I would like to thank Tracy for answering my questions. Find out more about her writing on her website.
Are there any authors who influence your style of writing?
Every author I read influences me in some way. Over the years I have been enchanted by Balzac, Nabokov, Garcia Marquez and Matute, corrupted by Tom Robbins, Richard Brautigan, Robert Pirsig and Andy Warhol (yes, his writing; not just his hair!), inspired by Cathy Colman, Aimee Bender, Mary Otis, Janet Fitch and Francesca Lia Block.
Which do you like writing/reading better: short stories or novels?
Short stories and novels are quite different animals, as are the experiences of reading and writing. Short stories are cats. You can sit with them on your lap for a while, have a satisfying experience and then poof! They’re gone, and you’re left with the sensation of being slightly used and you’ve got fuzzballs on your pants.
Novels have more of a canine bent. They’re needy. They want you to play with them, feed them, walk them, sleep with them. They stare into your eyes, pretending to reach into your soul. You think you can train them but they maintain a certain wildness at heart. They can keep you at the end of a leash for years. I love being used by cats and then putting them back on the book pile or sending them off into the world. I have an uneasy love/hate thing with dogs, in that there’s a satisfying, long-term trajectory to the relationship but damn! is it a commitment.
What do you think is the best quality a short story collection can have?
A good collection should be like someone you meet at a party. You enter a special bubble that is fuzzy around the edges and the dialogue is glittery or maybe slurred but definitely something you’ve not heard before. And they have a horrible backstory they need to tell you because you just happen to be there and it might be inappropriate but you’re all ears and there’s no way you’re going to go home with them because they’re probably insane but it’s great listening to someone else’s insanity.
Have you ever been told to write more seriously?
If by seriously you mean with less humor, I don’t know that I’d be interested in that. If you mean more traditionally, I don’t know how. If you mean more mainstreamly, ditto. If you mean about more serious topics, I’ve never been to war so I can’t write about it. But the topics I do write about are serious: death, marriage, childhood trauma. I write about the topics that flash in my night, about things I see behind me, and around or in front of me. I guess the real answer is no, no one has ever suggested I write more seriously or differently than the way that I do, although a therapist once suggested I try genre-based fiction, but that was just because she thought it might make me some money.
Are any of the stories in Troglodyte are inspired by your own life?
Every story has a little bit of inspiration from my own life. Usually there’s a kernel or a seed of my own experience that feeds the narrative. Two of them are pretty much true, but they aren’t the ones you might think. Well, actually, they might be fairly obvious.
What is your fascination with fecal matter, which appears in a few of your stories?
I could blame my characters for being poop-obsessed, but that feels like a cop-out answer. A teacher once told me to write about the obsessions of your dreams, to dig into the soup of the subconscious. For many years my dreams have revolved about looking for a place to relieve myself. So, in addition to being nice and taboo, something which always attracts me, I find defecation symbolic of relief, creativity and life. If you’re not pooping, you’re not alive. When the body shuts down, the intestines are one of the first things to throw their little legs into the air and quit.
Your stories in Troglodyte are gritty and wild. Has anyone ever told you to write about more feminine topics?
All the stories in Troglodyte have a female protagonist. The narratives are concerned with growing up, running away from home, falling in love, being jealous of a best friend, having a child you don’t feel equipped to mother, issues around beauty, men, and being a daughter. Just because they’re not couched in ruffles and lace doesn’t mean they’re not feminine.