This week’s installment of Ten Questions features Bryan Washington, whose debut story collection, Lot, is out today from Riverhead Books. Set in Houston, the stories in Lot spring from the life a young man, the son of a Black mother and a Latino father, who works at his family’s restaurant while navigating his relationships with his brother and sister and discovering his own sexual identity. Washington then widens his lens to explore the lives of others who live in the myriad neighborhoods of Houston, offering insight into what makes a community, a family, and a life. “Lot is the confession of a neighborhood,” writes Mat Johnson, “channeled through a literary prodigy.” Bryan Washington’s stories and essays have appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, BuzzFeed, Vulture, the Paris Review, Tin House, One Story, Bon Appetité, American Short Fiction, GQ, Fader, the Awl, and elsewhere. He lives in Houston.
1. How long did it take you to write the stories in Lot?
2. What was the most challenging thing about writing the book?
Description is always tricky for me, and that held up in every story.
3. Where, when, and how often do you write?
I can edit wherever, but I prefer to write new stuff in the mornings. And I write most days, if I’ve got a project going. But if I don’t then I won’t.
4. What was the most unexpected thing about the publication process?
Hearing back from folks about the galleys was really rad.
5. What are you reading right now?
Xuan Juliana Wang’s Home Remedies, Morgan Parker’s Magical Negro, Pitchaya Sidbanthad’s It Rains in Bangkok, Candice Carty-Williams’s Queenie, and Yuko Tsushima’s Territory of Light. Then there’s Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We Were Briefly Gorgeous, which is probably going to change everything.
6. Which author, in your opinion, deserves wider recognition?
More folks in the States should know about Gengoroh Tagame and My Brother’s Husband.
7. What is one thing you’d change about the literary community and/or the publishing business?
It’d be nice if the American literary community’s obsession with signal-boosting the optics of diversity were solidified into a tangible, fiscally remunerative reality for minority writers.
8. What is the biggest impediment to your writing life?
9. Would you recommend writers attend a writing program?
If you can go for free? Sure. But there are other ways.
10. What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever heard?
Mat Johnson taught me a lot, and one of the most profound things he said was to just relax. Readers can sense when you’re tense.