What’s changed for you since Daddy’s came out in September 2010?
I wrote another book and a half! I got an agent, Jim Rutman, who helped me find a home, FSG, for those books. I grew my hair out. I cut my hair. I grew it out. I got new glasses. I got another dog, Wanda Lee ChocChoc. I bought a house! My beloved soulmate and dog, Lulu, died of cancer. I had a son, Parker, who turns six months old on July 1.
It’s the best, most gratifying, exploding, terrifying, cacophonous sunburst of a job. You’re looking at this beautiful human being (the word “beautiful” finally makes sense) doing his all to figure the world out, this human being who happened to live inside you for ten months, here he is, what do you do? What do you DO? My dad told me we parents are only as good as what we do to better the lives of our offspring, and I think about that a lot. Having Parker calls up all the ugly in me I want to overcome. I want to overcome it so he can be free to just be the little man he is without worrying about his feral momma in the basement. Ugly as I am, he lights up when he sees me. And hopefully it’s because he sees the light he creates in me.
How has having him affected your work?
Well, first off, it’s really winnowed down any time I have for writing. Mainly because I’m working full-time, and any time I have away from that I want to spend with him, so that doesn’t generally translate to writing. I have to be a lot more strategic about scheduling time to write ahead of time. That said, I’ve noticed that, surprise, it’s still in me, this urge to write! I still need it to feel whole. I think, even though it’s 2013 and we’ve said all this stuff over and over, it’s still a little awkward and maybe even controversial to say aloud: having a child is not enough to make me feel whole. It’s an integral part of my life, and a necessary one for me personally, but there are other parts I still need. Taking care of those other parts makes me an even better mom, I think. Another surprise: Parker makes me want to be even better at what I do. I want him to be proud of his old mom.
At what point will you be comfortable with Parker reading your stuff?
I’m of two minds. One: yikes. Who wants to read a story his mom wrote that has anything to do with sex? No one, that’s who. Two: go for it, P-man! One of the things I’ve always been grateful for in my own life is that eventually, through a series of events, I came to see my parents as people, not just bland entities known as Mom and Dad. I think it helped me be less selfish of a daughter, seeing them that way, and it helped me cut them a lot of slack, roughly the same amount of slack I’d cut a friend. We’re humans! And we’re fallible! So if reading my work helps Parker see that I have this whole inner life both apart from and a part of my life with him, then I’m all for it. And if he gets a kick out of anything I wrote, then I can die happy.
You’re pretty proud of Don’t Kiss Me. Why?
There are so many stories in this collection I’m excited for people to read. So many I’m proud to have written. It feels like a maturation and a homecoming.
Where was your first kiss?
On the mouth.
I was 14, I think, and I was at the beach with my friend Sally and her family. Sally was determined to get me kissed, as I’d never been Frenched, and we both agreed there was nothing worse. (It should also be noted that I had braces and a mean, purpley sunburn, a result of Sally informing me I was not to return to the condo until I had a suntan.) So there we were sitting on the beach as the sun set, and along came two men, probably in their very early 20s, one thin and one lumpy-bodied. Sally hailed them like a taxi, asked if they’d be interested in playing spin-the-bottle with us. Yep, they were interested. We walked with them back to their motel room, spun the bottle a couple of times, just long enough for us to pair off (Sally with the thin and I with the lump). Frenching my half of this faceless pair felt thrilling, his tongue was like a drenched slug, but it was a body part belonging to someone else’s body thrashing around in my mouth! Eventually Sally and her half went outside and I ended up prone, the lump moving above me in what I now know was a dry hump, and I told him I needed to go ask Sally something, my way of getting away from him, getting away from the vibrations of eagerness that shuddered off of him. Sally and I walked back to the condo. I felt triumphant, and scared of this new knowledge.
You like writing short stories more than you like working on your novel, but you like reading novels more than you like reading short stories. Why?
Because I’m an asshole?