An Interview with Robert Vaughan

I had the pleasure of meeting Robert Vaughan in NYC a few years back through the networker extraordinaire Bud Smith, and I've been a fan of Robert's work ever since. I'm delighted Robert found the time to stop by HCR during his many travels for this interview. Enjoy!

Hobo Camp Review (James Duncan): Your book Funhouse was recently listed in the New York Review of Books. Tell us a little about how Funhouse came to be, and your inspiration behind the stories within.  

Robert Vaughan: Overall, the FUNHOUSE theme was a nod to my love of carnivals, fairs, marching bands, and all of the glitterati that constitutes American small town folklore, and the book is a collection in four different sections. The second and third “movements” were both projects that independently started about five to six years ago. The “Hall of Mirrors” (kids in a classroom) were loosely based on a book that made a distinct impression on me when I was a kid: The Gashleycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey. I also had the unique fortune of working with illustrator/ artist Bob Schofield who created exquisite renderings of each kid. The third section, “Tunnel of Love: DIVAS” was a nod to the female songstresses with whom I’ve been most smitten. I love lyrics, and in the “Notes” of Funhouse I explain how this project came to be, thanks to genius Joseph Quintela. Writer/ artist Eryk Wenziak then did the entire layout of each prose poem. The first section of the book, “Balloon Darts” are my newest flash fiction, or compressed stories, and the last or fourth section, “Ferris Wheel,” are more traditional short stories. 


HCR: I used to turn my nose up at flash, thinking it didn’t require the dedication it took to write longer stories and novels, but I’ve learned it fills a valuable gap between short stories and poetry, and is a little closer to poetry than longer fiction, in my opinion. Would you agree? Or is flash really on its own wavelength? 

RV: I agree wholeheartedly that flash seems to be connected to poetry, and even more so, prose poetry. There are two great collections called The Field Guide to Prose Poetry and The Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction (Rose Metal Press) that illustrate how close these two genres are: step-siblings, or kissing cousins. Also I teach week long workshops based on “bending genres” or drawing from diverse genres (poetry, fiction, memoir, essay) and deciding what to incorporate into any written piece. There are so many contemporary writers already doing this in unique ways: Maggie Nelson, Sarah Manguso, Brian Blanchfield, Meg Tuite, Scott McClanahan, Len Kuntz. Too many more to list! I like to say that genres are important for bookstores, not for writers!


HCR: What’s the best thing you’ve read so far in 2017? And who else are you looking forward to reading in the upcoming months? 

RV: I loved The Sarah Book by Scott McClanahan. Also, The Trip To Echo Spring by Olivia Laing. And I am currently enjoying Sherman Alexie’s memoir, You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me. I can’t wait to dive into Bud Smith’s new CCM book, Work. Also, Marie Howe’s poetry collection, Magdalene.


HCR: If you could enact one rule of thumb that all poets or editors or writers in general must follow, what would it be, and why?

RV: Rules are made to be broken. I think it is self-explanatory.


HCR: Do you have any new books or projects that are you working on? Tell us all about it!

RV: I’m working on a new project that is in the realm of poetry- memoir. I’m excited to take a course on exactly this topic at Omega, and respect the teacher, Nick Flynn, who’s collection, Some Ether, is among my favorites.


HCR: Ok, my last question I give everyone: You’re on the road with three other artists, of any era and medium, of any level of fame, success, or anonymity. Who do you choose to travel with, and why?

RV: William Burroughs- because he is simply a badass and murderer. Joni Mitchell- to talk over her lyrical, poetic songs, collections like Blue and Court and Spark. And Miranda July, so I can pick her quirky brain about how she gets her inspiration and ideas.



Robert Vaughan teaches workshops in hybrid writing, poetry, fiction at locations like UWM, Red Oak Writing, The Clearing, Synergia Ranch and Mabel Dodge Luhan House. He leads roundtables in Milwaukee, WI. He was a finalist for the Gertrude Stein Award for Fiction (2013, 2014). He was the head judge for the Bath International Flash Fiction Awards, 2016. His short fiction, ‘A Box’ was selected for Best Small Fictions 2016 (Queen’s Ferry Press). He is the Managing Editor at (b)OINK.

Vaughan is the author of five books: Microtones (Cervena Barva Press); Diptychs + Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits (Deadly Chaps); Addicts & Basements (CCM), RIFT, co-authored with Kathy Fish (Unknown Press) and FUNHOUSE (Unknown Press). His blog: www.robert-vaughan.com.

5 comments:

  1. LOVE THIS! xxoo Robert Vaughan, you are a phenomenon!

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  2. Great interview with Mr. Vaughan -- a dynamic force in the lit fiction world!

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  3. Thanks so much, Meg Tuite and Anne Weisgerber! I appreciate your comments. And also, Thanks Hobo Camp review, and James Duncan for this opportunity!

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  4. Loved reading this, Robert. So glad Meg posted! Adding more xoxo's. Thank you.

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  5. Thanks Martha, I appreciate the read and letting me know, and the xxxx's and oooo's!!!

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