Issue 23 Interviews
from its inspiration to its final arrival in the hands of the reader, writing undergoes a lengthy and complex process, and one that is too often overlooked. Each issue, Front Porch sits down with people who are engaged daily with the processes and industries of writing, be it by running community workshops, buying books at a used bookstore, organizing translations, and much more. These interviews seek to examine the many forces that shape literature, and to highlight the perceptive and passionate people to whom we owe the books on our shelves.
Front Porch: Can you talk about the subject of your new book, TINA? From the epigraphs, it seems that Tina is more of a psychic automaton—a machine built in your mind for a certain function—rather than an actual person.
Peter Davis: Well, this is the way I imagine it. To me Tina is, essentially, what other people might call the muse. I would never say muse though because I don’t believe in a sort of pseudo-mystical inspirational source. I would say, Tina. Having said that, Tina is not necessarily somebody you want to have on your back. She demands you spend each night in your basement (even when it’s cold) writing and thinking and drinking. And to what end? So you might be frequently, tacitly and overtly, rejected by society, by your friends and family, not to mention literary journals? She makes day to day living difficult because she forces you to constantly compare your own efforts with all of the phenomenal efforts of the past, imagined or real.
Front Porch: Can you talk a little about the creation of Town of Shadows?
Lindsay Stern: About five years ago, on a visit to Northampton, Massachusetts, I noticed a little shop off the thoroughfare whose awning read, “The Rug Doctor.” That afternoon I jotted down a few notes of what became the spine of ToS—the story of Pierre, a rug doctor who loses his shadow. A few months later, I discovered Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio one afternoon at the library, and was so taken with its architecture that I returned to writing fiction (before ToS, I had written mostly poetry). In the vein of “The Rug Doctor,” I assembled about thirty vignettes about a nameless town and its inhabitants, whose mayor declares war on various forms of expression. He banishes artists, then vowels, and finally English itself, declaring mathematics the national dialect. Finally, I wove the vignettes together with the writings of Pierre, including an autobiography, a lexicon, and a book of experiments. I’d returned to Northampton by that point, and found no trace of the shop. Eerie, considering what happens to Pierre.
Front Porch: There’s an Amelia Grey, Grey with an “E,” that writes romance novels. Is this secretly you?
Amelia Gray: [Laughs] I wish. She’s so prolific. She does a lot more than I do. I tried to interview her once but she was in the middle of promoting A Duke to Die For so we had to put it on hold.
Front Porch: You graduated from Harvard’s Divinity School. Faith and religious images are a large part of Deposition. In what ways does faith affect your writing?
Katie Ford: Religious imagery and religious metaphors, for better and for worse, saturate my thinking, so they very naturally become part of my writing. I wrote Deposition while I was in divinity school, so some of my studies informed it, but it was actually my strongly negative experience with a conservative Christianity in early adolescence that compelled and necessitated the frantic examination of faith in my first book. If we think of faith more generally as an orientation towards mystery, towards what we cannot know, then I hope it continues to always influence my poems.