Lucy Corin: Five Questions with a Multigenre Author

by | November 2, 2018 |

Lucy Corin is a short story writer and novelist, and she also teaches at the University of California, Davis. Her short story collections include One Hundred Apocalypses and Other Apocalypses and The Entire Predicament. Her first novel is Everyday Psychokillers: A History for Girls, and her second, Swank Hotel, will be out next year. She was an American Academy of Arts and Letters Rome Prize winner and an NEA fellow in literature. This semester she is the Visiting Blackburn Professor in the Department of English at Duke University.

1. Most writers lead busy lives, just as you do. How do you manage your writing time?

Luckily, my job as a Professor of English and Creative Writing means that doing my writing is part of what I get paid for, but I still find it very difficult to balance writing with the other parts of my job. I try to live frugally, so that I can take time away from my teaching to focus on my writing. And, honestly, I don’t get out much.

2. Your work is hard to put in a box – part postmodern fairy tale, para-extra-normal world building, experimental formatting. What is your description of your distinctive writing vision?

Yes, it is definitely hard to say what my overall vision is, because I really try never to do the same thing twice – unless I am doing it 100 times, as I did in my Apocalypse project, where I wrote tiny stories that were a huge range of ways to approach the idea of apocalypse. All my books are really different from each other, and in the story collections all the stories are really different from each other. Along with aspects you’ve mentioned, I also care very much about the musicality of language and the internal worlds of the characters I imagine. I also think of myself as a political writer, someone who wants to use fiction to upend conventional ways of thinking about things like what it means to sit at home when your country is at war, what it’s like to come of age as a girl or queer person in a culture of violence against women and queer people, what it’s like to come of age as a boy when so much of being a man has to do with owning and controlling things.

3. Who or what are you writing inspirations?

I like to read books that are just short of being too hard for me, that I know I only partly “get.’ But mostly I really believe in what Flannery O’Connor calls “the habit of art” – which I think of as walking through my daily life with a constant shadow in my consciousness that is always saying “what does this have to do with fiction, and what does this have to do with fiction.” So TV inspires me, the people around me inspire me, animals inspire me, going for walks in the woods inspires me, eating a certain soup can inspire me. I just have to cultivate it and be open to it so that I notice when it’s happening.

4, What do you want us to know about Swank Hotel, your forthcoming novel with Graywolf Press?

I am still working through final drafts with my editor, but this is how it’s described in Publisher’s Weekly: “an at times surreal novel that begins at the outset of the financial crisis and ends with the impending 2016 election, exploring the personal, societal, and even aesthetic manifestations of madness as it shapes the daily life of a woman contending with the intergenerational effects of trauma.”

Plus, some parts are funny.

5. What are you working on now?

Until Swank Hotel is signed and sealed, I’m just fantasizing and taking notes on what I want to do next. I want to write a short, fast-reading novel about people living “slowly” and I want to write more stories, probably about the frenetic aspects of living in a chaotic and frightening time with lots of gadgets trying and failing to organize and solve things for people. I keep thinking about this YouTube video of a family watching a mother bear and her cubs just go to town playing with and destroying their backyard pool and playground equipment. This video feels emblematic to me right now. I want the two projects to become companions to each other, even if they’re separate volumes in different form with very different worlds.

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This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen

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