Leslie Verdugo: If asked by someone else, what would you try to do to get out of the question about your position as International Editor at HFR?
Alex McElroy: I would simply say that I select and edit international work. If pressed on the question, I will artfully avoid answering and put questions to the interviewer.
LV: What has been the most interesting part of your time as an editor?
AM: I have been lucky enough to meet a few of our translators one-on-one, connecting with them, sharing a beer. More generally, I love bringing work that is widely read and respected in other countries to an American audience, giving it the recognition it deserves.
LV: Now as a writer do you have a ritual for when you write?
AM: I do have one. So I take one of those Nature Valley granola bars—meaning one of the two bars—and eat it while writing and drinking coffee. I always leave a little coffee in the mug when I’m done writing for the day, and the next morning, I pour fresh coffee over the remaining coffee, to create continuity. I don’t wash the mug until I finish a story. But eventually the coffee puddle is chunked with aged granola. Which is gross, and probably why I write a lot of flash fiction.
LV: Where would your writing go if it grew legs?
AM: My writing would relocate to the storm drains, where stray cats live. I pass these strays quite often, when I go for a walk; the stray, those rusted storm drains, they’re a source of great inspiration.
LV: Which writer, past or present would you share a milkshake with?
AM: Not Hemingway. And maybe—but no. Not Kafka. He “Fletcherized” when he ate, meaning he’d chew each bite about 700 times. I wouldn’t have time for that. I think I would go with Robert Walser, a German modernist poet. I love how he sees the world. He would definitely appreciate the absurdity of two grown men sharing a milkshake. And afterward, I’m sure he’d insist we go for a walk. He was a notorious walker; in fact, one of Walser’s best stories—my personal favorite—is called “The Walk.”
LV: What was the first story you ever attempted to write?
AM: As a kid I wrote this comic book series called Undercovers. It was about a boy who was made miniature, for undisclosed reasons, who must navigate the world beneath his covers. He befriends a monster named in Lint. Lint looked nothing like lint. He resembled a stick figure with a Pac-man head. Lint was comic relief, there to make fart jokes. Really, Under Covers was about being a stranger in a strange land—and flatulence.
LV: So in the show How I Met Your Mother Ted Mosby has a particular stubborn idea that he can pull off wear red boots despite the naysayers. Now my question is do you have a pair of red boots metaphorically speaking?
AM: I think I’m a great singer, but I haven’t seriously sung in front of anyone since I was sixteen. Maybe I’m great—but most likely, I’m tone deaf.
LV: What gives you strength?
AM: Bench presses and squats.
LV: Let me rephrase that. What gives you strength as a writer?
AM: As a writer, I’m driven by some unhealthy obsession to prove myself through language. But it’s unclear why, or to whom, I need to prove myself.
LV: How is your kitten?
AM: Helen? She’s great, but she loves Allegra, my girlfriend, more than she loves me—Helen, to clarify, was my birthday present. The only one-on-one time Helen and I get is in the early morning, when she’s hungry, or in the afternoon before Allegra comes home.
LV: Where are you going after graduation? What’s next for you?
AM: Out of Tempe, out of Arizona. I’m applying for fellowships. I might work on an island off the coast of New Hampshire. I might just go pick olives in Greece.
Alex McElroy’s work appears in Indiana Review, Gulf Coast, Diagram, Passages North, Tin House, The Millions, and more work can be found here.