A Quickie with Craig Lancaster

Tell me about your latest book and why we should read it?

My latest book is Julep Street, a novel about a newspaper editor whose job gets axed and who proceeds to go … well, a little bit nuts. You should read it because (a) it’s good and (b) it gets at the uncomfortable truth that we’re all separated from our worst selves by a pretty thin line. It’s darkly comic, which is my favorite kind of funny.

If someone was to write your life story what would the title be?

“Wait, Let Me Explain”

What’s the strangest fan question or request you’ve received?

It wasn’t so much a request as a declaration. Years ago, somebody at a book club I visited told me afterward that she’d had a strong feeling of sexual déjà vu with me. Since déjà vu is the sensation of having done something when you really haven’t, I could understand where she was coming from. So to speak.

If you could co-write with anyone in the world (alive or dead) who would it be?

Cormac McCarthy. I’d go through the manuscript at the last minute and include all the punctuation, just to mess with him.

Tell me something nobody else knows about you (yet!).

I’ve eaten rattlesnake. Technically, the people there—including my father, who cooked it—know that about me, but they’ve probably forgotten. I never have.

Finally please recommend 3 books that you have recently read and tell me why you’ve chosen these.

“The Lottery and Other Stories,” by Shirley Jackson. She’s the best, and I’m a late arrival to her work. I said this on Facebook: a woman who was born during WWI and died at the advent of the Beatles has more to say about our haunted lives than some of the most elevated voices today.

“A Bloom of Bones,” by Allen Morris Jones. It’s a set-in-Montana book that makes me wonder why I bother to write, it’s so damned good. Beautiful. Lyrical. The best book I read last year, and it’s not even close.

“The Mezzanine,” by Nicholson Baker. It’s almost thirty years old, but I re-read it earlier this year. The arc of the book is a man’s ride up an escalator. A master course in digression.

Who is Craig Lancaster?

Craig Lancaster, a Montana-based novelist, writes stories set in the contemporary American West.

“I have these incredibly vivid memories of visiting Montana with my folks on family vacations, and following my dad, an itinerant laborer who worked in the oil and gas fields when I was a kid,” he says. “It was such a vast, beautiful, overwhelming place. From the first time I saw Montana, I wanted to be a part of it.”

Lancaster’s work, hailed for its character-driven narratives, delves deeply below the surface, getting at the grit and the glory of lives ordinary and extraordinary.

“It’s all too easy to turn people into caricatures, but the truth is, we humans are pretty damned fascinating,” Lancaster says. “For me, fiction is a way at getting at truth. I use it to examine the world around me, the things that disturb me, the questions I have about life–whether my own or someone else’s. My hope is that someone reading my work will have their own emotional experience and bring their own thoughts to what they read on the page.”

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