Cover art by Betty Rocksteady
Without telling us what your favorite passage / scene in the book is, can you describe how it felt when you wrote it? Was there anything unique about your writing set-up when you wrote this passage?
I’d been researching trepanation for a while, not sure what I was going to do with it, when I woke up one morning and there was a sentence in my brain that turned out to be the impetus for the entire book. It did that thing where it shows up and rudely demands all of your attention. It sparked off a bomb. It’s just one sentence, but it sets the tone for the whole shebang.
Can you briefly describe an experience that played a role in how you wanted to develop Skull Nuggets?
I’ve been in and out of therapy for thirty years with depression and anxiety. A few years ago, I was diagnosed with Bipolar 2 and it has proved to be treatment resistant. My intention with Skull Nuggets was to explore the extent to which we’ll go to escape psychological pain as well as the idea of accepting one’s own mental illness.
If you could ask any deceased artist one question, what would it be?
In regard to the topics at hand, I’d ask Colin Wilson what the hell he was thinking making Mind Parasites so fucking dry!
Do you think fiction has any function or purpose outside of the entertainment realm?
Absolutely. People learn how to behave and respond to the world through stories. Two reasons bizarro is such a cool genre are (1) it’s so far removed from reality we don’t have to be as judgmental when we read, like asking how does the guy with four talking penises get them to cooperate? and (2) we’re being exposed to unpredictable situations, like waking up with four talking penises. So, even if we aren’t being critical of the story components, we are still socking away possible reactions for when things go pear-shaped.
Of all the entertainment media available, pick a SUB-GENRE and explain why you like it or hate it.
I really dig reality shows that feature actual talent, like Face Off and the Great British Baking Show. My favorite of them, so I guess my favorite sub-sub-genre, is the Boulet Brothers’ Dragula. It’s drag, it’s horror, it’s gender bending genre-mashing, super fun. I hope season three doesn’t suck.
Which book do you think is overrated?
This question is just meant to piss people off right? Because everything is liked by somebody. So, I’ll just go all out with not a single book but an author—Stephen King. I just can’t get into his writing.
Can anyone be a “good” writer?
No. So it’s a good thing not everybody wants to be. People who don’t like reading probably won’t make good writers. People who won’t actively seek out how to improve their craft probably won’t make good writers. People who have just finished graduate degrees probably won’t make good writers. You get the point—people who are willing to do the work, take advice, rein in the ego, I think they have the best potential to be good writers.
Like all media, genre fiction is trendy; what is one literary trend that you despise? Is there one that you think is interesting?
Maybe it’s because I’m getting old, but I can’t stand anything self-absorbed. If something starts with poetry, you have about three lines to prove to me you’re not a crybaby. One genre I think is interesting? There’s something happening here and there that often gets categorized as bizarro that I really dig, where people are brushing up against experimental fiction without becoming unreadable: Jeff Vandermeer’s The World is Full of Monsters, Jordan Krall’s Beyond the Great, Bloody, Bruised, and Silent Veil of this World, and Jeremy Robert Johnson’s In the River I’d say are examples of it. It’s stunning. But what do I know? I’m woefully behind the curve when it comes to what’s out there.
Which book or other piece of art do you think is underappreciated? (misunderstood)
This is a tricky question, but I’m going to say the story collections of Idries Shah, like Wisdom of the Idiots, because I love them—they’re quirky and capricious and have stood the test of time—and I think the world would probably be a better place if everybody read them.
Amy M. Vaughn writes weird little books. This is her idea of a good time. Her previous incarnations include technical editor for a software company, adjunct professor of philosophy and psychology at a community college, and yoga teacher and teacher trainer. Other books she’s written include Thigh Gap, the origin story of a pole dancing superheroine who keeps getting kidnapped, and the nonfiction From the Vedas to Vinyasa: an Introduction to the History and Philosophy of Yoga. She lives in Tucson with her husband and teenaged son, and with a shitload of extended family nearby.