Smoking With Angela Allan

by Josh Denslow Read the Story June 25, 2012

I love the details of the carnival and these two characters sleeping in the house of mirrors subsisting only on cotton candy and hot dogs. And then this steep cliff just a short walk away. So that begs the question: Which came first, the setting or the skull?

The setting came first. It’s like Pleasure Island from Disney’s Pinocchio, except it’s not full of little boys turning into donkeys. Most people look in the mirror before they leave their house in the morning. Imagine if instead of just looking in a regular mirror you looked in a bunch of fun house mirrors and saw a grotesque parade of distorted images instead of just a ho-hum self-reflection. Of course, things that seem grotesque or distorted become ho-hum thanks to the passage of time. We all live extraordinarily strange existences that seem totally mundane.

There are two options for a descent into the sea. Like anchors or feathers. Which is worse?

Well, there are advantages to both. Falling off a cliff like an anchor would give you intense speed and exhilaration, like the initial free fall of skydiving. You would feel heavy and out-of-control, but you’d also be highly alert. Falling like a feather is more relaxed and whimsical, but lacks adrenaline and a strong sense of purpose. It’s a more lackadaisical descent, where you sort of forget where you’re headed. It might be a better approach to life overall, to just go where the wind takes you. But some people prefer to go full throttle.

When I let SmokeLong know that I had chosen a story that prominently featured skull-fucking, I was quick to point out the story’s wonderful tenderness within the profane. Then I said how hard it is to accomplish that. Were you conscious of balancing these two elements as you were writing?

Sure. I’m pretty ashamed to have written something so vulgar. I was raised Mormon, so for me, sexuality and shame were linked like horse and carriage. I’m still trying to unhitch them, and I think writing about extreme sexuality with a tone of tenderness is a way to work toward that. We’re all just animals, anyway, and animals are strange, filthy, divinely mysterious things. It’s a bunch of nonsense to get worked up about profanity. Why not observe skull fucking with the same serene curiosity with which you observe a dragonfly?

As you can tell, I’m a huge fan. I went to your website and found many other exciting and strange creations. Would you mind talking about some of your other projects?

I write silly poetry that can be found at I wrote and starred in a short film about a girl who has a twisted relationship with a lobster. I am currently working on a novel that will probably resemble Roald Dahl’s The Twits more than anything else. I’m going to go work on that now.

About the Author:

Angela Allan graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Wesleyan University with a BA in English and a concentration in creative writing. She has walked a pilgrimage across Spain, researched dragonfly thermoregulation in Guyana, taught English in Ecuador, backpacked through Europe and Morocco, and trekked across icebergs off the Southern coast of Argentina. She writes stories, rhyming poems and creative non-fiction.

About the Interviewer:

Josh Denslow’s stories have appeared in Barrelhouse, Third Coast, CutBank, Wigleaf, and Black Clock, among others. His collection, Not Everyone Is Special, is forthcoming from 7.13 Books.