What inspires your stories?
For the “Epistles” section of the book -- which is a collection written by Eve, Cain’s wife, Noah’s wife, Delilah, the Queen of Sheba, Mary, and others as if they were feminist – the starting point was taking Paradise Lost in my Milton course way back when I was getting my B.A. in Literature. It seemed so clear that Eve was being infantilized, subordinated, etc etc.
And for the “Soliloquies” section, it was, of course, Shakespeare – oddly enough not the 2nd year course I had to take in university, but teaching Hamlet and Taming of the Shrew in high school. It just got so hard to defend Shakespeare as the wise, old bard when he seemingly endorsed such awful sexism – Portia treated as bait, prize, Kate clearly abused, and so on.
What genre do you gravitate toward and why?
In the case of Satellites Out of Orbit I chose the genre to fit. That is, the Soliloquies are written as soliloquies in Shakespearean language; the Epistles are written as epistles; the Fairy Tales (another section in the book) are sometimes written a little like fairy tales (“Greystrands” for example, and “Thumb”), and sometimes more like direct critical commentaries (“Cinderella” for example, which is actually written by her sister); the Myths are poems (revealing the myths inside the myths – for example, when I thought about it, it makes a lot of sense for Galatea to just up and leave, and Penelope doesn’t exactly wait, and so on); the Letters are letters -- letters that might have been written by Lady Godiva, Milton’s daughter, Rubens’ model, Mozart’s mother, Freud’s wife, Plato’s students, and others – assuming a feminist consciousness.
I’ve been ‘accused’ of not picking and sticking with a genre – an accusation obviously from someone who likes to pigeonhole in conventional slots. The prose pieces are hybrid – half essay, half story. There are footnotes and references. And that’s because there are asides (hence, footnotes) and I did a lot of research for this book, so I list my references. I also list the original sources I used – which myths I started with, which version of The Bible I was using, and so on. And for the Letters, well, they’re heavily based in fact. For example, much of what Mrs. Mozart says in her letter is absolutely true: Nannerl did in fact teach her little brother, Wolfgang, to play, and the two of them gave concerts together at first (only later, did Mr. Mozart say Nannerl should stay home…); the tour schedule; the painting; and so on. Same for the letter by Lady Godiva, the one by Freud’s wife… Satellites took three years to write partly because I just kept getting so immersed in the research!
What are your work habits like?
I write for a couple hours, then go for long walks, during which my brain either works on the problems I had and often solve them or it goes on holiday.
What do you consider your best work?
Well, I do like Satellites very much, but I think I like dreaming of kaleidoscopes a bit more.
Do you plot out your novels in advance or do you write on the fly?
Well, since Satellites isn’t a novel, the question doesn’t really apply. But I definitely put a lot of planning into it, did a lot of research, as I mentioned, thought a great deal about the characters and what they might think and say if they had a chance.
What experience do you want for your readers?
I want them to be intrigued. I want them to stop and think about it, to say ‘ah – ‘ and rethink everything they thought they knew about The Bible, Shakespeare, myths, fairy tales – women in the canon, women in our society!
Are any of your character traits or settings based on real life?
As I’ve suggested, the Letters section features real women; their situations are real and anchored in history, but not what I have them say – that’s fiction. I specifically chose women who had not said anything (or at least women for whom nothing written has survived), so that I could speculate in this manner; that’s why, for example, I had Freud’s wife write to his mistress, Lou Salome – Salome has written, has spoken for herself, so I didn’t want to mess with that.
What are your most significant challenges when you write?
Remembering to consider it done when it’s clear and coherent. Remembering to put the art in. Remembering to savor the words as well as the ideas.
What are you currently working on?
A novel tentatively titled August, a lengthy introspection trying to answer ‘How did I get here – from there?’
Satellites Out of Orbit will be available December 31 in print and as an ebook at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online bookstores. A free sample is available at Smashwords.
Thank you for stopping by, Chris! - LR