Author: Samantha Irby
1. You have a unique ability to be raw and vulnerable, has this been an ability you have had your whole life or did you have to develop it?
I grew up in the kind of desperate poverty where “feelings” aren’t prioritized, and my sense of humor definitely developed from that emotionally stunted place. I don’t ever think of what I do as raw or vulnerable, I think I just approach my writing like “this won’t resonate if I don’t lay it all out there.”
I don’t have much of a privacy filter, and I absolutely feel more connected to people who just kinda disgustingly splay themselves open, and since connecting with the reader on a human level is always my ultimate goal it’s the only way I know how to write.
2. What essay in your book, "We Are Never Meeting in Real Life", was your most favorite to write and which one was most challenging to write?
Any time I write about my dead parents I’m always walking a weird tightrope between telling the truth as I remember it but also not trying to make them look like absolute sh*t or, and maybe this is the most important part, completely bumming people out. I want people to pick up my books on their way to the toilet because they want to have a laugh, not set it aside because it’s such a bummer.
So the one about my dad dying, which I’m pretty sure is called “Happy Birthday,” was probably the hardest to write. My favorite, by far, is “A Christmas Carol.” That one has a twist ending that I won’t spoil for the thousands (millions?? billions???) of people who have yet to read it.
3. Have you ever had fallouts with friends or family over your raw storytelling in your books? If so, were they ever resolved?
Never. Not even once. I don’t talk sh*t about people that I’m still cool with, because that’s messy. And I never call anyone I’ve severed ties with directly out because that’s messy as hell, too. Although even if someone got mad I am entitled to my version of our shared story, so I don’t really worry about it?
Plus, they have a lawyer read everything I write before it gets published, because maybe even more important than not hurting someone’s feelings I cannot afford to be sued by someone I portrayed in a negative way.
4. Readers rave about your ability to combine pure comedy with wisdom/profoundness, is this something you strategically focus on?
This is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me. I don’t think of myself as profound, at all, and man what a f*cking as*h*le I would be if I did? And I actually said that to people?? A nightmare! Anyway, any profundity people are getting from anything I’ve written is completely on accident.
I miss the halcyon days when you could just be f*cking around on social media all day, talking sh*t to your friends and getting catfished by homely dudes you were never gonna actually meet up with anyway. Remember when the internet used to be fun?
Now the internet is for perverts (love that) and fighting with bots (hate that), so I am trying to spend less time in its eye-ruining thrall.
I always had a profile song, because I am always trying to telegraph how cool I am to people who don’t give a sh*t, and the last profile song I remember having was “Shake That” by Spank Rock. I was just listening to that song in the car the other day. It holds up.
6. You have a newer book out, "Wow, No Thank You". What can readers expect from this project if they haven't read it yet?
SAME OLD SOUP, JUST REHEATED.
I’ve read more, and I’ve sharpened my style more. I don’t do anything specific to get better, I just read books and continue to age, so developed feels like too strong of a word for my micro-evolution.
8. What made you want to start writing books in essay form? And how has this unique method helped to enhance your storytelling ability?
I didn’t ever want to write a book. I had a blog for a long time and these dudes who ran an indie press in Chicago asked if I wanted to write a book and after years of resisting I finally relented. We didn’t have a plan, it was basically just like “do the thing you do on your blog, but it a book” so I did and they published it. Even now I feel like my books are more long-form stream-of-consciousness blogs than actual essays.
9. When did you realize that you were funny, or at least had the ability to make people laugh?
Imposter syndrome is telling me that I’ve never been funny and that people are laughing “at” and not “with.”
10. Where do the names for your books come from?
My editors. Making books is a business, and there are teams of salespeople and marketing people and publicity people and editors and designers and art directors and all of those people have a hand in what your book is called and what it looks like.
I don’t even pitch things with titles anymore, I’m just like “here’s a thing I made, hope you like it!” and see what the focus group thinks about it. If they let me decide, all my books would be called “toilet water” and have garbage-eating opossums on the front, so it’s probably better that the experts take over.
11. What’s your best advice for getting over writer’s block?
I truly don’t have any. Wait until you feel better, or a good idea strikes you, then try to write? I’m not writing right now because I’m feeling “meh” about it (does that qualify as a block) and so I’m not doing it. The idea that we should struggle through something that doesn’t come naturally to us is bonkers and I don’t waste my time failing at things that are too hard, but also I am a loser and don’t listen to me.
12. What’s the best book you have read in 2021?
I refuse to say “best” because what do I know about whether or not anything is good?? I have never been trained in cultural criticism! There are so many books that other people have liked that I tried to read and was like “Ummm, WHAT” but usually I just chalk that up to not understanding complicated literature. So my cop out answer is: I love every thriller, I love being scared and excited and I never see the twist coming and am always delighted by the ending. I am comfortable going on the record saying my favorite ~genre~ is thriller, and that every thriller is good.
13. What’s the best advice you have ever received on happiness?
I tend toward a hilarious brand of nihilism most of the time, and I feel like anyone I know well enough to seek advice from already knows that “happiness” is a subject wasted on me. I’m not sure that anyone who so much as skims the news or gives a passing glance at the world around them could ever reasonably describe themselves as happy, and I think the best any of us could ever hope to achieve is “content.” I wish somebody would tell me how to get there, although is that even possible? Everything feels bad and scary. We live in hell!
14. Do you plan on writing any more books in the future?
I have a new book that is supposed to come out in 2023. After that, I’m hoping the asteroid finally hits us so I can be free!
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