With the quickness: PN interviews Neutrino Short-Short Prize judge Lindsay Hunter
We're big Lindsay Hunter fans around the PN office. It's a fandom that began long before Hunter paid us a visit last year to read from Ugly Girls. We've been devouring her work with considerable vim since Daddy’s was released in 2010 because Hunter's writing is grab-you-by-the-beltloops, sock-knocking fun. Her stories are brash, beautiful, hilarious, and subversive. And her narrative voice is like no other. With a new novel tentatively titled Eat Only When You're Hungry forthcoming from FSG, we'll have even more of Hunter's breathtaking prose to gorge ourselves on soon.
We're thrilled to the moon and back to have Hunter on board as our judge for the Neutrino Short-Short Fiction Contest. So send us your zaniest, most innovative short-shorts, and she'll choose the winner. We can't wait to see what she picks!
Passages North: What draws you to reading short-shorts? What physical, emotional, or even spiritual response do you have to a work when you know you've read "the one?"
Lindsay Hunter: My most favorite thing is when a story ends in a way you were not expecting. Sometimes it feels immediately dissatisfying or frustrating. Sometimes I feel angry, even! But those kinds of narratives linger. I find myself trying to understand, trying to regain some kind of purchase. It forces me to revisit what held me in the story all along. Inevitably, I find myself grinning. It's like you think you're drowning and then someone tells you to stand up.
PN: The voice in your own writing (and when you give readings! Man alive, you bring the room to its knees!) is always so powerful and so singular. Any tips for writers submitting to our contest when it comes to finding and honing a particular voice?
LH: I fought my "voice" for so long! You know, you're going to read so many different things in school, and you'll convince yourself that you have to write "like that." I tried and tried to write like Alice Munro, and it was just painful. Impossible. Finally I remember being like FINE I GIVE UP and I sat down and wrote "The Fence" all in one sitting. It was almost like a f-you to myself, but I had so much fun. I loved it. It was a rush. My advice to writers searching for their voice is to follow what's fun. You like writing palindromes? Do that. You have fun with word count constraints? DO THAT. When you're having fun, you have the power, because nothing else matters but you and what you're doing.
PN: Who should we be reading right now? Are there any short-short writers or particular stories you'd like to shine a light on?
LH: John Jodzio has a new collection coming out. That guy slays. Maryse Meijer's fantastic collection Heartbreaker is about to drop and it's LEAN and MEAN. Amelia Gray, but you already knew that! The Phototropic Woman by Annabel Thomas (and then let's all go on a quest to find her). Here's a secret: about once a year I re-read "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" and try to write a story just like it.
PN: Because we're in a period where writers often draw from other media for inspiration, what are some works of art from other media that have inspired or influenced your writing (or just you and your life in general)?
LH: The movie Zodiac. The Coen Brothers. Cindy Sherman! Edward Gorey. Andrea Heimer (I promise myself I will one day buy one of her paintings, when I feel I've earned it). Bands like Pissed Jeans. Stevie Nicks (just looking at pictures of her is enough fuel for me to write for days).
PN: Passages North has a new logo now, a rocket. We're reinterpreting the concept of "north" to include altitude as well as latitude. Basically, we're really embracing the country's renewed interest in space exploration. So the question, of course, is: if the opportunity ever presents itself, would you go to Mars?
LH: Prior to having children, hell YES I'd go. I think it'd be like living inside Jeff Vandermeer's Southern Reach Trilogy--like it'd reveal the unreal inside the real. It'd literally change your DNA. But I can't stomach the idea that I'd be on a different planet than my little cherubs. However, should that be the only viable living option in my lifetime, I'd strap all my loved ones to my body and jet there WITH THE QUICKNESS.