technique or comfortable formula, you have to go out there and explore the unknown in order to grow. You need to reach beyond what you already know in order to stay fresh. So how many absurd, surreal, fair tale adventures does the world need? Three books worth? Six books worth? Twelve books worth? I suppose writers should milk what they can get for as long as they can get it, milk it for all it’s worth. So if I keep getting published, I guess I should keep writing.
9.) Anything else you would like to add?
Yes. Lots of things, but mostly –
– Rock and roll ain’t noise pollution, rock and roll will never die.
– Make connections in your mind between all that is not yet related or connected. Make connections between previously unconnected ideas. Within those new connections will be lots of inspiring opportunities.
– Just be yourself.
– Call your mother, maybe send her some flowers. She gave birth to you, after all, you ungrateful son-of-a-bitch.