In Which I Tout My (Sad) Claim to Fame and Repeat ‘Fierce” Several Times

David Cotrone, Editor, Used Furniture Review runs an excellent and intelligent interview series that, to name a few, includes Rick Moody; Tom Grimes; Ryan Scott Oliver; Amelia Gray; Dani Shapiro; Kristen Hersh; Kyle Minor; Michael Kimball; Lidia Yuknavitch; and most recently Ben Marcus.

I’m honored to have my interview go live today at Used Furniture Review. David asked interesting, thoughtful questions and I tried to respond in kind. I like this interview. A lot. I’m only sorry I didn’t include cool photos like Ben Marcus.

This morning, I read and enjoyed a great number of the interviews in the series. Here’s an easy link to the entertainment and the wisdom. No doubt my interview would be vastly better if I’d read these interviews before I submitted my own. But maybe that’s what I most like about my interview here: I discovered I have more and more to say about writing and the writing life. My voice is getting louder, stronger, and more confident. I’m aiming, though, for fierce.

There’s a humility and honesty to Tom Grimes’ interview that I found especially moving. There are also his excellent insights and advice. Tom, I hope your literary heart is beating again, wildly.

Here’s a brief excerpt from his interview’s close:

“Write. Don’t worry about ‘making it.’ The literary life is irrational. I know a writer whose book was turned down by more than a dozen publishers. Then a small press published it, sold the book rights to nine countries, and a large New York house that had originally turned down the book published it in paperback. In 2010, novels by tiny independent presses won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.”

Another favorite in the series is from Amelia Gray. Last year, I met Amelia Gray here in San Francisco and heard her read. She glows on and off the stage and her work is brilliant. Yes, I like all things Amelia Gray. She quotes John Berryman: “We must travel in the direction of our fear.” She’s also hysterical. Read her interview. Read everything of hers you can.

The series also introduced me to musician and writer Kristen Hersh and I read fascinated about her music career, her memoir Rat Girl, and her struggles with bipolar disorder. She reads as funny, quirky, compassionate and straight-in-your eyes honest. Mostly, though, she reads as fierce. (She has an intriguing take on reading fiction!) Here are a couple of her responses:

“I didn’t consider writing the book to be “art” until it took on a life of its own. When I realized I was doing what IT wanted me to do rather than what I thought was “best” (least embarrassing). Of course, any work is better when you let it boss you around. Art, like a lot of things, is smarter than people.”

AND

“Don’t lie. Don’t show off. Don’t express your “self.” Just be quiet and listen. Become unselfconscious by imagining you work in a vacuum, that no one will ever hear your song or read your book; it will keep artifice out of your work.”

Again, a wonderful interview series that’s well worth your time and interest. Thanks again, David Cotrone, for your commitment to writers and excellence.

Here’s an excerpt from our conversation, if anyone is still reading:

UFR: There’s clearly a long, amazing history of Irish literature, and Irish-American literature too. Do you consider yourself to be part of that tradition? If so, why? If not, why not?

Rohan: Honestly, as an emigrant, I often feel caught between cultures. The Irish no longer consider me truly theirs and Americans don’t consider me red white and blue. It’s who I consider myself to be that matters, though, and I believe myself to be this very fortunate hybrid of both cultures. When I write, I tap into something very deep inside myself and at that core I’m Irish. Maybe it’s that I write from my beginnings, my anam. I’m fierce in my celebration of Irish and Irish-American literature, both its legacy and its contemporary largesse, but I can’t think about that staggering treasure trove when I write—it would be paralyzing.

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2 Responses to In Which I Tout My (Sad) Claim to Fame and Repeat ‘Fierce” Several Times

  1. tanita says:

    The longer I write, the more fierce shows itself on the horizon.
    Eventually we will get there.

    I love what your last rejection said; I recently received one which said the prose was too studied. I’m not even sure what to do with that…

    Thanks for the links to the other interviews – I admire people who continue to work in literary fiction – I’m intimidated in some ways by the clarity and honesty, and by the audience! Some good stuff, there.

  2. Ethel Rohan says:

    Tanita, thank you, faithful friend.

    I’ve asked myself a lot of late what exactly is ‘literary fiction.’ I think of it largely as narrative that is traditional, lyrical, character-driven, and honest. In which case you shouldn’t feel intimidated–your work is literary fiction!