Steve Adams’s writing has won a Pushcart Prize and has been listed as a Notable Essay in Best American Essays. He’s won Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers, been a guest artist at The University of Texas, and his plays have been produced in New York City. His debut novel, Remember This, was published in October 2022, and it was a finalist for the Texas Institute of Letters First Fiction Award, the National Indie Excellence Awards, and was selected for the Southern Festival of Books. He is a writing coach and freelance editor in Memphis at www.steveadamswriting.com.
You can buy Remember This here.
Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?
When I was a little child, our pet Boston terrier jumped over a retaining wall into a lake ten feet below. My father managed to retrieve her, but I was pretty shaken by it. My dad had a knack for writing simple rhyming poems, and he wrote a rather epic and amusing account of our crazy dog’s misadventure, and as he read it aloud to me the whole situation was transformed into something funny. I was amazed at how he’d changed this frightening event into a wonderful, lively, rhyming thing that brought joy. The second event that was hugely significant was getting kicked out of the acting program at UTexas (because I wasn’t good) and stumbling into the English dept where I got one of the luckiest breaks of my life by landing in Albert Goldbarth’s amazing poetry class. My future was set from then on.
What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?
I’ve had a lot of day jobs, but my favorite one to talk about is working in a circus-type show with a live grizzly bear act and a chimp that rode a pony.
Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?
It’s called Remember This. It took me forever to find the name. During the book’s first go-round I had a big agent for a hot minute and still didn’t have a decent name. It wasn’t picked up immediately, so I had to fight for it for a string of years afterward. When the University of Wisconsin Press took it, I knew we had to have a different title. I found a line in the book I thought would work, but their marketing department was lukewarm and provided another title. I was not crazy about their title as I thought it was too harsh, but I told my editor I’d be willing to let him talk me into it. Honestly, we were already late with a title and I mostly just wanted the ordeal to be over. Anyway, he said “Let’s throw away your title and our title and come up with something new.” I was like OMG I’m exhausted and how are we suddenly going to come up with yet another title? But we started talking and he pulled the phrase “Remember This” from something I said to him, and we both liked it. I actually think it’s a very good title for the book (memory is a big part of it), and a bonus is how beautifully the two words work with the cover art. This is especially important because my protagonist is a poster designer and typographer.
How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?
When I first saw the cover, I was so overwhelmed I couldn’t even respond immediately to say yes. I was too emotional and needed to calm down to think it through. But yeah, I may have cried a little, because I felt so seen. As far as holding the book in my hand, my main response was massive relief. This book that was so important to me, that had been trying to swim into the world for eight years, through ups and downs, through high hopes and crushing disappointment, would exist. Did exist. A year after publication, I still feel that sense of relief.
If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?
My novel is set (mostly) in 1988 NYC and these are songs that would’ve been in the air, some of which I refer to directly in the book.
Joe Jackson – “Stepping Out”
The Pogues – “If I Should Fall from Grace with God”
Sade – “The Sweetest Taboo,” “Nothing Can Come Between Us,” “Is It a Crime”
Beastie Boys – “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”
Public Enemy – “Don’t Believe the Hype”
Leonard Cohen – “First We take Manhattan”
Salt-N-Pepa – “Push It”
Tom Waits – “Downtown Train”
Los Lobos – “How Will the Wolf Survive?”
Siouxie and the Banshees – “Christine”
The Cramps – “Domino”
Iggy Pop – “The Passenger”
Patti Smith – “Dancing Barefoot”
Nina Simone – “Wild Is the Wind”
Kool Moe Dee – “How Ya Like Me Now”
U2 – “Where the Streets Have No Name”
Pretenders – “Thin Line Between Love and Hate”
Bill Evans – “Minha”
What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?
Well, this may seem odd, but I feel that some readers, but even more agents and editors, are bringing a lot of misdirected judgment toward fictional characters these days. My belief is that we don’t read books to see good role models being good and nice people being nice, but to see humans in extreme situations that test them to the core of their being and test us as readers as well. I mean, I love having nice, stable people in my life, but on the page, such characters and storylines are almost always flat. Anyway, my two main characters are a man and a woman in an illicit affair and both know it’s wrong, that it’s dangerous and risky and irresponsible. Still, they can’t stop, at least until the clock they’ve both accepted runs out. What I hope is that my book makes them sympathetic and shows the humanity in, shall we say, sinners. Because on some level that’s what we all are. I want my readers to be able to feel some forgiveness for them, some acceptance and understanding by the end, and to experience what such a full and deep and personally dangerous affair would be like (so that maybe they don’t start one up).
What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?
Pretty much what I’ve already said—that the book actually existed, and on some level, always would. The other thing would be when I’ve come across readers, but especially female readers, who really “get” and love the book. I was worried about this because of the subject matter, but it probably is, on average, even more of a book for women than men, regardless of the male protagonist, and that’s held up in my responses.
What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?
As exhausting as the whole publicity effort was, it’s almost surprising that I have a stronger itch than ever to have a novel published. So yes, I’m burrowing through a new novel project as we speak. I’m afraid it’s going to take some time, though.
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