I met Annie Liontas last year in Lisbon, where we both attended the Disquiet Literary program, which I can highly recommend, and where she read an excerpt from the mentioned novel Let me explain you, which I read and reviewed here on my blog. That excerpt was so good, that I could not wait to have the real thing in hands. And it was not disappointing either. Great book! Highly recommended!
I also love her answers. They are inspiring and make me sit down and read and write and think about, what she said. What else could you possibly want from an interview?
|(c) Sara Nordstrom|
It kind of came in a flash. I was at a crossroads--out of work, struggling with some health issues, not in a great place in my relationship, living with family, having no idea how I was supposed to be adulting--and I suddenly got this vision of a patriarch who believes he's going to die. I knew he wanted to impose his worldview on his daughters, but I had very little else. Because the concept came first, it took me a long time to get to know Stavros, to understand what drives him and how he suffers, and because he takes up so much oxygen, it took me an even longer time to give the daughters life. But your characters teach you something when you write them, which is the greatest blessing of the craft.
2. Where do you normally write and do you have a, say: daily or so writing routine?
I used to write at night, between the peak hours of 9PM and 2AM, when my third eye opens and I can do more exploratory, imaginative work. That’s tough with a day-job, of course, so I’m adjusting. Sometimes I map my work on large sheets and hang them on my walls, and sometimes I write on post-its. Every time I think I have my process down, I realize it’s changing—perhaps as it should—and I have to try to find another way to trick myself to get the words on the page.
3. Do you have rituals, without which you can 't get started or which feed your creativity?
I need a square table or desk, a half-caff macchiato, and a song on repeat. At the moment, it's The Weeknd's "Acquainted."
I’ve been documenting my process for a few years now, as a result, and I’ve come to realize that I’m a cyclical writer. I had grown so frustrated with myself for not writing every day, but I'm not sure that's how we work--I'm not sure, specifically, that's how women work.
In my early twenties I sought out confirmation of writerly rituals (there's a tremendous catalogue of them noted by the writer Ralph Keyes). I think, in part, that was to reframe my own quirks as not being simple indulgences, but I was also--without realizing--trying to understand how I work. Like most young writers, I didn't even know there was a "way" to work, I thought inspiration just struck and you were lucky when it did. Now I know that the rituals are part of the way you get yourself ready for the difficult and often defeating work of creation.
4. What are you reading right now?
I'm revisiting Gabriel Garcia Marquez' Chronicle of a Death Foretold--and doing a lot of diagramming--in preparation for what *might be* my next project. I'm too superstitious (read: scared) to say much more.
Also a biography of Marquez, a collection by Kirsten Valdez Quade, a novel by Ishiguro, some fiction by Yiyun Li, and never too far from my nightstand is Baldwin. I was hoping to get through all of Baldwin this year, but I quickly realized that it is best to sink into him.
5.Which book are books have changed your life?
So many. That must be every writer's answer. I remember reading Marquez' Love in the Time of Cholera and weeping on a dock, not because it was heartbreaking but because it was like watching life being shaped from clay. Angela Carter blew my mind in that way that you think "Somebody has been here before me and she has already done everything I was planning on doing." Baldwin's If Beale Street Could Talk is always in my head, as is Why the Child is Cooking in the Polenta by the Romanian writer Aglaja Veteranyi. I am indebted in many ways to Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex. Babel, of course, who I think about all the time but am almost afraid to return to, he is that untouchable.
6. Which person from the past, present or future would you love to meet?
Marquez. Maybe that's because we're talking writers and Marquez to begin with. Or maybe I am being nostalgic, since he died recently, and since he suffered from dementia. But I love how politically engaged he was, how playful and mischievous, how passionate, and how he brought together so many worlds in his work.
7. What is your greatest hope?
No one goes hungry.
I mean that on a literal and biological level, but I think I mean it in all its connotations, too. You can hunger for opportunity and voice with the same intensity you might hunger for nourishment.
8. If you were absolutely free, where would you love to live?
Oh, tough one. I have this sense of writerly wanderlust that lives in the body--that is, I think writers (maybe all people) feel sometimes too confined to a single life, to a single human experience. Basically, I'd love to live everywhere.
To answer your question, though--
I could say Greece, of course. I've been to places in Mexico that I dream of returning to. I'd love to see Turkey. I've never been to India other than through literature, and I might blame Salman Rushdie for this, but India probably calls to me most. Perhaps I'd live in Jaipur for a bit, specifically.
9. You write because....?
I have to.
Nature made me into a pack animal, so in some ways it's antithetical to my composition to toil away at something so crumbly in isolation. I'm a big believer in community and interdependence, but I also know that writing is how I connect to life and the world and people. It is, for me, a visceral experience, a spiritual experience, and a way of understanding what it means to be alive and fallible.
10. What do you really like about yourself?
I try to take people on their own terms, acknowledging their limitations and the forces that have conspired to bring them to this point. That doesn't mean they get a free pass, but it does mean I want to--and can, when I'm at my best--hear what they have to say.
It's a good thing to apply to characters as well as people.