Lindsey Drager 2015Tell us what The Lost Daughter Collective is about, concerned with, proposing.

The Lost Daughter Collective presents the story of a Wrist Scholar who tells his shadow-puppet obsessed daughter the narrative of the Lost Daughter Collective, a group of men who communally cope with their lost girls qualified in two ways: missing (deemed Alices) or dead (deemed Dorothies). It is also the story of the Fathers of Lost Daughters, a group of men who communally cope with their lost girls, telling each other the narrative of the Risk Scholar and his daughter who plays with shadow. In the middle of all this lies the mystery of one father whose daughter is neither missing nor dead but “otherwise lost.”

To put it less concretely, this is a book about what it means to be daughtered, particularly by men—historically, academically, and in domestic spaces. It is also a book about storytelling, whose stories we trust and why we trust them. It is a book about gender politics and gender identity and therefore it is as much about how we read and misread books as it is about how we read and misread bodies.

ss-mugYou received a lot of rejections before you finally started publishing and exhibiting your work. Do you have a favorite?

Yeah, an agent in NYC wrote to say I should take my typewriter and put it on the top shelf of my closet and then nail the door shut. I didn’t hate her but when I heard she died a while back, I felt pretty good.

 

Do you feel pretentious doing a self-interview?

Yeah, sort of.

 

Who are your favorite characters in BigCity?

Bitch Bantam, Slab Pettibone, Fritter McTwoBit, FuzzyWuzzy the Bear.

DZ photoWhy this title: The Amado Women?

I thought it fairly well signaled that this would be a novel about the lives of women; their lives are complex and contradictory. Amado, Spanish for beloved, is the family surname. I love that wonderful undertone because all four main characters are beloved, they just may not realize it. Also, as a Zamorano I have gone through life at the tail end of the alphabet, and I wanted to shake things up a bit.

 

Not a lot of guys make the cut in this book. You got a thing against men?

Nope, not at all. I just wanted to make women’s lives the centerpiece.

Photo_ Shane Hinton_credit Keir MagoulasThere are a lot of fictional Shane Hintons in your book.

Like you, for one.

 

Exactly. What’s that about?

Well, I think it’s important to blur the lines between fiction and nonfiction. We feel betrayed when we find out something that has been sold to us as “real” is actually some combination of fact and fiction. I want to play with that distrust.

 

You’re saying the stuff in this book didn’t actually happen?

Some of it happened. Some of it didn’t. If the reader ever starts to wonder what’s real and what’s not, I think that’s a pretty special area of possibility.

Michael DowningGiotto?

Giotto di Bondone. Greatest painter in the history of the world.

 

Says who?

For starters, Dante.

 

What about Michelangelo?

He thought so, too. The very first drawings we have by Michelangelo are copies of figures from Giotto’s frescoes.

photo-earley-pub--190x190What is your debut novel, A Map of Everything, about?

It’s about “everything,” of course. But at its core: The narrator’s sister has a terrible car wreck as a teen and suffers traumatic brain injury and physical debilitation. The novel thus becomes about family and family tragedy; accident and injury; addiction, sexual identity, and healing; and love. The structure is based on the periodic table, with each subchapter based on one of the elements. The excerpt here, for example, is element number 51, Antimony, described as “Metalloid; Primordial; Solid.”

Griffith(c)JenniferDurhamIf I tried to ask Hild questions, what would happen?

Depends on her age. At three she’d study you silently, with great interest, but she wouldn’t see you as a real person. At eight she’d give you a fathomless look that would make you uneasy. At fourteen her eyes would be absolutely impenetrable, but by now you’d be beyond uneasy, because you’d know she was quicker on her feet than you, and more powerful. At sixteen, you’d be fascinated, but frightened: at this point she has a reputation for the uncanny, for killing people or having sex with them, and no way of predicting which. And as she’s the niece of the most powerful king in Britain, it would not pay to even try to mess with her. Towering mind, a will of adamant, and a mother who is beautiful, subtle, and ruthless. You’d have to be very, very nice to her and very, very careful.

f0aa55_c215c899908708e5cae60021e6f91826.jpg_srz_261_371_75_22_0.50_1.20_0You’re not crazy about being interviewed, are you?

 No.  I don’t like talking about myself.  That’s why I write fiction: to talk about other people.

 

Does it make it any better that this is a self-interview?

 That makes it worse, actually.  I have to do twice as much talking.

Barry-Kevin-Olivia-Smith

When you complete what seems to you like the final draft of a short story, Mr. Barry, do you …

Please, there’s no need to be formal. Relax.

 

Thank you. So when …

By the way, would you care for a drink?

PrestonAllen_NewWhat a strangely beautiful story is Every Boy Should Have a Man. It’s so unlike anything you’ve ever done before. How did you come up with the idea?

When inspiration comes to me, my art always awakens as a gift of the spirit, as the Holy Bible says, a mirror reflecting the condition of my psyche, my personality, and perhaps even my soul–not soul in any religious sense, but in the funky/revolutionary/swing-your-hips-to-the-beat-of-the-music sense.  Man, when it’s going real good, I can feel it flowing out of me in a stream of subconscious conscience no bucket can catch.

Tara IsonWhat would you rather do than write?

Knit.

Read indiscriminately.

Watch TV indiscriminately.

Go to the dentist (this is sort of disingenuous; I love going to the dentist).

Clean my bathroom.

Simone Alina (c) Vinciane VerguethenSo, just in brief, tell me about your life, how you became a writer, what you think about the fate of the novel and whether you believe in free will.

Uh, talking about myself isn’t really my jam. I’d much rather hear about you and your life.

You were once irritated by a writing instructor who told you he wanted to smell the curry more in your stories about Sri Lanka. How do you make a good Sri Lankan lentil curry?

The key is to overindulge in coconut milk and spices. Cinnamon sticks, coriander, cardamom pods, cumin, cloves, garlic, chilies, onions – all simmering together in a heavy pot along with red or yellow lentils and coconut milk. The best comfort food in the world.

Another book about the Sixties. Why?

Because I’m still trying to figure out WTF happened to us. The truth is, an awful lot of us—even the most radical of “Boomers”—ended up being a whole lot like our parents. We couldn’t have imagined then how hard life would be, how you have to work every minute of every day, adjusting constantly along the way, if you still want to be the person you were dead-set on becoming when you were young. We couldn’t imagine how we’d come out on the other end wondering how in the world we turned out to be who we are.

More specifically, though, I’m still trying to figure out how my closest college friend’s passion for righting the wrongs she saw in our society led her to commit illegal acts that profoundly affected the course of her whole life.

These questions have no answers, of course. No question really worth asking does.  Fiction is about asking those questions anyway.

Marie-Helene Bertino’s debut story collection SAFE AS HOUSES will be published October 1st, 2012.  She has worked as a diner waitress, a muralist, and a music writer.  Currently, she works as a biographer of people with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).  One hot summer night in August, she met herself at a crab joint (in her mind) near (the) Cape May, New Jersey (in her mind) where she taught herself how to use a mallet to extract the meatiest parts of the crab, and talked to herself about herself.

 

I admire how much plaid you are wearing.

How kind of you to say!