Steve Toltz shares his wicked sense of wry wisdom from sunny LA

Steve Toltz’s latest novel, Here Goes Nothing, explores Life after Death, in what can only be described as the perfect package, darkly funny, and perceptive as hell.

Steve Toltz is one of our funniest leading exports in the Australian literary scene. In the lead-up to this year’s Sydney Writers Festival, where the comically talented Toltz will appear live via video, we had a chat with him on ANZAC day just passed, about a few of the things that are on his ever-present mind, including whether or not the film Gallipoli is kid-appropriate for his ten-year-old, and for your sake Toltz, we sure hope it was.

Steve Toltz
Credit: Penguin

Happy:  Hey Steve, what are you up to today?

Steve: Answering questions. Also, it’s Anzac Day and I’m considering showing my ten-year-old the movie Gallipoli. Is he too young? We’ll find out. 

Happy: Tell us about your suburb, what do you love/not love about where you live?

Steve: I am temporarily living in the suburb of Los Feliz in Los Angeles. I love that it is near the Griffith Observatory and hiking trails. I dislike its lack of proximity to the ocean. 

Happy: Describe your average workday?

Steve: I write by hand in notebooks in about two-hour blocks in different locations (bed, couch, kitchen table, writing studio, café, park. etc), and try to fit as many of those blocks in the day as possible. Until recently, I then had to transcribe those notes in a long painstaking process of typing and trying to read my own handwriting, but now because of dictation software, I read the pages into my phone and then email them to myself. I also write between primary school hours because of my ten-year-old. 

Happy: What about your ultimate day?

Steve: It definitely begins with me waking up in a hotel room in a foreign city, hopefully near a body of water. 

Happy: What did you read or watch on TV growing up that fuelled your passion for writing?

Steve: The fuel that got me writing was the stories and novels of Roald Dahl, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, the stories of Isaak Asimov and Ray Bradbury, and The Book of Three series.  

here goes nothing steve toltz

Credit: Penguin

Happy: Which book did you last read that opened your mind to a new perspective?

Steve: Reality + by David Chalmers. Seems we’re probably living in a simulation. Oh well. It actually doesn’t change anything. 

Happy: In your new novel Here Goes Nothing, we love your take on life after death. Do you think that the afterlife could actually resemble what you have described?

Steve: I think any afterlife that entails a ‘me’ or ‘I’ or a ‘continuous self’ with memories intact is unlikely to exist at all. 

Happy: You had some interesting jobs before you focussed on writing, a private detective and a telemarketer among them. Do you think that a job like telemarketing is underrated in preparing you for life?

Steve: You cannot underrate telemarketing enough. Is that even a job anymore? I think robots do it now. 

Happy: If you had a first date book list, what would it be?

Steve: Do you mean a book that would be disqualifying? I don’t know. Either Mein Kampf or the Alchemist.  Or do you mean a book they must have read? I haven’t one. I’d just like my date to be a reader in general.  

Here Goes Nothing is out now via all good bookstores.