I wrote a WRITER CRUSH thing abt Ben Tanzer last summer and now I’m writing one abt another Chicago boy. Idk what it is abt Chicago boys, but it’s something and I read their books and I love their books and my little press WhiskeyPaper just put out another book by a Chicago boy (BOTTOM OF THE NINTH by Wyl Villacres!) But this particular WRITER CRUSH is abt my dear friend Steve Karas and his debut short story collection from Tailwinds Press called KINDA SORTA AMERICAN DREAM.
I met Steve three-ish years ago thru WhiskeyPaper, when we published his story IN MYKONOS. And later, I wrote him asking him for another story bc I really loved his stories and he sent us CATCHING FIRE (which went on to be listed as a finalist for the BEST SMALL FICTIONS 2015). I asked Steve to read with me on my Every Kiss A War book tour last summer in Chicago and this past weekend I read in Chicago again for the KINDA SORTA AMERICAN DREAM launch party.
Steve is also my beta reader, meaning I send him my stuff before I show it to anyone else. I show Steve, I show my husband Loran, I show my girlfriend Sarah usually and also my girlfriend Teri. Most of the time, that’s how it goes. I asked Steve to be my beta reader bc not only do I love his writing, he’s an attentive reader…he’s cerebral and kind and a super-good listener. Steve is My Actual Friend, meaning yes we talk abt writing and books, but I can also talk to him abt anything/everything else, which is an important distinction for me to make bc I have a lot of Writer Friends…ppl I met bc I love their writing and that’s our connect and they are my Real Writer Friends and that’s a thing and I love it! And Steve is also that but more importantly, he is My Actual Friend. So that means it’s okay from here on out if you take everything after this point in consideration of the Actual Friend Framing…although I’m a pretty honest person by nature (humblebrag?) so I’m telling you the truth.
Over the weekend, we all went to a bar and the lights went out. I asked the boys if it was a Chicago thing. Like if the lights just randomly went out like that sometimes in big cities. I can’t remember their answer. But it was weird and cozy and not too long after, I was telling Steve that what I love so much abt KINDA SORTA AMERICAN DREAM is: it isn’t pretentious or particularly edgy. It isn’t “trying” to be anything other than really good writing. That’s what we look for @ WhiskeyPaper, that’s what I’m always looking for when I read something. I don’t like weird, edgy things, really. I like really normal stories and funny stories and sweet stories and stories abt men and women and children and families and love. Those are the stories I found in KINDA SORTA AMERICAN DREAM and I was lucky enough to be able to read these stories before they were a book. They’re human and wistful and really beautiful. And I promise I’d say all this even if he didn’t mention HARRY STYLES in the book BUT HE TOTALLY DOES MENTION HARRY STYLES IN THE BOOK so.
The stories are about a lot of things (America, dreams, brokenness, regret, love) and there’s one called “It Takes A Village” about a school counselor named Andrew and there’s one called “Sixteen Hundred Closest Friends” that I really love too and one called “The Uncounted” which I love and there are fireworks in that one and “Sculpting Sand.” Fourteen stories total.
And I was thinking abt how I wanted to frame this post bc it’s not a review…I wanted to frame it in a way that was like…HERE IS A REALLY GOOD, REALLY BEAUTIFUL BOOK WRITTEN BY A PERSON I REALLY ADORE AND DIG AND TRUST and @ first I felt like maybe that wasn’t enough but it is. It is enough. It’s kinda sorta plenty and also, enough. You can preorder it! You can read one of the stories over @ Little Fiction! It’s a pretty little book and when I love something I like to talk abt it so I’m talking abt it and y’re reading abt it and this is connection and love and these are words and we put ourselves out there and make things and these things are our little twinkling lights in both the figurative and literal darkness.