J. Ryan Stradal on Following the Enthusiasm
In Conversation with Brad Listi on Otherppl
J. Ryan Stradal is the guest. His new novel, The Lager Queen of Minnesota, is available from Viking / Pamela Dorman Books. This is Stradal’s second time on the podcast. He first appeared in Episode 376 on August 19, 2015.
His first novel, Kitchens of the Great Midwest, reached the New York Times Hardcover Best Seller list at #19 on its third week of release. His shorter writing has appeared in Hobart, The Rumpus, The Wall Street Journal, Granta, The Guardian, Electric Literature, The Nervous Breakdown, and more.
He lives in Los Angeles.
From the episode:
J. Ryan Stradal: I didn’t even think initially I would send my first book to big agents or publishers. I didn’t consider it an option.
Brad Listi: Kitchens of the Great Midwest?
Listi: You thought it wasn’t ready for primetime?
Stradal: Itଁs not that I didn’t think it was ready for prime. I just didn’t consider it. Literary success was something that happened to other people. I looked at the world, and I just couldn’t see how I could get from here to there, with what I know. At one point, I had four years in between publishing short stories. I was writing short stories between 2003 and 2013, which is when I started writing Kitchens and stopped writing short stories. During that time, I met a lot of other authors who were having what I considered literary success: having their books come out in small presses, doing small tours, and reading at reading series in their own cities. I thought, that looks great. That’s what I want. That seems feasible for me. I can reach that. But then I would go to Vroman’s or Skylight and see some touring author, someone like George Saunders, and I just couldn’t figure out how you would get there from where I am at. No idea.
It feels very surreal to me. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and pinch myself on how I got into this situation.
Listi: How did you? You write Kitchens of the Great Midwest, and at some point you decide you want representation and things do turn.
Stradal: You were a huge help. [laughs] I don’t want to put a bunch of pressure on you with your listeners on how to get an agent … but you were a huge help in that regard. You told me something that I have told a million people since: follow the enthusiasm.
Listi: I have said that on the show. It is really the only full-throated—if that’s the way to put it—piece of advice that I feel confident in giving.