Well, I wrote an essay about publishing two books in one year that covers a lot of ground.
An Untamed State, my novel, is about Mireille Duval Jameson, a Haitian American woman visiting Port au Prince with her American husband and infant son. They are on the way to the beach when she is kidnapped in broad daylight and held for thirteen days because her father is reluctant to pay the ransom for fear that he will lose everything he has worked so hard to accomplish. The novel explores her life before, during, and after the kidnapping as well as how she reconciles the country she thought she knew with the country she discovers upon her kidnapping. This is also about how she comes to terms with her father’s betrayal and how she tries to find her way back to herself.
In Bad Feminist, I assembled a number of my essays on feminism, race, gender, sexuality and their intersections with popular culture. I see the book as part of a conversation, one I hope that encourages more nuance and empathy.
Why do you have so many opinions?
I woke up like this. I was born this way.
There are shifts in point of view, throughout An Untamed State, between first and third person. Why did you make that choice?
When working with my editor, Amy Hundley, she mentioned how at times, the novel felt claustrophobic because the story was, at the time, told entirely from Mireille’s point of view. I was certainly going for that sense of inescapability but as we talked, I realized Amy was right, we needed to let the story breathe. We needed to have other perspectives on what was happening to Mireille during and after the kidnapping.
Was this a difficult book to write?
It was a necessary book to write.
What is book tour like?
Expensive but a whole lot of fun. I signed a woman’s breast.
What’s in your “To Read” pile right now?
Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique, Chasing the Sun by Natalie Sylvester, The Bees by Laline Paul, Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little, Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, A Different Bed Every Time by Jac Jemc, Love & Treasure by Ayelet Waldman,Thunderstruck by Elizabeth McCracken, Motherland, Fatherland and Homosexuals by Patricia Lockwood, and The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami.
Did you copy and paste that answer?
Yes but the answer is also true.
How are you so prolific? Are you asked this question often?
I am asked this question about 137 times a week. I don’t sleep much. I live in the middle of nowhere. I am wracked with intense feelings of inadequacy and ambition. I also find this question kind of stressful. It makes me feel self-conscious.
Let’s talk Scrabble strategy. How is competitive Scrabble like word chess?
You have to consider not only your tiles, but what your opponent has and what’s left in the bag. You have to think about placement and potential openings you’re leaving. It’s very intense and complicated and I love it.
What other board games do you enjoy?
Monopoly, Phase 10, UNO, Scattergories, Trivial Pursuit.
What’s the deal with you and Twitter?
I love the feeling of many, wildly different conversations always taking place. I find a sense of community there. Twitter has felt very welcoming to me and as a shy person, I truly appreciate that.
Why is writing advice so often terrible?
A lot of people give advice based on their unique and singular experiences as if they can somehow draw universal wisdom from that. I suspect there is also an element of sabotage involved.
Are you working on anything new?
Time Magazine said, “Let this be the year of Roxane Gay” in their review. How did that make you feel?
First, I tinkled on myself. Then my ego exploded and I am still cleaning up the mess.
What movies do you watch when they come on, despite how many times you have seen them?
Pretty Woman, Armageddon, Deep Impact, Kalifornia.
Is there a common thread between those movies?
Disaster is beautiful?
Where did we start?
From the bottom.
Where are we now?
Who is with us?
The whole team.
Who do those last three questions go out to?
The one I love.
ROXANE GAY’s writing has appeared in Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, Virginia Quarterly Review, NOON, The New York Times Book Review, The Rumpus, Salon, and many others. Her first book, Ayiti, was a collection of poetry and short stories. AN UNTAMED STATE is her debut novel, and her essay collection BAD FEMINIST is due in August. She is the coeditor of PANK and she teaches writing at Eastern Illinois University.