Interviews ยท 12/10/2011

5 Questions for Amelia Gray

After gushing about this exciting new writer coming out of Southwest America, I was able to ask her a couple questions regarding her start in publishing, making the transition to novels from short stories, and what she’s up to L.A.

The stories in AM/PM were wonderfully unraveled and exhilarating to read. How did you come to write the stories of your many characters in this fun, puzzle piece way? What did that process look like? And did anything inspire you to use this style of writing?

Writing AM/PM came out of a hard period of my life right after grad school, when I wasn’t sure if I should go get a job as a technical writer or head back to teaching or move out of the city or state or country. I started writing one story in the morning and one at night as a kind of grounding force; the process made me feel like I was accomplishing something, anything, and it became a good outlet. In the first draft, there are mostly no named characters. It took two months to write that first draft and over a year to begin threading together narratives, naming characters and linking similar stories, editing, expanding and cutting. I had character maps and lists. I wasn’t sure the right way to do any of it so I made up my own way.

From your website, the list of where your short stories have appeared is pretty long. Your first novel, Threats, is due in March of 2012. What is the transition like from writing short stories to your first novel?

It’s a back-and-forth transition. I wrote Threats with short chapters, quite a few of which stand alone as short pieces themselves. Novels tend to be composed of compartmentalized pieces, or vignettes, or character studies or whatever. The major difference is in how they have to link together and fit. Again, I approached the project in what felt like the right way for me to approach it. Some writers have plot maps and some know the last line when they write the first, but mine was very much a process of creating scenes and finding their connections later.

How did you come to find Featherproof to publish AM/PM, FC2 for Museum of the Weird, and most recently, Farrar, Straus and Giroux to publish Threats? Was there a little bit of negotiating and/or searching to find a publisher you were happy with?

I’m really lucky in that I’ve gotten to work with amazing editors at all three presses, and that there wasn’t much of a search for it on my end. I met the Featherproof guys in New York at a conference and I got a good feeling about them with how they were talking to people. I only sent AM/PM to them. Museum of the Weird won a contest at FC2 that involved publication, and meanwhile, my editor Emily Bell (at Riverhead at the time) had read AM/PM and sent me an email to ask if I was working on anything new. By the time I had something to show her, she had moved to FSG. It all seems very precarious, in hindsight.

You also host (with Stacy Muszynski) a story/music series called Five Things, where artists concoct a 5 minute piece based off humor and a central theme. How did Five Things come about?

Five Things happened a few months after I was done with AM/PM and had begun looking for a writing community in Austin. There were some things going on, mostly affiliated with the University of Texas, and I wanted to create the kind of fun, boozy reading party that I had seen on the road in Chicago and New York. I live in Los Angeles now and I’ve passed Five Things on to my friends Lesley Clayton and Brittany Callender.

That’s right, how do you like L.A so far? Did anything encourage the move to L.A, any upcoming projects we can get excited about?

I like L.A. The size of the city is overwhelming, but it’s so easy to immerse myself in a creative community. Someone’s always working or talking about work or thinking about work, and that’s exactly my speed these days. I don’t have any projects at the moment, but I’m saying hello to people and having enjoyable lunches. It’s exciting to learn about a whole new side of the creative world, something that I pretty much had no insight into until I came here.