The Next Big Thing Interview
Thank you to Ivy Alvarez who kindly asked me to participate in The Next Big Thing Interview at the Dumbfoundry:
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Unexplained Fevers is a book about women finding their way out of boxes – fairy tale heroines in deserts and dark places, leaving behind towers and glass coffins, and contemporary women fighting through issues that trap us in the body – anorexia, illness, unexpected pregnancy, drug addiction, etc. But seriously, it’s a barrel of fun! (More than one sentence can make it sound like, anyway!)
What genre does your book fall under?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I was reading a book of Japanese short fiction called Blue Bamboo by Osamu Dazai, which introduced a family of siblings all telling different versions of the story “Rapunzel.” I thought about the way each of them recasted the heroine and what that revealed about their personality, and decided to go back and look at the heroines I had left out of Becoming the Villainess because they were too boring or passive and see if I could create stories for them I was more interested in. While writing, I also discovered I was especially interested in getting women out of their boxes, metaphorically – and for me, that was often about writing about pain and illness, although there are an awful lot of poems about love gone wrong…that may be Grimms’ fault, not mine. All those happy endings made me suspicious. I also read Haruki Murakami’s After Dark, which is basically a story of Snow White and Rose Red, re-set in contemporary setting – and that triggered in my mind the story of two sisters – the tragic beautiful teen model, trapped into a certain immobility by her good looks, and the more active but less romantic Rose Red, who never sleeps and is always looking for answers.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I started the poems for this book almost immediately after finishing the first draft of my second book – so maybe around 2008-2009? And I was still polishing and writing new poems at the end of 2012. My books take a little while to mature, usually, and I not to linger too long with any one “finished” project – I like to have a couple of things going at once.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Besides the books I’ve already referenced, I’m fascinated by fairy tale archetypes and felt I hadn’t quite exhausted them in my first book, Becoming the Villainess. I think I was also writing my way through a very dark time personally – several years when I was too sick with somewhat mysterious immune system problems to walk, eat anything beyond rice and broth, or basically do anything but read and write. Happily I did not stay that sick, but the question occurred to me – how can one escape the “trap” of the body? Women are subjected to so many expectations about our bodies – our weight, our looks, our sexuality – including our own fairly reasonable expectations, of course – that our bodies will work properly from day to day, allow to us to eat, sleep, reproduce, work, etc. And when, as they sometimes do, our bodies betray us or let us down, how we can respond to that. How to be victorious in a battle against those things that weigh us down and contain us.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Unexplained Fevers will be published by New Binary Press in spring of 2013.
What other works would you compare this book to within your genre?
Oh, that’s a tough one. I’ve had several reviewers of my work mention Anne Sexton, but more realistically based on my readings, my literary influences are more likely to be fiction writers, like A.S. Byatt or Haruki Murakami or Kelly Link. If I were pressed to give a list of “books you might like if you like Unexplained Fevers” they might include
- Margaret Atwood’s Selected Poems II
- Carol Ann Duffy’s The World’s Wife
- Louise Gluck’s Meadowlands
- Denise Duhamel’s Kinky
I can also blame many of these poems on my life-long obsession with Grimms, Hans Christian Andersen, Andrew Lang’s Fairy books, and tough chicks from pop culture like Buffy and Sydney Bristow and Annie Walker.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I think this is probably a funnier book that you might think from the description. Especially towards the end, I think I wrote some of the poems that are the most fun to perform onstage – more puns, more risk, that kind of thing.
- Collin Kelley, with his latest collection, Render, soon to be released by Sibling Rivalry Press.
- Julie Brooks Barbour whose book Small Chimes is forthcoming.
- Kelly Davio, whose book Burn This House will be out soon from Red Hen Press.
- Kelli Russell Agodon, whose new book Hourglass Museum will come out from White Pine Press in 2014.