Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Mari Reiza Pulls the Strings

In the 44th in a series of posts on 2016 books entered for The Story Prize, Mari Reiza, author of Inconceivable Tales, lists some books she wishes she'd written and reminds herself that she is a writer.

Why do you write?
There are so many reasons FOR it, I feel the question should almost be reversed: Why wouldn’t I? Writing keeps me away from spending money, ensures I remain fit and sane, and saves me on therapy. It gives me a freedom I could not find anywhere else. Above all, when I write, I pull the strings, and I can make anything happen. Please tell me any other way I can achieve that and I’m willing to give it a go.

Name something you read that made you want to be a writer.
I was captivated by poetry from when I was a child and my mother came home with Gloria Fuertes’ books. I re-read The Iliad a few years ago during a beach holiday, and I did not want to come back from where it had taken me, not even to the comfort of my sunbed. When stories have captivated me, whether it’s because the author is putting my own feelings into words so well it helps me understand them, or because he or she has made up a world so far from mine that it’s making me reconsider everything, I have always felt that I would one day write my own.

Is there a book by another author you wish you’d written?
Dirty and proud
Written On The Body (J. Winterson) because I can feel but not write love like that. Animals (E. J. Unsworth) because I’m dirty in that way and proud of it; being a good girl is overrated if you ask me. Quicksand (S. Toltz) because how can one have so many funny lines in one’s brain. A Man Lies Dreaming (L. Tidhar) because of the mastery of how to cope with pain. The Robber Bride (M. Atwood) and The Heart Broke In (J. Meek) for the wickedness of some of their characters. The Blind Assassin (Atwood again!) for the imagery. Straight White Male (J. Niven) because sometimes I really want to be a lad. The Country of Ice Cream Star (S. Newman) because it’s EPIC and she has invented a new language. Dept. Of Speculation (J. Offill) because it sometimes can feel so close to home. Happy Are the Happy (Y. Reza) because I would like to understand whether I am happy. Traveling Sprinkler (N. Baker) because it’s like talking to a mate. Idiopathy (S. Byers) because the cow scene is great. May We Be Forgiven (A. M. Homes)… those rubber gloves, blue? (Happy Thanksgiving!) The Infatuations (J. Maria) for the perfect murder… Irma Voth (M. Toews)...
Coping with pain

Where does a story begin for you?
It depends on the book. But an image or a character more than a plot or a concept. And sometimes, I must admit, I can easily get lost in great lines and beautiful language even if I don’t understand in the slightest what the hell is going on. Great! I confessed.

Describe a physical, mental, or spiritual practice that helps put you in a suitable state of mind to write.
A room with a view and a background of books. I have my writer business card taped to my table to remind myself that I AM A WRITER. One glass of wine can help first round of creation, but editing always sober.  Otherwise, I force my hand, tell her if she doesn’t write I will cut her off. I drag myself through the minefield that’s my schedule as if I was carrying a military operation. Mean sergeant of myself, I am.

What do you do when you get stuck?
Get out of the room into the terrace and scream. Sometimes it’s not enough and I need to call it a day. Sometimes my brain does not work or life has upset me too much and there is nothing I can do but say, "Basta! Until tomorrow."

How do you know when a story you’re in the process of writing is or isn’t working?
When I re-read it even in a good mood and I say, "God, this is crap!"

Describe an unfinished story that you want to go back to but haven’t quite figured out yet.
My family saga. It is a monster. It’s an unfathomable monster. Where do I start? How do I do it justice? How judgmental can I be? Am I too close? Am I too detached? Why did I not ask my granny more questions before she left us. I guess she would not have answered them anyway. She was clever!

Discuss a local bookstore or library that is important to you.
Libraries have saved my life too many times. But I owe The Library of Congress, and I know this sounds posh but it’s totally accidental, more than most. And that’s another story I haven’t dared write… Phew! So much work ahead.