Tom Sweterlitsch
Author Tom Sweterlitsch wearing one of his "Dawn of the Dead" shirts.

Following the success of his debut science fiction novel, “Tomorrow and Tomorrow,”  in 2014, Pittsburgh-based author Tom Sweterlitsch is about to release his second book, “The Gone World” via G. P. Putnam’s Sons. Film rights have already been optioned by FOX, and Tom is also working with director Neill Blomkamp of “District 9” on a series of short films under his new company, Oats Studios. We catch up with the Greenfield resident to talk about his favorite spots to write in Pittsburgh, how the city inspires his books and more. A native of Canton, Ohio, Tom moved to Pittsburgh to attend Carnegie Mellon — where he met his wife, Sonja — and worked for 12 years at the Carnegie Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.

What upcoming events are you excited to attend?

Everyone’s invited to the book launch for my new novel “The Gone World” on Tuesday, February 6 at City of Asylum over on the North Side. I’ll read a little from the book, answer any questions you might have about writing, and generally just have a good time. [You can also catch him at Riverstone Books in McCandless on February 22]

Best part of your job?

I spent last year obsessively thinking about time travel paradoxes, a lizard-alien invasion, spaceship design, monsters made of a dozen human corpses, a River God tearing through the fabric of reality, and artificial intelligences doomed to immortality. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

Photo by Michael Ray.

What is the one thing that would surprise Pittsburghers most about you? 

People seem surprised when I tell them I do a lot of writing at shopping mall food courts, Century III and Ross Park in particular. I like to wander around when I write. I love the second-floor reading room of the Main Library, too, and anywhere that has coffee.

How does Pittsburgh inspire and inform your writing?

I write about time and memory, how the past, future and present reflect and bleed together. Pittsburgh’s like that, too — the past never seems to stay in the past here, whether in the architecture, or how we give directions to each other. “It’s across the street from where Kaufmann’s used to be.” It’s like there’s always past versions of Pittsburgh uncannily hovering around our present version.

What book is on your nightstand or in your e-reader right now?

Right now I’m reading a Signet paperback called “Three by Flannery O’Connor” and a Europa Editions novel called “Return to the Dark Valley” by Santiago Gamboa.

Best PGH brunch spot?

My wife and I have been eating crepes from Crepes Parisiennes ever since the owner David had a food cart on the campus of Carnegie Mellon, decades ago. The restaurant on Craig Street is one of our favorite places to hang out.

You not-so-secret Pittsburgh spot?

I think my favorite place in the city might be the Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

Bridge you LOVE to walk or bike over?

Hot Metal. When it’s nice out my family takes walks from Greenfield down the hill to the South Side, so we cross the Hot Metal Bridge. There’s a view of the city about halfway across that makes Pittsburgh look like the Rust Belt version of Asgard.

Who should be the unofficial Mayor of Pittsburgh?

Easy: Rick Sebak.

We arrive for dinner. What’s on the menu?

If my wife’s cooking, probably spaghetti. If I’m cooking, Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch.

Which Pittsburgh band would you like to play in your living room?

You have to understand, my house is really small, just a tiny two-bedroom place, but if we could somehow get Code Orange into my living room …

Who is the last person you texted (and what was it about)?

I texted: !!! WHOA !!! Because my wife had just texted me a picture that my 6-year-old daughter drew of black holes, called “A black hole eating a black hole with rips in time.”

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Jennifer Baron

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator...