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Smoke and Mirrors: An Interview with Glenn Shaheen

Interview by Michael Czyzniejewski (Read the Story) December 19, 2016

Glenn Shaheen

Art by Dave Petraglia

I’m sorry that the evening with Erin didn’t work out. Honestly, I think your protagonist had her over to kill the bug; but had that fallen through, what was the backup plan?

I do share a cockroach fear with my protagonist, so if he’s anything else like me I’d say he’d try to capture the bug in a cup and let it go outside. If he lost track of it, though, he’d probably have slept all night under the covers in fear.

Once I came home late, took off my shoe, and found a giant roach smooshed across my toes—I’d had that shoe on for seventeen hours. What’s your worst cockroach experience?

Wow, that’s pretty bad! Two days before I moved from Houston to Michigan, I was saying good-bye to some friends outside at a local icehouse. Out of the dark of night a giant cockroach flew and landed on my mouth. I’m really surprised I kept it (mostly) together—that’s a real Room 101 moment for me.

What’s your take on these shows that make people—contestants—eat all those bugs?

I saw one episode of Fear Factor once where a contestant cut herself on the carapace of a giant hissing cockroach and she didn’t even win the round. I mean, if somebody wanted to pay me a million bucks to eat a casserole of palmetto bugs I would, but not if I’d get nothing if somebody else ate it two seconds faster.

Fear is irrational and personal but undeniable. I’m claustrophobic and at times it’s ruined me. What’s your fear and how does it manifest itself? What has it cost you?

I had a really bad flight in 1999 and became supremely scared of flying. I only flew once between 2000 and 2008. I’d drive or take the train everywhere, adding probably weeks of travel time over the years. Now I just take some stress pills and I’m OK.

Fill in the blank: “I’m in the back yard, sunning in a thong next to the pool, and spy a drone flying above me. I immediately pull out my __________ and wouldn’t stop __________ until it left.”

Butterfly net/swinging it in wide clumsy arcs

About the Author

Glenn Shaheen is the author of the poetry collections Predatory (U of Pitt Press, 2011), and Energy Corridor (U of Pitt Press, 2016), and the flash fiction chapbook Unchecked Savagery (Ricochet Editions, 2013). Individual pieces have appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Ploughshares, The New Republic, and elsewhere.

About the Interviewer

Michael Czyzniejewski’s fourth collection of stories, The Amnesiac in the Maze, is forthcoming from Braddock Avenue Books in 2023.

About the Artist

A Best Small Fictions 2015 Winner, Dave Petraglia‘s writing and art have appeared in Bartleby Snopes, bohemianizm, Cheap Pop, Crack the Spine, Five:2:One, Gambling the Aisle, Hayden’s Ferry, matchbook, Medium, McSweeney’s, Necessary Fiction, North American Review, Per Contra, Points in Case, Popular Science, Razed, SmokeLong Quarterly, Up the Staircase, and others.

This interview appeared in Issue Fifty-Four of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Fifty-Four

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