19 November 13 | Chad W. Post

Zachary Karabashliev, author of the wildly fun 18% Gray recently participated in the Texas Book Festival in Austin. According to the dozen or so friends I know who attended, it sounded like a real blast. So I thought I’d ask Zach a few questions about his experience, and share some of his photographs. (If you’ve read 18% Gray, you know that photography plays a big role in the novel. So it’s fitting to include some of Zack’s photos here.)

Chad W. Post: Was this your first time participating in the Austin Book Festival? What exactly did you do there?

Zachary Karabashliev: First time in Austin, yes. I was invited to join all the activities there, as well as talking on a panel themed “America, the beautiful?” with another writer—Claire Vaye Watkins—who has written these great stories mostly set in the West. An awesome take-no-prisoners writing, I loved it. The moderator was Callie Collins, the Editor-In Chief of the new publishing house Strange Object. So we talked about The West, The East, America in between . . . the notions of freedom, and all that. It looked like the audience had fun—they were laughing more than usual for your typical book reading.

CWP: How did this festival compare to others you’ve participated in?

ZK: This one was unique—it was set in the majestic State Capitol Building. I found this really symbolic—as if for three days literature took power. The bastion of politics was now a house of letters. It became a meeting place for writers and readers. We were let in the very rooms some of the most important and controversial political decisions have been made. There were many parties afterwards, free booze, and so much music, God, so much great music. Austin literally rocks. A great fest town.

CWP: How was the attendance? Was it well-organized?

ZK: It was extremely well organized—from the car picking you at the airport to all the parties, to sending you off. I loved that. The street in front of the Congress Building was blocked, all tents and stuff—it was all literature. And the attendance was record high, I believe.

CWP: Favorite non-book fair event: Phil Anselmo concert with Bromance Will, or eating your first BBQ?

ZK: Man, I’ve been a proud U.S. resident for over 14 years, but it was in Austin where for the first time I experienced the true beauty and pleasure of eating a real, slow cooked brisket. And that did it, man. I’ve been initiated. I’ve arrived.

About Phillip Anselmo and the Illegals, hahaha—I was a huge Pantera fan back in the 90’s. So, when I saw Anselmo’s band I was—wow, right on. He actually started a Horror Film Festival the same weekend. And he closed the fest with his own new project. So, Phillip Anselmo was awesome, but The Illegal’s material sucked, I’m so sorry to report. I loved the other band that played that night—Eyehategod—these guys are the real deal.

CWP: Any favorite authors that you met there?

ZK: I probably met many that I liked, but not knowing how they look like made it difficult. You see, you don’t wanna look like a lit dork wearing that name tag on your neck. But the truth is—no one really knows who you are. So you talk to so and so, and you click and have a good time, and at some point you go—but, wait the minute, this is YOU? Oh, I love your writing. Then, there are the others, that you know from media and book covers, and you kinda pretend that you know their writing only because everybody else pretends they do, so you don’t want to make a fool of your self. But frankly . . . how many of us will really have already read Dissident Gardens, for example? Really?

Reza Aslan (Zealot) was super cool, Nina McConigley (Cowboys and East Indians) was a blast, Kelly Luce, Claire Vaye Watkins, and Jonathan Lethem was incredibly funny.

Yet, my favorite person to spent time with—Will Evans. This man is a maniac—he’s got literature all over. I mean it—on his arms—tattoos of dead people, all of which Russian writers. You talk to Will for a couple of hours, and YOU KNOW world can be a better and definitely a funnier place. He’s the one that introduce me to the true BBQ—how do you forget that?

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