The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Kristine Ong Muslim

By Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé

Kristine Ong Muslim Pix

Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

Because writing is fun.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

My latest book is Age of Blight, a collection of short stories that mostly talk about humanity’s toxic impact to the natural world and how unfair it is to nonhuman animals that we are taking them down with us as we destroy this planet. Some stories in the book also attempt to straddle both supernatural horror and psychological horror—two genres I love.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

A body of writing that evolves form-wise and theme-wise (and treatments thereof) so that in book after book, I’ll be able to see a semblance of progress. Stories that delve into ethical issues and use POVs in order to subtly distinguish between right and wrong. Ecological themes. In poetry: not terribly postmodernist-style detached in tone, not overtly emo, either. Personas with universal empathy. Conjuring a dreamlike feel always appeals to me.

Who are your favorite authors?

Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison, Clive Barker, Thomas Harris, Ira Levin, Herbert Lieberman, Stephen King, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Shirley Jackson, Terry Bisson, Brendan Connell, Rhys Hughes, Patricia Russo, Bruce Boston, Dan Chaon, Matt Bell, Brian Evenson, plus many contemporary writers, mostly poets. Recent fiction addictions include those authored by Damien Angelica Walters and Nalo Hopkinson.

What’s the most challenging piece of writing you’ve attempted? Tell us why.

My planned first novel, which I aim to finish by the end of this year. It is challenging because if it sucked then I will have a hard time selling my next one.

What’s your idea of bliss?

Rainy weekends when I can curl up in bed and enjoy a crime novel, a giant mug of black tea nearby.

What makes you angry, and I mean all-out-smash-the-china raving mad?

Cruel and greedy people. Trophy hunters. Most Filipino politicians.

What books would you take with you on a three-month retreat in the boondocks?

Three months is a long time, so I’ll bring the complete short stories of Harlan Ellison and HP Lovecraft. Five of the thickest anthologies of Mythos-related fiction and Lovecraft pastiches. Binge-rereading on both fiction and poetry of Margaret Atwood. I’ll also take all my books by Daphne du Maurier and Ira Levin. Then the entire Yale Series of Younger Poets, as well as the volumes of selected poems by Kristina Marie Darling and Vicki Hearne. All 13 volumes of The Best American Science Writing. Plus Maria Negroni’s marvelous Night Journey, translated by Anne Twitty, because no retreat is complete without this book.

Your house is burning down. What’s the most important thing you’d want to take with you?

With my dogs and people safe, I won’t waste time to pick up objects while escaping from a burning house. Things are ultimately replaceable. But if I still have time, then I’ll take my wallet (because replacing IDs is too much of a hassle) and my folder of important documents and life insurance policy.

Describe your life philosophy. In a sentence.

There’s this planet-sized boat containing everything and everyone, and because we are all intimately connected this way, it is only right to be mindful of one’s inherent destructive tendencies.


Kristine Ong Muslim is the author of several books of fiction and poetry, the most recent being Age of Blight (Unnamed Press, 2016). Widely published in magazines and anthologies, she grew up and continues to live in rural southern Philippines.


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