Carmen Maria Machado is a fiction writer, critic, and essayist whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in The New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, Guernica, Electric Literature, The Paris Review, AGNI, and elsewhere.
The Husband Stitch is one among her many notable works. Her forthcoming short story collection – ‘Her Body and Other Parties’ will be released in October 2017.
We are thrilled to publish this interview with her. The questions were put together by a bunch of student writers.
- I want to write more. I wish I could write everyday but sometimes I find that I’m just not able to. Do you often feel like not writing? What do you do then?
Not every writer writes every day! Every writer has their own habits, speed, etc. I tend to write in intermittent bursts, and in between those bursts–when I don’t feel like writing, or I don’t have time–I’m reading a lot and taking notes for essays and stories.
- Do you sometimes find it hard to continue writing after you’ve heard something unpleasant about your writing? How do you deal with it?
I used to, but I don’t anymore. Eventually you learn to let that stuff roll off you. You just have to remember that you don’t–and you can’t–write for everyone. Some people won’t like your work, and that’s fine. Write for yourself.
- What is your writing routine like? Sorry. A lot of students (actually me) would love to hear this.
My routine is inconstant and changeable; I write when the spirit moves me, and read when it doesn’t. That’s not how everyone does it, but it works for me. (I teach, and when I’m teaching it’s harder to write.)
- How did the MFA in Creative Writing help you?
Because it connected me a writing community and gave me two funded years to focus on my work. I can’t imagine my writing would be where it is without it.
- Have you ever gone off reading? What did you do to get back to it? Do you have a book that you’ve read over and over again? Which one?
I sometimes “go off” reading when I’m very busy, but I can always tell–my brain feels thirsty, and my work improves when I return to reading. There are definitely books I read over and over again–the work of Shirley Jackson, Kelly Link, and George Saunders, for example.
- How important is it to begin early – for writing and reading, I mean?
Early in one’s life? I think it’s pretty common for writers to be voracious readers/writers as young people, but I don’t think it’s exclusively that way, or necessary. Some people come to it later. There are a lot of famous writers who started writing later in life. A love of reading is critical, though.
- After “The Husband Stitch,” were you more irritated or excited by the possibility that people would have more questions about the story?
I love answering questions about my work! It always excites me that people are engaging with a thing I created.
- How much time do you spend on your male characters?
I spend roughly the amount of time with my characters as is proportionate to their significance to the story. But there aren’t a lot of men in my stories, so by extension, not very much.
- When I read “The Husband Stitch” and get to the part where you say – “If you are reading this story out loud, move aside the curtain to illustrate this final point to your listeners. It’ll be raining, I promise.” – I look out the window all the time and even if it isn’t raining, it is just as good as rain. I have never been prompted by a writer to look out the window to see if it’s raining before and I think it’s great. Can you tell us about the time you spent writing The Husband Stitch? The process and everything.
People really love that line! I get emails about it all the time.
I wrote the story in several stages: first, I decided to try my hand at retelling the “girl-with-the-ribbon-around-her-neck” story. Then I combined it with an idea I’d had about a sexually voracious 1950s-era housewife. That draft was interesting, but was really lacking something. I decided to return to a book of urban legends, to examine what they tell us about ourselves. I added the storytelling elements and stage directions. The story was done in about six months.
- What do you dream of when you are sleeping?
I have a reoccurring dream where a natural disaster is bearing down on me–like a flood, or a tidal wave, or a tornado–and I’m trying to gather my possessions into a bag so I can leave. But I keep finding things I want to take, and I know the disaster is coming, but I keep finding one more thing, one more thing, one more thing…
Featured Image via Art Hound
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