Q & A with Our Issue 2 Contributor AJ Olsen

1. If you were reviewing your own work, how would you describe its style or point of view?

I read the introduction to Raymond Carver in The Norton Anthology for a class this past week. The introduction credits John Barth with coining Carver's style as "Post-Alcoholic Blue-Collar Minimalist Hyperrealism." That made me chuckle before I realized it's exactly what I've been going for. I was raised blue collar. I value narrators with restraint in their voices, with minds for details. These themes are all at play in the piece you chose. Plus, post-alcoholism sounds like something we should all strive for. Doesn't it? Maybe not, if Austin's economy stands a chance.

2. Who are some of your favorite contemporary authors?

Among my go-to living fiction writers are Richard Ford, Tim O'Brien, Cormac McCarthy, Tobias Wolff, Denis Johnson, Tom Franklin, Robert Olen Butler. I could go on. In recent months I've been thumbing through poetry collections from Tracy K. Smith, David Berman, and Catherine Bowman. MFA programs have a way of calling the shots on your reading list, but I squeeze the new stuff in when I can. Last fall I read Claire Vaye Watkins' debut story collection, Battleborn. It's badass. I liked it a lot. As of this interview, I'm drafting chapter one of my first novel and find myself drawing from writers like Daniel Woodrell, Philipp Meyer, and Wiley Cash in these very early pages.

3. If you were told you couldn't write anymore, what job would you pursue and why?

My wife is my strongest supporter. But, out of fairness to her, I entertain this question often. I would want to work with animals. I prefer animals to people, but I'm too cerebral for veterinary medicine. I'd become a vet tech or a dog trainer and spend my free time thinking of all those stories and poems that, for some unnamed reason, I'm no longer allowed to write.

4. When you think of Austin, what comes to mind?

Our old bungalow on East 16th Street. Neighborhood friends. Breakfast tacos. Lone Star Beer. Psychedelic Folk Rock. Barbecue. Sweat. Coffee shops. Food trucks. Floating around Rosewood Pool on those scorching summer days. Drinking cold beer at night and riding bikes through the east side with those friends I mentioned. My heart swells when I think of Austin, which is often. Leaving has been hard on us.

5. Answer the question you wish we had asked.

If you could pick a song to accompany "Drifting," (the piece in The Austin Review), what would it be?

"Mansion on the Hill," by Bruce Springsteen.