Last week we introduced Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado as our latest Phenomenal Book Club Highlight. We spoke with Carmen to get a closer look into her writing process, influences, and what's next!
How did you come up with the title for this collection?
Often, a short story collection will be named for a single story in the collection whose title embodies the collection's themes. I sat down and began mixing and matching individual words from different titles. So Real Women Have Bodies and Difficult at Parties became Her Body and Other Parties. The rest is history.
Can you talk about the selection process and how you decided to order each story?
My graduate school thesis is also called Her Body and Other Parties, but only includes three stories that also exist in the final book. When I graduated I went through and cut every story I didn't absolutely love. The three that remained seemed to speak to each other in a particular way. After that, whenever I wrote a story that also spoke to those ideas, I added it to the book until it was done.
Can you give us a little window into your writing process?
I tend to start with ideas, concepts, or a type of story i'm interested in writing. ("Haunted house" or "demonic possession" or "road trip" or "what if this thing were true?") I rarely write from characters. I also sometimes find specific images very provocative, or a fragment of a sentence that washes up in my brain.
What books are on your nightstand right now?
Gretchen Felker-Martin's Manhunt and James Salter's A Sport and a Pastime.
We're so excited for your new collection of short stories, "A Brief and Fearful Star", coming out next year–anything you can share with our readers about that project?
Well, I can tell you that the book originated from a challenge I gave myself–to write historical fiction for which I had to do real research. I was really afraid! It's quite far outside of my comfort zone. But it's been very rewarding to write. I can't wait to share it with the world.