We Sit Down with Mike Corrao to Discuss Two Novels

In 2018, Orson’s Publishing helped introduce Mike Corrao and his debut novel, Man, Oh Man, to the world. Two cats were soon thereafter let out of the proverbial bag: 1) Mike Corrao is mega talented, and 2) Mike Corrao has something unique to say.

Proved true by Man, Oh Man, Mike’s latest project with Orson’s Publishing is sure to cement the aforementioned. Two Novels: Howl Revisited and Green Detectives is a manifestation of loss and confusion, constructed in its own textual landscape; readers will be interacting with something complex and ever-changing.

Two Novels: Howl Revisited and Green Detectives will be available for preorder soon.

As he did prior to the release of Man, Oh Man, Mike sat down with us and answered some of our pressing questions, this time about Two Novels, what’s changed over the past year, and what he could possibly be working on twenty years from now.

*This interview involves Orson's Publishing (OP) and Mike Corrao (MC).

OP: How would you say this project is different than Man, Oh Man?
MC: Man, Oh Man showed its focus in a very essayistic fashion. It had a concept it wanted to explore and it did that. With Howl Revisited and Green Detectives, the goal was more to explore a certain sensation, or to explore the trajectory of a certain kind of melancholy. Both of these novels have a much more fluid form as well, they aren’t as constrained in their appearance.

OP: What inspired you to revisit Howl?
MC: I’m not actually sure… I think it had a lot to do with the eccentric and surreal nature of the imagery. I like the way it feels as if you’re being given references without the context. But, I don’t think Howl had very much to do with the genesis of this book. I started Howl Revisited in 2015. And the book went through about three completely distinct iterations. I think this final version is inspired more by the older, much worse drafts that came before it.

OP: Last year, we asked you the following: You’re twenty-one years old. Which is incredibly young for the writing world. Does age matter? If so, how does your age benefit you as a writer? You’re older now. This will be the third published work under your belt. Would you answer the question in the same way? Have your thoughts changed at all?
I think last time I said that it was about how much time you’ve put in more than how old you are. And I still believe that. It’s about finding your style or taste, and working to make sure that your writing can do what you want it to do. That doesn’t really have much to do with your age.

OP: Green Detectives may technically involve detectives, and take place in Minneapolis, but it tackles many things and goes many places. Yet, it never quite feels, I don’t know, abstract in the way that it’s borderline incoherent or inaccessible. Which is something I admire very much about your works. It might be difficult for you to put a finger on it, but how do you approach that? And, for writers out there, how do you continue to pull this off?  
MC: Thank you haha. I’m not sure if this is completely intentional, or more just how I think. I tend to start with a somewhat grounded idea and then drift into more abstract and unreal imagery. I think my strategy here (if there has been a conscious strategy) is to build the abstract components of the text out of physically-rooted images. I think having these familiar building blocks makes the more obfuscated portions of the books palatable. Again though, I’m not sure. It’s something that I do without thinking.

OP: Do you listen to music while you write? If so, can you remember what you were listening to when you wrote these projects?
MC: I always have something playing when I write. Recently it’s been a lot of Noname’s Room 25 and Earl Sweatshirt’s Some Rap Songs. Both rap albums. During Howl Revisited, it was a lot of Sun Ra. A lot of avant-jazz, which is pretty typical for me. I like to listen to more abrasive and distracting music. It makes kind of paranoid and frantic, which is the mindset I like to write in. Green Detectives was probably set to Sons of Kemet or maybe Sun Ra.

OP: Minneapolis is mentioned in both Howl Revisited and Green Detectives. You live in Minneapolis, but weren’t born and raised there. Do you consider Minneapolis home now? If so, would it be a stretch to say that, albeit small, the idea of home has been threaded into these projects?
I do think of Minneapolis as my home. I’ve lived here for the past almost five years or so. I think that the choice to set these two novels in the Twin Cities was more about creating a sense of familiarity than anything else. I wanted these surreal events to be rooted in places that exist in the physical world. I wanted this imagery to crawl out of what’s recognizable. I think it makes the feelings and reactions they induce more understandable.

OP: Is there any feeling, in particular, that you’re hoping readers experience while reading Two Novels?
The novels themselves are about loss and confusion. Different kinds of nervousness and melancholy. That’s my intent, but if the reader finds something else there, then they’re welcome to pursue it. This project is the most personal I’ve made so far, but I don’t want that to constrict what the reader might be able to get out of the text.

OP: When it came time to classify Man, Oh Man so that retailers and audience members had an idea of what they could expect, I had trouble doing so. I’m sure that the publishers of Gut Text encountered the same thing. In an industry that relies so heavily upon labels and classification—and a society, for that matter—how is that you’re able to confidently, and consistently, produce work that is original, innovative, and forging its own lane?
I don’t know haha. It’s not really something I think about. I don’t go into the process of writing a book with the intent that it’s going to be a novel or a poem or an essay. I want the creation of these projects to be fluid. I don’t want them to be constrained by plans that I had before the writing even began. Or by preconceived notions of what they’re supposed to look like or read like.

OP: What do you think you’ll be writing twenty years from now?
Oh god, I have no idea. I can only assume the work will keep getting weirder.


Mike Corrao is the author of Man, Oh Man (Orson's Publishing, 2018) and Gut Text (11:11 Press, 2019). His work has been featured in publications such as Entropy, Always Crashing, and The Portland Review. He lives in Minneapolis where he earned his B.A. in film and English literature at the University of Minnesota. Learn more at www.mikecorrao.com

Be sure to check out an excerpt of Green Detectives in Issue Two of Orson’s Review.

Author photo credit: Rob Prochnow