Mason Johnson sits down with Chicago Literati

I first met Mason Johnson in college while stuffing my face with buttercream frosting. I had been chosen as the opening reader for Neal Pollack at the reading series he curated (Silver Tongue), and after the show while indulging in a slice of cake, I was approached by him.

“That’s my nose,” he said.

“What?” I asked.

“You’re eating my nose.” I stared blankly at him and then he pointed to my slice of cake. Indeed, there on my little square of cake was a photograph of Mason Johnson’s nose pasted on the frosting. It truly was the beginning of a beautiful friendship (or I was becoming a cannibal).

From there on out, Mason Johnson and the rest of the dream team of Silver Tongue invited me to magical readings that included beards, cake and cheese cubes. Mason Johnson was like a big brother to me all through college, encouraging me to do readings and helping me network. For that, I am eternally grateful.

You can imagine what sisterly pride I felt when I heard Mason Johnson’s debut novella, Sad Robot Stories was being published by the wonderful folks at CCLaP. My pride increased when I got my hands on the ARC. Mason’s original voice and ability to connect with the audience (like he does at all the shows he curates) bled through each passage. If you haven’t read it yet, you’re a fool. I took the chance to catch up with Mason Johnson, and I think this interview will tickle you. (Interview after the jump.)


(Image courtesy of Mason Johnson)

(Image courtesy of Mason Johnson)


 What inspired you to write Sad Robot Stories?

I felt it was an important part of American history that had yet to be documented. With that in mind, I decided to bear the responsibility of bringing this historical story to life.

No. Wait.

Actual answer:


Enemy Mine

Junot Diaz

Drawing robot comics with friends

A genuine enjoyment in sad things

and Jason Pettus sayin’ “Hey, you should make that story into a novella”


Who would you say is your favorite character from the novella?

 The narrator.

Or, if that’s not a choice, Marie because of her love of poop jokes.

Or Sally, since she’s probably who I’d like to be most.


Did you feel you had a lot of creative freedom working with the CCLaP?

Yeah! For the most part, they stayed out of my way. They definitely made me seem smarter than I actually am. They were very good about correcting the unintentionally broken parts, and allowing me to keep a lot of intentionally broken parts.

I remember there was this small interlude in the middle that got cut. I wanted to keep it in, but Jason and the editors wanted to get rid of it. I coulda sworn Jason cursed at me while we discussed it – he was very passionate about gettin’ rid of it. I can’t find the email where he cursed me out though, so I may be imagining it, haha.

Anyway, I sat on the idea of keeping it VS cutting it for a few weeks before I finally realized they were right. I’m really glad Jason was so insistent about it. He’d have let me keep it if I wanted to, but he made sure I knew it was a big fucking mistake, and now that the book is out there, I completely agree.

Fuck that interlude.


Who are your heroes? Why?

 I wasn’t sure how to answer this, so I ran into my bathroom, looked straight into the depths of my face in the mirror, and said, “KanyeWestKanyeWestKanyeWest

The answer didn’t quite feel right.

In reality, my heroes are probably the awesome female friends and mentors I’ve been lucky enough to have. And the very few male mentors who haven’t let me down.

You know, I met Neil Gaiman a few years ago. That motherfucker had the gall to live up to everything good you hear about him. And, as you may remember, Abby, Dorothy Allison taught a semester at Columbia Chicago. I had no classes with her, had very little personal time with her, but goddamn it was great see her ‘tude in action.

Luke Skywalker. I read like sixty Star Wars books as a kid. What little ethical integrity I have is probably because of bad sci-fi books and movies.

 What is your favorite quote and why?

 “Cat, enough of your greedy whining and your small pink bumhole.” – Margaret Atwood in February (

Because she says “bumhole.”

It used to be this Hemingway quote about being broken, but now it’s like… fuck, man. Who cares.


Do you think you’ll write another book?

 I’m working on a poetry collection now! That’ll definitely get finished. I think I’m going to self publish it as an ebook. No idea when. Two poems I wrote with this upcoming book in mind will be in the new Shabby Doll House on Tuesday (September 24th).

After that, I’ve got a bunch of little stories that I think will connect well into a novella/novel. Who knows though. It may get abandoned.


If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would you choose and why?

 For the most part, I don’t like meeting my heroes or celebrities. People tend to suck, you know? I prefer to keep them in my mind as ideas/personas that may or may not be true.

So yeah, I donno. Fuck Gandhi and Einstein. It’d be nice to have dinner with my grandfather again. Mike in the book is sorta based on him a little bit.



Mason Johnson is a writer from Chicago who spends his time making people on the internet angry. Professionally. You can find his fiction at Find out more about his novella, Sad Robot Stories, on the Chicago Center for Literature and Photograph website.

Originally published March 12, 2013

Filed under: Interviews

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