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Synopsis: 'Your brother forgives you,' Ben Armstrong is told by his mother's ghost, 'Don't waste that,' and so the hero of this novel begins his long journey home. What follows is a wild ride through the subconscious--a night journey toward redemption and grace. It's amusing and hilarious and weird, and unlike any homecoming story you've ever read before...
Interview: Q. Please tell us about the inspiration for your current release.
I have a feeling, often, that I live in a world crowded by the dead. It is not a head thing. It’s a visceral description of my reality. What fills this room is not only you and me, but everything you and I have dreamed and done. And everything that happened here before. That makes for a crowded room. How to express that in prose? In a story? How do we embrace all of it? Ben Armstrong’s Strange Trip Home is my attempt.
Q. How did writing this book affect you?
Writing a novel is taking a journey. It grows you. It makes you into a different person because you’ve had to imagine things you’ve never before imagined. And not only imagine them, but believe them. When I finish a novel, especially one like Ben Armstrong’s Strange Trip Home, I feel as if I’ve been dropped off in a foreign country. I’m dazed. I have to look around and get my bearings again. Who am I now? I wonder. Everything is differently lighted, a slightly different color. It’s one of the wonderful and difficult things about being a writer.
Q. What is the hardest part of writing for you?
All of my novels are different. Each takes me into a world I have never inhabited before. Making up that world, making it so real I forget that I’ve imagined it, well, that’s the hard part.
Q. Do you plan any subsequent books?
I’ve finished another novel, tentatively titled Eastern Front, which is due to be published by Bangtail Press in the Summer of 2014. Right now I’m working on poetry and on screenplays. I’m waiting for the next novel monster to bite me and carry be down into its lair.
Q. What are you currently reading?
I just finished a Paul Auster novel called Leviathan, and a James Salter novel called A Sport and a Pasttime. Also a Dutch novel called Twins. I don’t know that I’ve read three such good books in a row in a long time. I’m also reading poetry. I’ve got a Frank O’Hara book open on my table, a Rita Dove book, and a Kevin Gooden book of poetry I’ve been reading this week.
Q. Please tell us your latest news (book-related or not!).
When it rains it pours. For the first time in my life I’ve got numerous things coming out in the next number of months. I’ve got a novel forthcoming—Eastern Front, next summer. A short story forthcoming from a little magazine in Missoula called Mamalode. An excerpt from my first novel forthcoming in the 40th anniversary of CutBank magazine, and two poems coming out in a little New York City magazine called Sattelite.
Q. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Ben Armstrong’s Strange Trip Home is not like any other novel you’ve ever read. Open yourself up to it and let it fill you and spill over the edges. Like a poem, it’s meant to be experienced first through the ear, through the body, the senses. It’s not a novel like other novels, so as you read don’t wait for it to suddenly become like other novels. And when you finish, let it sit. Then read it a few more times.
Mr. Cates is offering one (1) e-copy of Ben Armstrong's Strange Trip Home for giveaway!
To enter: please leave a comment with your email address. The winner will be chosen at random once the giveaway ends September 27, 2013.