Interview with author Catherine Baab-Muguira for “Poe for Your Problems: Uncommon Advice from History’s Least Likely Self-Help Guru”
Has the pandemic brought you down? Do you need a self-help book? Well, look no furtherâ¦ Author Catherine Baab-Muguria has you covered with her new book, Poe for your problems: Uncommon advice from the least likely self-help guru in history. While Poe might seem like the least likely person you would want advice from, Cat shows why he’s the perfect guy to give advice and get rid of the negativity in your life. In this interview, find out what inspired her to become an author, how the idea for this book came about, and more!
PopHorror – Hi Cat, how are you? 2021 treating you well so far?
Catherine Baab-Muguira – Hey, thanks for having me here. Uh, that was a really strange year, as I imagine is true for most people. But that also makes this conversation – about finding hope and inspiration through one of the darkest characters in history – more understandable, doesn’t it? My feeling is that we are all looking for some sort of bright side, even if it is dimly lit or weird or buried alive in the family vault.
PopHorror – I completely agree! Please tell our readers what inspired you to become a writer?
Catherine Baab-Muguira – It’s your typical story. I was a big reader when I was a kid, I swallowed stuff from my local library: everything from Stephen King and Upper Sweet Valley to Steinbeck and Camus. I started writing in elementary school, keeping a journal, trying my hand at poetry, and producing the usual absolutely terrible juvenilia. After college, while I was working during the day, I wrote three novels, but I was never able to find an agent, although I started to get signatures as a freelance writer. It was not until I wrote the proposal for Poe for your problems that I finally got a performance and a book contract. (If anyone wants a longer, more detailed version including the financial side of it all, you can check out my Sub stack.)
PopHorror – All of these writers have inspired me as well, including RL Stine. Where did you go to school
Catherine Baab-Muguira – I went to the University of South Carolina, chasing the ghost of James Dickey. I majored in English. Then for my graduate studies I moved to New Zealand and did a masters degree at the University of Auckland. The idea of ââa year in New Zealand was appealing in itself, as one would expect, but there was also an academic at the university that I was eager to meet and learn.
PopHorror – Poe for your problems: uncommon advice from the least likely self-help guru in history is your new book and it looks fantastic. Can you tell us a bit about it?
Catherine Baab-Muguira – Poe for your problems is the world’s first self-help book based on Edgar Allan Poe. Not really. In the book, I defend Poe as an unexpected hero and existential saint of the arts, with each chapter based on an episode from his life and work. It’s dark, but played for a laugh, and I would especially recommend it to anyone who is going through a rough time in their life or struggling to find a place for themselves as a writer / artist / creator.
PopHorror – I love it and need all the helping hand I can get, lol. Where does inspiration come from?
Catherine Baab-Muguira – Remember how I said I first wrote three novels? After trying and failing to find an agent and publisher for these books, I became very depressed. I have suffered from chronic depression since I was a child, so the episode was nothing new, yet the worst I have ever experienced. It was late 2016, and the situation around the world wasn’t really helping either. I couldn’t eat, sleep, or function. It was so bad that I had to take mental illness leave from my job.
It was then that I started re-reading Edgar Allan Poe for the first time since I was a child. For some reason, I got the idea to take Complete tales of mystery and imagination on the shelf and I started reading it in my tub until those unconscious tears ran down my face. All of a sudden, I realized that Poe’s stories about ghost ships and torture were metaphors for the pain of the human condition, depression and hopelessness. I recognized a traveling companion, and it was as if he could see my pain too, if only because he had known it himself.
From there, I moved on to dig into the countless biographies of Poe, and despite all the different versions of his story and the lack of reliable facts, it jumped out at me that no matter what life threw in on Poe, he managed to keep getting up. Despite everything, so many losses and disappointments, and all these personal quirks, he did his job. It was inspiring, even curiously curative, spending time with him. One night I was at a bar with a friend and I started talking to him about it all, how Poe, everyone, was comforting me. âIt looks like a book,â said my friend.
âOh yeah,â I say. “I’m going to write a book about reading Poe for self-help and call him How to tell your problems never again. “It was just a joke. Still, I wrote the idea down on a napkin, and from that point on, I couldn’t help but think about it. The project seemed so much more to me. taller than me, which was appealing and liberating. The world needs a self-help book by Edgar Allan Poe, I thought.
It turns out that many others read Poe the same way, seeing him as a hero, especially Charles Baudelaire. So I tried to make the experience explicit, to show people what Poe can teach us to deal with the harsh realities of our time. own Lives. Most people associate Poe with horror, and they’re not wrong, but he also had a funny and hopeful side to him. The guy is so much funnier than we ever thought he was. Read his letters. He’s intensely accessible, full of complaints, white lies and sarcastic jokes. Even if you get to the material by loving it already, you will end up loving it even more.
PopHorror – I love that ! Who did the book cover?
Catherine Baab-Muguira – The illustration is by the extremely talented artist Javier Olivares, who illustrated the entire book, and the overall design is by Rachel Peckman, who also designed the entire book and whose spirit is visible throughout . Both made the book more fun, entertaining, and multidimensional. There are drawings, quizzes, diagrams, small games and thinking exercises, etc.
PopHorror – What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
Catherine Baab-Muguira – You don’t need to be less flawed, less neurotic or argumentative or weird or emo than you are right now. You can succeed for these reasons. People can come to love you precisely because you are so messed up. Hell, even other people who say shit about you can work in your favor. So get in a mess and focus on realizing your Poetential instead. It might serve you well, as it served Poe, who is now one of the most successful writers of all time. What other writer has ever inspired the name of an NFL team, or appeared on the cover of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band? People get tattoos on Poe’s face. Any of us would be lucky to have that kind of influence.
PopHorror – This is fantastic advice! If Poe was alive to read your book, what do you think he would say?
Catherine Baab-Muguira – We know what kind of literary critic he was, right? The real GOAT of ax men. So I expect Poe to scroll through my book in his sneering signature style, hammering his little book face into the dirt. He would probably accuse me of plagiarism too. And you know, I just wish he was alive. It would be an honor.
PopHorror – Haha so true. Well, thanks for taking the time to chat with me. I can’t wait to read your book and relax with some hot coconut. After this crazy year, I could really take advantage of Poe’s advice!