Photo credit: Jay Grabiec
Describe your latest book.
is a memoir of a body. Throughout the book I look at the history of my body, from when I was assaulted at 12 years old to the here and now. In particular, I look at how I gained weight and then kept gaining weight, first to protect myself, and then because being big became comfortable. I also explore what it means to be fat in a world that is aggressively inhospitable to fat, unruly bodies.
What was your favorite book as a child?
The Little House on the Prairie
series, all of them. Also, the Sweet Valley High
books, all of them.
When did you know you were a writer?
I’ve been writing since I was four years old, and when I was a bit older my parents gave me my first typewriter. I knew then that I was a writer and that in my heart of hearts, I wanted to be a writer for my whole life.
What does your writing workspace look like?
I don’t really have a dedicated writing space. I do most of my writing in my living room, on my sexy leather couch facing the television. I use a laptop, mostly a MacBook Air, which is the perfect laptop and it is distressing that Apple seems to be phasing it out. The television is on, and I am probably watching Law and Order: SVU
or Criminal Minds
because procedural dramas are a reliable thing to write to.
What do you care about more than most people around you?
Reality television, and especially Bravo’s offerings like Vanderpump Rules
, Below Deck
, all their off-brand stuff, though I do also enjoy the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills
Share an interesting experience you've had with one of your readers.
This one time, I got to interview Madonna because she read and enjoyed Bad Feminist
. That is pretty much a career highlight. Her house smelled delicious and she had black wood floors and the largest rug I’ve ever seen. Also, there was wine, excellent red wine.
In truth, most of my experiences with readers at the various events I do are interesting. It is still something of a marvel that so many people are drawn to my work and are so enthusiastic at my events. I love when I get to meet readers in the signing lines, and we have these all-too-brief-but-charming interactions. There is a lot of flirtation that makes me blush, and of course I flirt back, within reason, as I am not available.
Tell us something you're embarrassed to admit.
I am too embarrassed to tell you what I am embarrassed to admit. This is a conundrum.
Introduce one other author you think people should read, and suggest a good book with which to start.
I love the writing of Casey Hannan
who is also an artist! It’s incredible to me that he is so very talented in two genres. Even his blog is glorious. Each post is the loveliest, most delicate essay. I always find myself holding my breath when I read his work because I am just so taken by his words. Start with his novella, The Three Woes
Besides your personal library, do you have any beloved collections?
I collect Monopoly sets from around the world.
What's the strangest or most interesting job you've ever had?
The most interesting job is the one I have now — writing and teaching. I don’t mean that in a trite way. I genuinely love what I do. My students always surprise me with the risks they are willing to take in their work, and they keep me on top of my game.
Have you ever made a literary pilgrimage?
No, but I have made a Vanderpump Rules–
related pilgrimage to West Hollywood.
What scares you the most as a writer?
The thought of losing the joy of writing terrifies me. I’m a writer who actually enjoys facing the blank page, and I hope I never lose the pleasure that rises from the act of writing.
If someone were to write your biography, what would be the title and subtitle?
Bad Everything: She Spelled Her Name With One N.
Offer a favorite sentence or passage from another writer.
Guilt thick as tar bubbles in his gut, and suddenly he’s nineteen again and it’s summer, and he’s with Marissa in her parents’ back yard. They stretch out by the kiddie pool, beers warming in their hands and in the sun, while Angel plays with a plastic dinosaur. They’re talking about Marissa’s older sister’s new trailer — two bedrooms, full bath, cream carpet — and Marissa says she wouldn’t mind a trailer, they could get a trailer, used at first, and beside them Angel splashes, a blade of grass stuck to her chest. Amadeo says, “You won’t catch me living in no trailer. Besides, they just lose value,” and Marissa says, stubbing out her cigarette emphatically in the grass, “It’s not that I wouldn’t rather have a house, but when? And we gotta be saving if we ever want to have a place of our own — are you even saving anything?” This is when the fight starts, escalates. Amadeo accuses Marissa of getting pregnant just so he’ll have to take care of her, and he calls her dirty, dirty whore. (She isn’t, he knows that, hasn’t done any more than he has, but ever since she had sex with him he can’t look at her the same way.) Then they’re both on their feet, and he slaps her, hard across the upper arm, which is bare and exposed in her sleeveless shirt. Marissa staggers back, reaches behind her into air to steady herself, finds no hold, falls.
Amadeo looks at his hitting hand, horrified. But if he were honest he might admit that even as he moved to hit her he knew he could stop himself and knew he was going to do it regardless. The real surprise is the shock on her face, proof that he can act on the world.
From “The Five Wounds” by Kirstin Valdez Quade
Share a sentence of your own that you're particularly proud of.
“I am not easy to love but I am well loved. I try to love well in return.”
(An Untamed State
Describe a recurring or particularly memorable dream or nightmare.
Hearing about other people’s dreams is generally very boring, so I will spare you that.
What's your biggest grammatical pet peeve?
I am going to share a vocabulary-related pet peeve — when people confuse concrete with cement. The word cement is used in place of concrete about 85% of the time and it is WRONG. Cement is used to make concrete. It binds particulates. I am literally getting riled up typing this. THE WORD YOU ARE LOOKING FOR IS CONCRETE.
An engineer’s daughter
Do you have any phobias?
I hate bugs and spiders and most animals, really, and this hatred generally originates in fear.
Name a guilty pleasure you partake in regularly.
I don’t feel particularly guilty about it, but I do love celebrity gossip blogs and magazines. I also hate-watch Tiny House Hunters
on HGTV. There is catharsis in judging people who want to live in shoe boxes.
What's the best advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I’ve received is to just be myself. I know that sounds cheesy, but my friend M. Bartley Seigel
offered it to me when I was about to go on the academic job market. He said, "Who do you want to be for the rest of your professional life — yourself or the person you pretend to be on the interview?" And he was right! It is so exhausting to put on airs, so from that day on I have tried to just be myself, for better or worse, in all situations.
Write a question of your own, and answer it.
Is Beyoncé God, all powerful and mighty? Yes.
The top five books I would take with me if I were a doomsday prepper bugging out:
1. Normally Special
(and every other thing she has written)
2. A Little Life
by Hanya Yanagihara
3. Mule and Pear
by Rachel Eliza Griffiths
4. The Age of Innocence
by Edith Wharton
5. The Known World
by Edward P. Jones
÷ ÷ ÷
is the author of the essay collection Bad Feminist
, which was a New York Times
bestseller; the novel An Untamed State
, a finalist for the Dayton Peace Prize; and the short story collections Difficult Women
. Her new memoir is Hunger
. She lives in Lafayette, Indiana, and sometimes Los Angeles.