- What’s your least favorite thing about writing?
Staring at a computer screen. I should probably take Wendell Berry’s advice and stick to a pencil and paper.
- Which author would you like to have a drink with (Dead or alive. Them, not you)?
I’ve always admired Carson McCullers, but she died due to complications from her alcoholism, so perhaps that’s an insensitive choice. Maybe Joan Didion.
- Who is your favorite author that you don’t know personally? Who is your favorite author that you do know personally?
My favorite author that I don’t know personally is maybe C.E. Morgan. Her 2016 novel The Sport of Kings is one of the few recent novels that deals with political economy in any meaningful way. The novel follows two rich white characters (descended from a slaveholding family) and one poor black character (descended from one of their escaped slaves) between the 1980’s and 2006. At one point, the black protagonist has to sell drugs after his working mother loses her TANF and food stamps because she forgets to declare her car as an asset. She later dies because she can’t afford healthcare to treat her lupus. Our choices in life are circumscribed by economic and historical forces beyond our control, and any fiction that does not take this into account is missing something.
In terms of writers I do know, what does it mean to know somebody in this day and age? Angela Flournoy wrote an incredible novel in 2015 called The Turner House, about a black family in Detroit whose home is underwater. We follow each other on Twitter, and we met once at a reading she did. I don’t know if that counts as someone I know personally, though. In terms of nonfiction, everyone I know who writes for Jacobin, Current Affairs, and BookForum is really sharp. Also, I once met Thomas Frank at a party and told him he was my hero, but I’m sure a lot of people tell him that.
- What about your discipline do you wish you were better at?
With regard to my essays, I wish I didn’t get so nervous when I interviewed people. With regard to fiction, I wish I were better at constructing plot.
- . What kind of creative rituals or patterns do you have?
I like to wake up early in the morning and get really hyped up on black coffee. I call it “getting coffed up.” I have a large Bodum French press that my parents gave me for Christmas when I was twenty. I grind up six tablespoons of this Guatemalan dark roast coffee from Trader Joe’s. It’s really oily — which I love — and there’s always a bit of oil that floats on the surface of each cup, and this sludgy detritus that settles at the bottom. After about two cups I feel euphoric, and very focused. In this state writing feels almost effortless. I feel like I can see patterns and connections and motifs. I can quickly type out all my ideas if I’m just starting a piece, or organize those disparate ideas into an outline, or flesh out that outline into a final draft.
Bonus question: April is the month when a lot of Aries are born; do you hate them?
I don’t put a lot of stock in horoscopes, so I’m going to say no. However, I’m a Cancer, and apparently, we don’t get along with Aries because we’re sensitive and emotional and they’re fiery and brash.
I don’t put a lot of stock in horoscopes either – I’m an Aries, and I don’t think I’m fiery, but who knows.
Come out to Writers & Words on Tuesday, April 10th at 7pm at Charmington’s Cafe to hear Colette and our other rad readers. Check out the rest of the line-up on facebook here!