Pixelated is the digital, double-blind, lit-inclined conversation series.
In each episode we put two writers on a sort of blind-date, and have them interview each other. The result? Who the hell knows. All conversations are 'manuscript-first', meaning they were typed as you see them.
Episode XIII: "We'll always have Toronto" / The bingo cuss word
In this installment, I set up Scott McClanahan (above) with Catie Disabato (below). They discuss the classic WV/LA divide, Scott’s Diet Extreme beverage, coal miners, writing spots, books in the making, Kanye & the bingo cuss word.
Andrew: Welcome to the thirteenth installment of PIXELATED. I’m here with Scott McClanahan (author of six books, including the most recent, HILL WILLIAM, Tyrant Books, 2013) and Catie Disabato (whose debut, THE GHOST NETWORK, Melville House, will have come out two days before this conversation is published).
Both HILL WILLIAM and THE GHOST NETWORK are odes to places (though the place in the latter is pronounced through imagination, the first through experience). Scott and Catie’s concepts of place are ones which have been marinating in seclusion, have become extrapolations of themselves. One of the best descriptors of Scott was from Flavorwire: “an Appalachian Proust.” Not bad. Scott writes of West Virginia, a state relatively untouched by the 21st century writer, and does so with heartfelt, near-magical sentences. Catie takes Chicago and instills in it all of the hidden fears we have of celebrity, urban living and anything underground. It’s high-concept where Scott gets down to the dirt, and gets its hooks in you through continuous doses of suspense.
Before we get started, first things first: would you each a) kindly describe where you are and what you see, and b) confirm whether you’ve met?
Scott: I am in my wife's office. I see a picture of a dead deer carcass above her desk. She's goth that way. We've never met.
Catie: I'm in my studio apartment sitting on my bed. Right in front of me is my American Library Association Taylor Swift "Read" poster, to my right are all my books, and out the window I see a bunch of kids skateboarding
I wish I was goth enough to have a deer carcass above my anything
Scott: The guts are hanging out and everything.
Catie: We've never met
Oh that's great and I am going to imagine it's true
no matter what the actual truth is
Andrew: Scott—you are in New York? Catie—you are in LA?
Catie: Yep, I'm in LA
Scott: I'm in West Virginia
Catie: Are all of your books set there?
Andrew: I don't know why I thought that.
Scott: Yes. They're all set here. Also, out the window they're building a road behind our shitty apartment
Catie: Andrew, you've been spotty on location all day - he thought I was in Toronto earlier (sorry for outing out) which seems like a fitting intro to a discussion about place.
Andrew: What a party foul
Scott: My soul is in Toronto
Andrew: Is that true?
Scott: I think that's a Tony Bennet song.
Catie: Where is your soul, actually?
Scott: I'm drinking a Big K Citrus Drop Diet Extreme Soda. So that's currently where it resides. Hillbilly speed.
Andrew: Is 'Diet Extreme' one thing?
Catie: "Diet Extreme"
Scott: Yep. It has more caff than an energy drink. All the greats drank it.
Andrew: Isn't that what Jessie drank in the amphetamine episode of Saved By the Bell?
Catie: I want it! I don't think I can get it out west though
Scott: Pretty much. Hah. I took a caffeine pill earlier as well. That's what she did right?
Yeah, Kroger is called Ralph's in Cali. You might be able to find it there.
Catie: Oh yeah of course. I will actually seek it out.
Scott: I didn't see it when I was in San Diego though this spring. They test products on us--Diet soda and oxy.
Catie: I like Baja Blast Mountain Dew, which is Taco Bell's proprietary flavor of Mountain Dew, but you can get that anywhere there are Taco Bells
Andrew: Didn't know oxy was a WV thing
Catie: and it's not as intense
Scott: That's where it started. It was a drug marketed for coal miners and timber guys who broke their backs, etc.
Andrew: Is that also where EDM started?
Scott: I feel you on the Baja Blast. Soul mates.
Andrew: With coal miners?
Scott: Probably. Coal miners love to get high.
and dance to techno
Catie: My soul is in Mountain Dew Baha Blast
that was embarassing
Scott: No baha is how they should spell it. Has a more friendly feel before you get to its intensity
Catie: Do you daylight as a coal miner/dancer to techno?
Scott: No. I thought about it though a few years ago when I was having money problems. You just take a 80 hour course and then they put you underground.
about 60-80,000 a year
Catie: Not bad at all, pay wise
Andrew: What % of the population works as coal miners?
I imagine 80k a year takes you pretty far in WV
Scott: Very few now. We're done to 1 percent of the states total economy
yes it does
Wal Mart is the largest private employer
Catie: Did you take the class for research or anything like that?
Oh Andrew, can I swear? What are the swearing rules?
Scott: There's a great coal mining novel called Germinal though. Naturalism and all that shit.
But it's set in France. I think there's a novel waiting to be written there.
Catie: Do any of your books have to do with coal mining? Are all of them set in WV
(If Andrew doesn't answer, I'm just going to swear if I feel like it)
Scott: Fuck yeah
Catie: Fuck yeah!
Andrew: Sorry I was just looking up the bylaws. You can swear.
Catie: Good because we did
Scott: There was a bit of it set in this fucking book of mine called fucking Crapalachia, and I guess there is a bit of it in my book Hill William.
Mountaintop removal is the big thing now though
Andrew: There's one swear word you can't say. If you do, then the chat box explodes.
Catie: I remember the cover to Crapalachia and enjoying the pun
the title is a pun right?
How much will I embarrass myself this chat?
Scott: Yeah sort of. I was going to call it the Hillbilliad
I like puns
Scott: Yeah fucking puns are good.
Catie: Fucking puns are fucking good
Andrew: Crazy to think that when this article is published, we'll live in a different world, one where the Pacquiao Mayweather feud is finally settled.
Who do you think cares more, LA or WV?
Catie: I'm not much of a sports-er myself
People here seem to give a shit though
Scott: I heard guys talking about it at the barber shop the other day.
Catie: There's a sports bar near my apartment where I sometimes go to write or read when there's not a game on, and I explicitly avoid it during game times
I don't like group shouting when I'm writing or drinking
Scott: Where else do you write?
Catie: My desk, my bed, and very very very occasionally, the coffee shop/bookstore Stories which is right below my apartment
Andrew: Where else do you go to hear group shouting?
Scott: Our minds
Catie: THe only other place I can think of where people shout in groups, besides sporting events, is at concerts
And in Scott's mind
Where do you write, Scott?
Scott: Ive been sitting on the floor again
Catie: Again? Did you go away from the floor and then come back?
Scott: Yeah I did it for years and then my first wife bought me a desk and a chair. We used to get into horrible fights about it. I'm against bookcases too
So I started sitting in chairs and that seemed to work. I've been editing in my car recently. I like cars. I just started smoking for the first time and I sit in the parking lot behind my apartment
Catie: Because I live in California I'm compelled to ask - by smoking do you mean cigarettes or weed?
Scott: Cigarettes. I quit the other stuff and now I need a new vice besides Diet Citrus Drop Extreme Soda
Andrew: Because I live in Florida I'm compelled to ask - do you mean cigarettes or meth?
Andrew: That seems like a vice for your brain but not your waistline.
Catie: Ha! is my Lol lately
Scott: You can get meth in this apt complex I'm sure. We had a neighbor for awhile whose nickname was meth girl
Andrew: That's a pretty clear sign
Catie: I couldn't imagine editing in my car because I already spend approx. 1.5 hours in it 5 days a week
Scott: Yeah, it's weird. I feel like I'm ready to move back to a desk and chairs again though soon
Catie: I need lumbar support
Scott: We also had a pro wrestler who lived in this apt complex. The Diablo Kid.
You can search him on youtube
Andrew: Do your neighbors know you're a writer?
Scott: No. Everybody minds their own business.
Catie: I was thinking about this lately - I feel like someone should write a semi-satirical article about the physical toll of being a writer. Eye strain and hunches and sore necks and what have you. Sitting is supposed to be so bad for you.
Scott: I agree. I wear sores on my butt sometimes when i sit on the floor.
small ones. Thomas Wolfe wrote on top of a fridge
Hart Crane liked to have rotten apples underneath his desk
Catie: I feel so normal now
Scott: I think the rotten apples was an erotic thing or something
Catie: Oh that's a good quetion: does your city make you feel normal?
Scott: Yeah, I think. I guess when the Diablo Kid is living next door everything is pretty normal. I also live behind one of the only mosques in WV.
What about you?
Maybe it's more like, LA brings out aspects of my personality that I like
And some aspects of my personality that I really really don't like
Scott: I love LA.
Andrew: Which aspects?
Scott: It's one of Werner herzog's favorite cities
Catie: I grew up in Chicago and I love Chicago so much, but I'm a total convert
I'm and LA Babe through and through now
Andrew: Catie—how pumped are you for Tuesday?
Catie: I'm so fucking pumped for Tuesday!
My book comes out then, Scott
Scott: That's great. Book release party?
Catie: Wednesday. I'm having a reading and then drinks after, and my friend is making punch for during the reading
Scott: How long have you been working on it?
Catie: Since December 2008
But the real work of it began in 2009
Scott: Wow. Well that torture is gone now isn't it? Do you miss working on it?
Catie: Yeah I do
Well not it exactly
but, like, I've started a new novel and I hate writing a first draft, I've realized
I really like the process of working through a story and improving it
Getting the raw guts of the story out there (to return to your wife's deer) is much harder and more stressful
Scott: How did you get hooked up with Melville House? They're putting it out right?
Catie: Yeah, they are. My friend/mentor/writing teacher Edan Lepucki connected me with an editor there named Kirsten Reach
Kirsten is the illest
Are you still with Two Dollar Radio?
Scott: I put out Crapalachia with them. I think I'm doing another little small book about Daniel Johnston with them.
Catie: oh rad
Scott: It's an art book though.
I'm just doing the text.
Catie: Did you ever watch Friday Night Lights?
This is related to Daniel Johnston
Scott: Yeah, I love the book. Liked the movie. Only watched an episode or two of the TV show.
Catie: The TV show did this promo set to Devil Town, not the Daniel Johnston version though
And I felt "cool" that I was into the "cooler" version of that song
it's one of the last times I remember feeling that high/low art feeling
That song is a standard though, right? Am I off on that?
Scott: Yeah I like that song.
Catie: Or did Daniel Johnston write that song?
Scott: No, I think he wrote it. But maybe I'm wrong.
Catie: I think you're right actually
Scott: We should say he stole it though. Thieving bastard
Catie: Put that in your little book, then it will become a fact
Who is putting out Hill William?
NY Tyrant put out Hill William.
End of 2013.
Andrew: 0s&1s sells Hill William in fact
Catie: Oh rad sorry I misread Andrew's thing-y at the beginning
Scott: No worries.
Catie: Double rad!
Yeah I read 2013 as 2015 sorry
Do you talk about works in progress?
Scott: Yeah I have no problem talking about it.
I'm not precious about it like most of these fools
Catie: Cool, what are you working on?
Scott: A book called The Sarah Book
Catie: Oh I like that title tell me more
Scott: It's about my ex wife. God, that sounds weird saying it.
Feels like a best seller already.
Lots of girls, lots of laughs, car chases, all the essentials
Catie: Oh good. I love a good car chase. Also set in WV?
Or is straight up memior
I was assuming autofiction
or something Anaiss Nin-y
Scott: I'm not sure what it is. I'd say it's a novel, but only if someone was threatening to sue me
Scott: There's pictures in it
I love her, but I
Scott: shit. I hit the key too quick. I suck at typing so bad
It's sort of like Boswell's Life of Johnson or something like that
Catie: We forgive you (I'm speaking for Andrew)
Scott: like a biography sort of
Catie: Oh interesting
Catie: Do you get emotional when you write it?
Scott: I keep saying it's going to be the first masterpiece of the 20th century
Catie: Can I ask that?
Oh I like that you say that
At some point, I might write a book I'm calling my "1000 page book of Important Literature about Teen Girls who are Witches"
Scott: That's amazing.
We put out an album a few years ago called Holler Boys' Greatest Hits.
We need more arrogance in the world I think. or trying to do something great
Catie: Oh that's a good one
Do you ever listen to rap music? I really like Kanye West's arrogance
Especially because it's Neurotic Arrogance
Scott: Exactly. No one else is going to believe it if you don't. And there's vulnerability in it
This shoegazing indie shit is so boring.
I want someone to try and lift me to heaven
Catie: I think I know what you mean by that and if I'm right, then I agree
I've always liked people with big personalities too, which seems related in my mind.
Scott: for sure
Catie: I think I'm often pretty easygoing but sometimes I become I lot to handle
And being okay with that is a lot easier if I'm around people who have strong personalities
Passive aggressiveness makes me anxious - I want to feel certain that if someone is angry at me, they are gonna say it to my face
Catie: Rather than just drifting away
So I'm in the very very early stages of writing something, and I might shift away from it who can know, but it's the first time I'm dealing with my own romantic life in my writing
Which I have found both freeing and crippling
Scott: Yeah, I've always written about myself. You just have to do it.
Andrew: People: time is a winding. I'm taking last call. You still haven't found the magical cuss.
Scott: Or whatever myself is
Catie: Is that the magical cuss?
Andrew: RAHRA RAHRA RAHRA
You got it Catie!
Catie: So did I explode us? Is this the end of time?
Andrew: What a great closing!
It's never worked so well!
Scott: I'm already exploded. Burning flesh. Sounds of pain
Catie: I'll miss you Scott
Andrew: I've attached explosives to a cardinal I often see out my window
Scott: We'll always have Toronto, Catie.
Andrew: That's beautiful Scott
Catie: (I'm refraining from typing anything else because I don't want to spoil our beautiful end)
Andrew: Goodbye friends