Laurie D Graham, poet and editor of the forthcoming Hidden City issue of Descant, tagged me in this interview series which has been making its way around called The Next Big Thing, in which writers discuss their current/in-progress project. You can read Laurie’s interview here. After my interview below I tag the next five writers to post the interview, at which point each of them will tag five writers and on so on and so on and so on…
The Next Big Thing:
What is the working title of your book-in-progress?
This Could Be You
Where did the idea for the book come from?
I’m interested in how identity is created through involvement in certain environments and generally through networks, electronic and otherwise. And how we are constantly shifting identities and juggling identities or versions of ourselves in different spaces. The stories are all tied up in characters feeling that they are very different people in different circumstances and with the transience/traces of relationships we believe to be permanent and therefore with the transience of selves. My first book of stories, People Who Disappear (released by Freehand this past April) balanced between urban and coastal/remote locations. This book is more rooted in urban places — neighbourhoods, the gym, the street…and the internet plays a huge part as a “location” of identity-creation/absence.
What genre does your book fall under?
I’m also working on a book of prose poems; those pieces are slowly finding homes in journals, a couple pieces are in Descant soon.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Untrained amateur actors pretending to know what they’re doing.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
You never know about people.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Too early to answer this question. Thus far I have worked with literary presses.
How long did it/will it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
The manuscript is in progress. A story takes me about 2-3 months to complete, overlapping with my life/school/work/other project commitments and stories and poems being simultaneously written. I just finished editing two special issues that have just been released: the Queer issue of Poetry Is Dead
and the Companion Animals issue
of The Incongruous Quarterly
, both of which were an overwhelming demand on my time. I looked at the number of emails I tagged in my email account as being correspondence related to the process of editing the Queer issue and it was over 400! So I’m just finishing up the final drafts of some stories for the manuscript and writing by hand again, which feels really good. My first collection was a mix of short and longer stories and this collection focuses more on longer pieces. I always have trouble quantifying short fiction writing because it’s piecework more than it is a feeling of knowing when something is done because you’ve come to the “end.” I think this is part of why I have felt more kinship with poets as opposed to novelists.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I have trouble with questions like this one because it feels vain to compare myself with work I admire. But, I admired the lyricism and ferocity in Justin Torres’s novel of vignettes, We The Animals, and his dense, dark, complex approach to the articulation of sibling relationships as a kind of pack mentality.
Black Tickets by Jayne Anne Phillips. I’ve also felt myself returning to some of my roots in fiction-writing, stuff that motivated me early on, like Katherine Anne Porter’s Pale Horse, Pale Rider. The perfect blend of imagery and plot. Southern short fiction writers were formative influences.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The idea of an exterior source of inspiration is so problematic to me, because writing is more about resiliency than it is about topic/motivation. I’ve come to a point in my writing where I think the main thing inspiring me to write is the fact that I can’t stop. I think for a long time I justified writing by believing (or forcing myself to believe) that there is something intrinsic or lasting in the world that I believed I could EXPRESS more fully than others or that I could only express through language. I now approach my stories as gestated catalogues and juxtapositions of moments I want to capture — they are ongoing because I am ongoing. So what is inspiring me to keep going with this manuscript is a desire to make sense of contradictory/seemingly senseless/anxiety-inducing systems into which I’m inscribed. Things in the stories: a political protest experienced only through YouTube; a woman whose only recourse during grief is the gym; an art gallery that is a homeless shelter that is an art gallery.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The amazing writers below are the 5 Next Big Things that I hereby tag.
You’ll be able to read their interviews soon:
Marguerite Pigeon (Marguerite’s will be posted on her Facebook page.)
Elee Kraljii Gardiner