Awful Interview: Mark Cugini

10 Oct

Mark Cugini and Tyler Gobble gambling, which is a sin in the eyes of our Lord.

Mark Cugini is a certified badass dipped in gold.  He’s the founding editor of Big Lucks and recently announced the launch of Big Lucks Books, which will be releasing its inaugural titles in 2014.  I’m pretty sure we both played a lot of N64 games as kids, but that’s speculation based on circumstantial evidence.  Anyway, I convinced Mark to let me interview him about Big Lucks Books.  Here’s what happened.

So you recently announced the birth of Big Lucks Books–congratulations! Did you smoke a cigar like a proud papa? Have a glass of bourbon?

Oh man, I smoked about 13 cigarettes in three hours and then you told me to drink bourbon but I didn’t have any bourbon so I drank something called “Whipped Cream Vodka” and now I have a headache but at least I smell like a banana split. So yeah, good thing we aren’t talking about a baby here.

With that many cigarettes, I imagine you’ve got a hint of biker bar thrown in there too.

Thank you for making me sound more masculine.

So what started you thinking about publishing books through Big Lucks? If we’re continuing the metaphor here, what was Big Lucks Books’ *moment of conception?* (cue Usher’s “Nice and Slow”)

Oh man, we’re three questions in and I’m already uncomfortable.
I’ve been sporadically thinking about starting a press for about two years: it just seemed like the next logical step once things illogically took off for us. I got the final nudge in April 2013 on a car ride to Buffalo with Adam Robinson. It was still winter but the weather was perfect and the only way to get to Buffalo from Baltimore is by taking a series of really weird one-laned highways that are built into too-beautiful, too-green mountains but also the power lines are too low and the turns are too sharp so of course you’re going to get stuck behind about 150 trucks that are stuck in ditches, because sometimes it’s like the whole world is playing this terrible-yet-perfect poetic trick you’re supposed to get stuck in.
Anyway. We talked about my plans for Narrow House Books and I just started asking him questions about distribution and ISBNs and press releases and plus I had just read this amazing chapbook (cough cough Layne Ransom’s) that had me really excited about poetry and publishing and old-fashioned, full-hearted-and-fluffy goodness and I just kept thinking, Wow, what if BIG LUCKS did books, and then Adam said, “really, I think the smartest thing would be to start doing your own books,” and I was like well.

So, yeah. Big Lucks was conceived in a Chevy Corolla. With Adam Robinson. I do not remember if either of us showered the night before.

You are too kind. I never knew you and Adam Robinson conceiving anything together in a Corolla could sound so lovely, but I can’t deny the magic. And the idea of daily showers is totally overrated anyway, right?

I don’t know, I’m from Staten Island, I used to wear COLOGNE EVERY DAY. But Adam is one of the smartest people I know. Without his advice and encouragement, I would be utterly rudderless. And that would be a big problem, since our logo is a submarine.
Wait, do submarines have rudders?

Yes. I just imagined you guys piloting a submarine together, which was ridiculously endearing and a good premise for a bizarre-yet-wholesome Saturday morning cartoon series.
You said you’re excited about publishing “old-fashioned, full-hearted and fluffy goodness”–can you elaborate on that, the sort of creatures you want to release into the indie press ocean? (I am real good at metaphors.)

That’s tough, you know? When I think about my favorite indie presses—Publishing Genius, Hobart, Caketrain, Wave, Octopus, H_NG_M_N—I feel like I can never sum up their style in simplistic terms. If I do this right, you’ll never be able to articulate the Big Lucks vision in a way that does it justice—instead, you’ll just feel it, and you’ll want everyone you know to feel it, too.
But I will say this: I’m not interested in any theoretical, inaccessible hublub. I’m 100% more concerned about honest-to-goodness sentiment. Those are the sort of books I’m looking forward to publishing—the sort of books that make you say abstract nonsense like “old-fashioned, full-hearted and fluffy goodness;” the sort of books that make you feel like you’ve got an IV of high fructose corn syrup in your arm and it’s ruining your cardiovascular system. Maybe those books will take nontraditional forms, but at the end of the day, I want to publish books that make you feel excited and light-headed and terrified about the awesome potential of human possibility. I know that sounds a little nebulous, but I think the books will speak for themselves—especially the ones that are already lined up.

I was gonna say, you’ve got a pretty damn impressive lineup for 2014 releases: Mathias Svalina, Carrie Murphy, Sasha Fletcher, Mike Young, and Mike Krutel–whew. With such solid writers, I have to ask: if they were pitted against each other in a cage match, who would win?

Oh god, what a terrible question. Mathias would be the odds-on favorite, considering he has a good three inches on everyone. I’ve seen Krutel read and he is a flamethrower—I think he’s the dark horse. Mike Young has amazing lateral mobility, so he’d most likely be a Floyd Mayweather-type. And Carrie Murphy would be dressed impeccably.
I think the key to this whole thing is Sasha. He’ll probably try to out-love and out-shout everyone, which might turn the whole thing into a big cuddle party. If that’s what happens, we’ll all be winners.

You’re right about the question and I can’t even be mad.

In all seriousness, you’ve got a fantastic group of writers to start out BLB with a bang.  In addition, you’re holding an open reading period from October 1 through November 30, so, wahoo! More people can join the party. Say there’s some folks out there with a manuscript who are on the fence about whether to submit to the open reading period–what do you want to say to them?

Well, first I would tell them that people shouldn’t spend too much time on the fence. The fence is uncomfortable. Not much gets done on the fence. The good stuff gets done in the mud. Send me your good stuff and we’ll get in the mud.

The second thing I would say is that if you’re working with me, then you’re going to be working with someone who’s committed to you. I’m not going to take on too many projects, and I’m not going to go disappearing for long periods of time. I’m going to send out ARCs and I’m going to manage my budget and I’m going to pay you. I’m going to make sure orders go out on time and that book never goes out of print. I’m going to find you new audiences and get you in some really cool bookstores. I’m going to work long and hard to make sure you’re happy because chances are I’m going to be really, really, really, really happy and excited to do your book.
The last thing I’d probably say is let’s go steal some Four Loko and you know, dance.

Why have I never danced drunk in some mud? Suddenly, my life’s purpose seems clear.

Hey Layne—what’s the weirdest thing that happened to you this week?

The other day I was making this salsa that Amy McDaniel brought to a shindig I was at with Tyler in Atlanta while having this magical visit with Nick Sturm and Laura Relyea, both of which blew my whole goddamn mind (the visit and salsa). And so I’m opening a can of corn to add to the salsa-in-progress and it spews a bunch of corn everywhere. I’m on my hands and knees picking the kernels off the kitchen floor and out of nowhere just shove a handful of corn in my mouth. After a second I said, “What the fuck am I doing.” Then I ate another handful. I am a graphically sexual person.

Oh, man. I can’t wait for your next dinner party.

One Response to “Awful Interview: Mark Cugini”


  1. The Making Of Wildlives by Sarah Jean Alexander » Real Pants - May 11, 2015

    […] I’ve told the Big Lucks Books origin story too many times, but what’s probably worth noting is that there is no such thing as a “Chevy […]

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