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Publication Date: May 8, 2018
Paperback: 312 pages
ISBN: 978-1-945814-50-1


Sheila’s life is built of little thievings.  Adrift in her mid-thirties, she sleeps in fragments, ditches her temp jobs, eavesdrops on her neighbor’s Skype calls, and keeps a stolen letter in her nightstand, penned by a UPS driver she barely knows.  Her mother is stifling and her father is a bad memory.  Her only friends are her mysterious, slovenly neighbor Vinnie and his daughter Torrey, a quirky twelve-year-old coping with a recent tragedy.

When her grandmother Rosamond dies, Sheila inherits a box of secret love letters from Harold C. Carr—a man who is not her grandfather. In spite of herself, Sheila gets caught up in the legacy of the affair, piecing together her grandmother’s past and forging bonds with Torrey and Vinnie as intense and fragile as the crumbling pages in Rosamond’s shoebox.

As they get closer to unraveling the truth, Sheila grows almost as obsessed with the letters as the man who wrote them.  Somewhere, there’s an answering stack of letters—written in Rosamond’s hand—and Sheila can’t stop until she uncovers the rest of the story.  Threaded with wry humor and the ache of love lost or left behind, How to Set Yourself on Fire establishes Julia Dixon Evans as a rising talent in the vein of Shirley Jackson and Lindsay Hunter.


How to Set Yourself on Fire is a family mystery that slowly reveals itself, illuminating a poignant emptiness in its lovable but complicated main character. Sheila is funny, depressed, searching, and unpredictable. Her story will move you long after its lovely final scene.”
Lindsay Hunter, author of Eat Only When You’re Hungry

“This book had me glued. I came for the intrigue buried in the treasure hunt of letters, but I stayed for the unlikely friendship of thirty-five-year-old Sheila and twelve-year-old Torrey. I would read a whole series of these two having adventures together, but I’ll have to relish this singularly heartbreaking and hilarious story of lost and found love, in all its guises.”
—Jac Jemc, author of The Grip of It

“This book features my favorite type of protagonist: the creepy, socially awkward woman who you can’t help but fall in love with. It’s also the best kind of reading experience: a book that is funny and difficult to put down, and builds to something that is disarmingly touching.”
Juliet Escoria, author of Witch Hunt


JULIA DIXON EVANS lives in San Diego. How to Set Yourself on Fire is her first novel. Her fiction has appeared in Monkeybicycle, The Fanzine, Hobart, Paper Darts, and elsewhere. Her nonfiction work has appeared in Like The Wind Magazine and Barrelhouse. She is an editor and program director for the literary nonprofit and small press So Say We All.

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evans headshot 1bw
photo credit: Nelwyn Del Frate

Julia Dixon Evans is author of the novel How to Set Yourself on Fire, forthcoming from Dzanc books on May 8th, 2018. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in McSweeney’s, Paper Darts, Pithead Chapel, Fanzine, Flapperhouse, Hobart and elsewhere. She is program director for the literary nonprofit and small press So Say We All in San Diego, nonfiction editor for Noble Gas Qtrly, and hosts the San Diego literary reading series The Foundry.

Here is my writing
Here I am on twitter.
Here I am on Goodreads.

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Tuesday, May 8th @ 8 PM @ Starlite

LOS ANGELES: In Conversation with Jim Ruland
Wednesday, May 9th @ 7:30 PM @ Skylight Books

SAN DIEGO: with Tessa Fontaine and Ryan Bradford
Friday, May 11th @ 7 PM @ Mysterious Galaxy

Tuesday, May 15th @ 7:30 PM @ Green Apple Books on the Park


PORTLAND: Death Club with Tiffany Scandal, Casey Jarman, Martha Grover, Santi Elijah Holley, Kate Jayroe; hosted by Kevin Maloney and Jessie Carver
Thursday, May 17th @ 7 PM @ Erickson Gallery

SEATTLE with Matt Young and Jarret Middleton
Saturday, May 19th @ 7PM @ Phinney Books

SAN DIEGO: In Conversation with Amy Wallen
Tuesday, May 22nd @ 7:00 PM @ Book Catapult

Monday, June 18th

NEW YORK: Franklin Park Reading Series
Monday, July 9th, Brooklyn

NEW YORK: with Bud Smith + more
Thursday, July 12th @ Secret Loft, Manhattan


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How To Set Yourself on Fire Excerpt (and interview) print and podcast at Other Stories
I Want Your Skull When You Die,” at WOHE Lit (collaboration with Ryan Bradford)
Fight, Hate, DGAF,” at Cheat River Review
Dogs Are Born Hungry,” at Storychord
Birdland,” in Flapperhouse
The Mask Boys,” at New Dead Families
Beth in Her Swimsuit,” at Pithead Chapel (nominated for the 2017 Best of the Net)
Husbands,” at The Mondegreen
Album Reviews of 1994,” at Tyrant Books
Churches We’ve Broken Into,” at Paper Darts
Six Mothers,” at Matchbook Literary Magazine
In a Classroom, After the War,” at The Collapsar
Greta,” at The Fanzine
In California When It’s Cold,” at Monkeybicycle
Beneath The Floorboards (There Are Bones),” at Corium Magazine
He’ll Write Your Name on The Bedroom Wall,” at Connotation Press
By The Teeth,” at Noble / Gas Qtrly
Autoclave,” at Broad! (Nominated for a Pushcart Prize)
“Adam, and Laura,” in Black Candies: Surveillance
Nineteen Things Only People Who Are Not Going to Survive The Hour Will Understand,” at Monkeybicycle (Nominated for a Pushcart Prize and for the 2015 Best of the Net Anthology)
Leona Never Happened,” at Hobart
The Shape of England,” at Swarm Quarterly
“La Llorona, She Weeps With You,” in States of Terror, Vol. 1
“Fiddle De Dee, Fiddle De Dee,” in Black Candies: See Through (long-listed for Ellen Datlow’s Best of 2013)
“Arthropoda” in The Radvocate



“Usually You Just Sit There,” Julia Dixon Evans with her kids, at Triangle House.
When the Wildfires of Your Novel Come to Life Around You,” at Literary Hub
Playing Baseball Mediocrely But Playing Baseball With Pure Joy,” at Hobart
“Two M83 Songs With Screaming In Them,” in Barrelhouse, Issue 16
“The Trail Home,” in Like The Wind Magazine, Issue 4



An Offertory, On A Small Court,” at Hobart.
An Uncareful Mathematician Would Always Mistake This For Love,” at Hobart.


interviews and reviews and elsewhere-ish things like that

How to Set Yourself on Fire reviewed at Vol. 1 Brooklyn
Julia Dixon Evans’ Debut Book Lights Up Shelves via KPBS radio Midday Edition
How To Set Yourself on Fire Excerpt (and interview)
print and podcast at Other Stories
Interview in the Culture Report
at Voice of San Diego
Alumni in-the-news roundup for UCSD Arts & Humanities
How to Set Yourself on Fire reviewed
at San Diego CityBeat
How to Set Yourself on Fire reviewed at The Coil / Alternating Currents Press
Spring Arts Preview 2018: Meet Author Julia Dixon Evans
at San Diego Union-Tribune
How to Set Yourself on Fire reviewed
at Publishers Weekly
How to Set Yourself on Fire reviewed at Foreword Reviews
How to Set Yourself on Fire reviewed
at Kirkus Reviews
Most Anticipated Small Press Books of 2018 at Big Other
‘By the Teeth’ | Great Fiction Countdown 2015,” Zach Lisabeth.
Julia Dixon Evans interview with Karen Stefano,” Connotation Press Feature, September 2015
An Invasive Species,” reviews “The Shape of England.”
Look Who’s Coming to Vermin SD: Julia Dixon Evans,” on my weirdest experience (not) at a reading.
Horror Business: Julia Evans,” in regards to scary movies for Ryan Bradford.
Beach Sloth reviews Black Candies: See Through, including my story, “Fiddle De Dee.”


JULIA DIXON EVANS is author of the novel How to Set Yourself on Fire, forthcoming from Dzanc books on May 8th, 2018. Her work can be found in Paper Darts, Pithead Chapel, Fanzine, Flapperhouse, Hobart and elsewhere. She lives in San Diego and is program director for the literary nonprofit and small press So Say We All. She was a 2014 PEN in the Community resident and a Poets & Writers grant recipient for teaching creative writing. Twitter: @juliadixonevans

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Craft essay at Literary Hub: on fire, loss, and writing.

This last December, the same week advance review galleys were landing in mailboxes, my in-laws’ house burned to the ground in the Ventura county Thomas Fire. I think even without my novel being titled what it is, I would have found it troubling to sift through the ashes of their house, picking up charred books … Continue reading Craft essay at Literary Hub: on fire, loss, and writing.