What is the working title of your book?
2) It’s memoir because that’s what most people will call it.
3) It’s old school memoir because my greatest influences have been the old nonfiction – some of which posed as fiction: Jack Kerouc, Henry Miller, Hemingway – and some of which didn’t, like Diane DiPrima’s Memoirs of a Beatnik and her Dinners and Nightmares.
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
The themes addressed are social class, cultural mores, religion, traditional gender roles, romantic love/ sex, and mortality. Most of the biggies. It’s a story that follows the narrator growing up in a trailer park, witnessing the illness and death of her loved ones, leaving home at age fifteen, leaving the fundamentalist church at age eighteen, and then going out into the world seeking happiness, beauty, and love. All of this occurs in a motif of wandering and questing. The story moves from Michigan to Maryland, to West Virginia, South Carolina, Nebraska, and the mountains of New Mexico, where she lives on floors, in teepees, chicken wire shacks, and school busses.
Regarding the tone of the book, perhaps because of my deep love of Woody Allen movies, I wanted to go with a very conversational writing voice that allowed me to maintain a light, sometimes humorous tenor to the book even while dealing with heavy themes.
How’s that for not one sentence?
Also, as mentioned, the book is framed by three, sort of absurdist, fictional sections where the narrator (me) has conversations with a fake Freudian psychoanalyst. That idea came to me in graduate school as I was writing a paper on a Freudian interpretation of Nabokov’s Lolita. From there, I became interested in looking at the trajectory of the book in terms of cause and effect. In this case, childhood is the cause, and adulthood the effect. I found that I needed a premise that basic in order to tame how complicated the piece was. In addition, as I mentioned above, the idea titillated me because it allowed me to utilize the notion of therapy in a way that served my writing needs while at the same time, it let me poke fun at the idea of memoir as therapy…Besides that, it was just a sort of strange, almost surrealist idea, and that suited my sensibilities as well.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
From when I first began the piece as my graduate school application, to when I had my first full manuscript, it took me 3 ½ years. Then I revised for another 2 ½ years. But I’m a truly insane re-writer. Since for 20 years, I only wrote poetry, I revise like a poet – sitting with every phrase and word, rhythm and nuance. I get very micro about it. That’s a very time-consuming way to revise a 320 page manuscript!
Who or what inspires you?
People who are devastated by loss and get back up again with an even more open heart than they started with; people who are afraid but take risks anyway; people who never compromise their ideals in the way they live their lives; people who are willing to be un-cool enough to be very kind; funny people; old books – anything from 1970’s Tom Robbins back through the beats, the ex-pats of the 20th century, to Shakespeare, Edmund Spencer and then Ovid; looking at the paintings of Willem de Kooning while listening to David Bowie; watching Thelma and Louise before a road trip; honest conversations over wine or tea; Opera; Hinduism and Tantra; thunderstorms rolling in over blue mountains or the grey ocean; my muse to whom I pray ardently and often with great humility.
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