Smoke & Mirrors: An Interview with Brendan Stephens

by Michael Czyzniejewski Read the Story December 17, 2018

People love their pets, sometimes more than people. What is it about animals that makes us so irrational sometimes?

I was totally unprepared for this question. My gut reaction says it has something to do with how they fully depend on you, which makes you care for them because of their helplessness. But part of me kind of also thinks about how humans have been selectively breeding pets for 10,000 years to make the most adorable breed suited to a person’s taste. So maybe we love our pets because they’re evolutionarily lovable?

Are you a cat person or a dog person? Either way, have you read “Cat Person”?

I’m definitely a dog person. I feel like that might just be because I found out really young that I was allergic to cats, so I wasn’t allowed to pet them or else I’d start to break out. But a few years ago I got an allergy test again, and it turns out I’m allergic to dogs as well. So now I just watch gifs of dogs and cats online.

Honestly, I’m embarrassed that I haven’t read “Cat Person” yet. I’m so unbelievably backlogged on books and stories that I want to read. This is reminding me to bump it up on my winter reading list.

For a second, I thought about stringing all five questions together into one sentence. That would have been pretty dumb, right?

Honestly, I think that would’ve been kind of great. It definitely would’ve made me have to give my reply as one long run-on. If not that, I’d do something like answer in as many sentence fragments as possible.

Tell us about your favorite pet. (I mean, unless you, uh, already have.)

I haven’t had as many pets as a lot of people—2 dogs, a rabbit, a hermit crab, and a couple of hamsters. My favorite was probably the second dog that I had. She was part husky and—somehow—dachshund and looked like a little black fox.

Best Little Rascal?

Spanky was probably my favorite growing up. He was definitely the biggest rascal of them all. The others were always a bit more innocent, but Spanky was straight up scheming all the time. If not Spanky, then probably Buckwheat because like 30 percent of my life I’ve had “We got a dollar, we got a dollar, we got a dollar, hey hey hey hey” stuck in my head.

About the Author:

Brendan Stephens is in the creative writing and literature PhD program at the University of Houston. His previous work has appeared or is forthcoming in Epoch, Southeast Review, Notre Dame Review, Carolina Quarterly and elsewhere. He is the assistant fiction editor for Gulf Coast Literary Magazine.

About the Interviewer:

Michael Czyzniejewski is the author of three books of short fiction, most recently I Will Love You for the Rest of My Life: Breakup Stories (Curbside  Splendor, 2012) and he serves as the interviews co-editor of SLQ.