“Endlessly inquisitive and wider in scope than length, the novella proves a worthy addition to the canon of messy, strange, and keen women. Genre-bending, hard to categorize, and teeming with life.” —Kirkus Review
What is your novella about?
Still Life with Meredith (Outpost19, 2020) is about a museum worker—she’s actually an animal wrangler, like the ones that work on movie sets—who’s waiting for her roommate, a globe-trotting artist, to return home. In the meantime, she’s taken social distancing to a really epic level. She’s hashing over her relationship with Meredith, and with various lovers, while discoursing on art and animals and the French psychoanalyst Marie Bonaparte, who had some peculiar ideas about female sexuality.
What were your book launch plans pre-Covid?
We were going to launch at Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Rachel Cline, whose excellent novel The Question Authority I think dovetails nicely with some of the concerns of my own book, was going to moderate the Q&A, and Aaron Zimmerman, founder of the NY Writers Coalition and one of my favorite people ever, was going to introduce.
Where were you when you heard your book launch was cancelled?
I must have been home, right? I got an email from Eventbrite notifying me that another reading at Greenlight I’d RSVP’d for, the week before mine, had been cancelled. It was for The Mountains Sing, Nguyen Phan Que Mai’s first novel in English—which is terrific, by the way. She lives in Indonesia, and I had had the pleasure of being her editor on a previous book, for kids. I was really looking forward to meeting her in person! And then I went to Facebook and saw that all the April readings had been cancelled.
Are you and your publisher doing anything special/different to promote your novel?
I’m very happy that Greenlight moved my book launch to Zoom, and Rachel and Aaron joined me! It’s been so heartening to see all the amazing virtual initiatives that have sprouted up in such a short time.
Can you tell us bit about the path to writing and selling your book?
I began writing this book a long time ago, and then put it aside to write a novel. I was fortunate to get a residency at 33 Officina Creativa in Toffia, a village in central Italy, and stuffed a manila envelope of drafts and old note pads in my luggage, along with some other possible projects. I really didn’t think it had much potential until I sat there, reading it at my desk overlooking those medieval streets, against a din of barking dogs echoing against the stone walls. And that became my project, and the barking dogs worked their way into the book. I sold the book on my own, and I’m very happy that Outpost19, a small press in San Francisco that takes a lot of chances, is putting it out.
Do you have any quirky writing rituals?
Does washing my hands for twenty seconds count? I’m unfortunately very ordinary. I write best in the morning, when my head is clear. I use a lot of index cards, taped to the wall if possible. For our open studio at Toffia I taped them up along with pictures of people and paintings and other preoccupations of the narrator, connected with string like a serial-killer wall.
What was the hardest cut you made from your book, your favorite Dead Darling?
There were so many! Two of the narrator’s old boyfriends ended up on the cutting-room floor, and those cuts really helped bring the book into focus. But I do hope those characters will reappear somewhere else someday.
Where can we buy your novella?
You can order Still Life with Meredith from all the usual places and directly through my publisher, but please, if you can, support Greenlight and other independent bookstores, which are really taking a hit right now. Links: