Thursday, February 11, 2016

Carmen Maria Machado Interview

And here is this week's interview with the fabulously talented, Carmen Maria Machado. Carmen is a contributor to the currently Kickstarting Gamut magazine (learn more here).

The Horror Librarian: You have a forthcoming collection of short fiction, Her Body and Other Parties, in 2017, and are a contributor to the current Kickstarter project, Gamut Magazine. Can you talk a little about your creative process?

Carmen Machado: I keep extensive personal lists of ideas, titles, images, formal constraints, obsessions, fears, and so on, and I add to and access them frequently. When I’m poking around for a new project, I often find elements on these lists that compliment, contrast, or overlap with each other, and set about trying to construct a narrative that makes them work together. (This is how “The Husband Stitch” was born.) 

The Horror Librarian: Aside from your fiction, you write criticism and literary essays. How is your approach to this work different? How is it similar?

Carmen Machado: I’d argue that fiction & personal essays are closer to each other than criticism & personal essays. The criticism is sort of its own thing—thinking about literature in a critical way, talking about books and how they’re working or not working and where they fit into the literary landscape and what the author is doing or trying to do. 

Personal essays, on the other hand, are like short stories with one, huge constraint: they have to be about real events. But there’s still the need for scenes and characters and thinking about structure and pacing. For me, they’re harder only in the sense that they require an extra step of trying to work through what has actually happened to me; having to process and think about the meaning of my own life; trying to organize events with no organizing intelligence behind them. And that can be a slow and emotional and laborious process. 

The Horror Librarian: I’m a big fan of podcasts and your short story “Descent” was a featured podcast for Nightmare Magazine. As such, your stories are very lyrical. Can you talk a little about the journey to finding/developing your voice?

Carmen Machado: I think I first began to really feel my way into my voice when I started reading my stories out loud. I catch stutters or roughness in my prose when my literal voice (the one coming out of my mouth) has difficulty with the sentence. I never submit a piece of writing without having read it out loud a dozen times, or more. 

The Horror Librarian: What is your favorite part of the writing life? Least favorite?

Carmen Machado: I take great pleasure in writing. I’m not one of those people who grits their teeth and bears it; I find it to be one of the most rewarding, invigorating parts of my existence. Which is not to say that I don’t get stuck or frustrated or find myself running in circles. (Those are definitely my least favorite parts of being a writer.) But knowing that I’m in the process of creating something interesting is the best feeling in the world. 

The Horror Librarian: What are you working on right now?

Carmen Machado: I’m working on a few short stories, a couple of essays, a book-length nonfiction work, and a novel-in-progress. I’m always busy! 

The Horror Librarian: List 5 things that are on your writing desk right now.

Carmen Machado: A vintage robot wind-up toy (a gift from a former teacher), a St. Octavia Butler candle, a fishbowl full of words, an empty Virginia Woolf coffee mug, and a fake skeleton foot—the right foot, not the left. 

The Horror Librarian: Thanks, Carmen!  Readers, be sure to keep coming back each week this month for our special feature Gamut authors.

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