Interview with Bookslut Part 1 of 2

Reader Logoby Mike

Interview with Jessa Crispin,
Editor & Founder of

This week in the Weblog Awards came in at second place behind author Neil Gaiman's blog for best literary Blog which won with nearly 2000 votes. Our own Kathleen Maher came fifth for her blog Diary of a Heretic
(Well done Kathleen!) TVFH came sixth in the category for best UK blog and a big thanks to everyone who voted for us. Whilst we set our sites for winning the award next year we talked to Jessa Crispin the editor and founder of

First of all congratulations for coming second place in the Weblog awards behind Neil Gaiman! How did you feel about the result?

It's an unfair match up, me and Neil Gaiman. He's got legions of fans. If he asks them to do something, politely in that accent of his, it's just over. I should challenge him to something I have an actual chance of winning. Like a pie eating contest, or thumb wrestling.

So tell me a bit about yourself.

Um, born and raised in Kansas, mid-July, so I'm a Cancer. Turn-offs include... oh wait. I have no idea how to answer this question.

Well how about favourite films? Music?

My father warped me with all sorts of weird science fiction films, from 2001 to The Day the Earth Stood Still to Terry Gilliam films, and I still love all of that. Also, I am madly addicted to Turner Classic Movies, especially when insomnia strikes. As far as music goes, everything from Caruso to Roisin Murphy to Duke Ellington to all of Greg Dulli's side projects. When I was in junior high, I didn't want to be a writer, I wanted to be Zoo TV era Bono, with the leather pants.

What's your ideal night out/in?

I like variety, so there is no ideal. I like having people over for dinner, so a night in would either be a boisterous evening, empty wine bottles on every flat surface and a picked over carcass of some kind in the middle of the table, or, you know, me, a chicken roasting in the oven, and a William James book. Going out, there should probably be good food, and my dearest friend Honeybee would be in attendance, and I would be wearing my four inch patent leather heels. And taxis, because I cannot walk far in those fuckers.

What is your favorite book?

Impossible question. I could maybe name you five, and that would flux depending on many different factors. There are authors I adore no matter what, like Shirley Jackson, William James, Kathryn Davis, Graham Greene, Kathy Acker, Alasdair Gray, Elizabeth Bowen... And W. Somerset Maugham. W. Somerset Maugham is my patron saint.

First book that comes to mind.

Varieties of Religious Experience by William James, but only because I'm reading a book about him right now.

Can you tell us what is all about?

It's a literary online magazine, with a daily blog and a monthly magazine section, which contains features, interviews, essays, columns, reviews, and other such nonsense. It's noisy and lovely and I adore it.

How did start?

I had a day job in Austin, Texas that I was very bored at. I spent a lot of time scanning the internet for things to read, and I would inevitably send out half a dozen e-mails a day to my sisters and friends, "Look, I found this interview with Salman Rushdie, thought you might like it." I thought it would be nicer if I put them up on a blog they could check if they wanted to, instead of flooding their inbox. It wasn't until a month or so later that I realized other people are reading it as well.

Once I realized that, I got both excited and self-conscious. You know, if they're coming, we should probably spruce the place up, give them something to read. I had a lot of planning meetings with my friend Michael while we were sobering up at 2 am at Magnolia Cafe with the help of their Flamingo sandwiches. (Grilled cheese with tomato and avocado and red onion: divine.) There we came up with the idea of adding a magazine component, after many drunken scribblings on napkins. From there, it grew when people started asking if they could write for the site.

What kind of growth has it gone through to get to what it is today?

Periodic attention from places like the New York Times and the Guardian, writers coming and going, the usual. At some point it absolutely had to become my job, because I basically walled myself out of any employment with this thing. I have a very Google-able name, and any business I interviewed at after I moved from Texas to Chicago knew I had this side project that I was way more excited about than anything they could offer. Then I had a job interview for a book review editor position, and was told, "You'd have to sign an agreement that you would end your involvement with Bookslut." After that, I had to make the decision to shut it down, or try to scrape a life together with it and freelance writing supporting me. Somehow, it worked.

Part 2 next week, when Jessa talks more about and gives her advice to new writers and her take on self-publishing.

To visit click here.

Below: Jessa talks to Neil Gaiman: Notice how whilst smiling sweetly at him, she is really thinking "You beat me you swine!"

For part 2 click here.

For a printed edition of this interview go here.


Anonymous said...

But what about Henry James??

the Amateur Book Blogger said...

Great fun and interesting to see inside a 'new beginning' - looking forward to part II.

Unknown said...

Mike, what a treat this was for me! Jessa Crispin in one of my favorite book bloggers, but I'd never seen her before.
And Neil Gaiman? When he won first place last year in the Weblog Awards--by thousands of votes--I picked up a book of his short stories somewhere.
Your interview with Jessa and hers with Neil Gaiman are terrific: double fun!

Unknown said...

PS. Can't wait for Part 2!

Majase Cyc said...

Very interesting and insightful.

Great to see these two talents interacting. Part 2 should be equally enjoyable.

Stella said...

The bit about wanting to be a Zoo TV era Bono made me laugh out loud. Inappropriately. In public.

Looking forward to part 2.