Joe Baumann’s is the author of three collections of short fiction, Sing With Me at the Edge of Paradise, The Plagues, and Hot Lips. His fiction and essays have appeared in Third Coast, Passages North, Phantom Drift, and many others. He possesses a PhD in English from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. He was a 2019 Lambda Literary Fellow in Fiction. His debut novel, I Know You’re Out There Somewhere, is forthcoming from Deep Hearts YA. He can be reached at joebaumann.wordpress.com.
In the following self-interview with Joe Baumann, learn more about the author's thoughts around queerness, inspiration, and new projects!
Super Secret Identity Interviewer: If you had to capture what your book is—or is about—in just three words, what would they be and why?
JB: I’d have to go with “surreal queer discontent,” which I realize may not be the most salivation-inducing description! I write in the surrealist vein; I like to take the world we live in and twist in some bizarre, fabulist way, so that we as readers go, “Well, that’s weird,” but characters generally don’t. As a queer writer, I’m always trying to centralize queer characters but not necessarily their queerness; why not write about all the other stuff that LGBTQIA+ people experience in the same ways that heteronormative folks do? The discontent part—probably the dourest part, if I’m being honest—comes from my interest in how people experience sorrow, loneliness, guilt, grief, anger, and all those other super-fun emotional states that, though not the most sunshine and rainbows things to think about, are such a significant part of what it means to be a human being.
SSII: I like that, “What it means to be a human being.” Can you elaborate?
JB: I talk about this with my creative writing students a lot, that this, to me, is the central ‘thematic’ question that any writer is exploring in some way: what does it mean to be a human being? To me, you can filter any and all stories—that someone is writing now, that will be written, that ever have been written—down to this thematic question. It does take a little bit of intellectual and creative flexibility sometimes, of course. But that is, to me, what writing is all about.
SSII: What writers do you think influenced this collection or your writing as a whole?
JB: Well, that’s a really long list. We could be here all day! But as someone who thinks of himself as a short story writer first and an anything-else-writer second, I’d say some of the practitioners that have really influenced me are Aimee Bender, Ramona Ausubel, Julia Elliott, and Christopher Merkner. Really, anyone who writes the sort of fabulist-weird-absurdist writing that I’m interested in, and particularly those who play such close attention to doing interesting, sideways things with language is someone I try to emulate in a lot of ways.
SSII: What projects are you working on now?
JB: Well, I’m a ridiculous person in that I’m always working on multiple projects because I like to make life difficult for myself. I’m constantly chipping away at a short story or two. At the moment, I’m also working on a weird sort-of fantasy novella thingy, which is a really big stretch for me. I’m also drafting a follow-up to my YA novel that recently came out*.