I had the good fortune of interviewing Karen Russell a couple of weeks ago, one of my favorite contemporary writers. She jumped out at me from the Best American Short Stories of 2007, edited by an author it turns we both love, Stephen King. Her short story collection, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, manages to be both beautifully written and immensely engaging at the same time, no mean feat I think.
I’m envious of writers who weave fascinating, compelling plots from gorgeous prose. I often feel like I can write a great sentence or construct a strong scene, but to do the two at once? I have trouble following conversations while listening to music too, so maybe the logical and aesthetic parts of my brain are at odds. Could this be a hemisphere thing? (I have weak fine motor skills too, for what it’s worth, but that’s probably ’cause of the drinkin’!)
This dual processing problem reared during my interview, when my ear was attuned to both Karen’s answers and the baby monitor on the counter beside me. In this case, the monitor was broadcasting the best music of all these days: the sweet silence of F napping.
That morning, in the hopes of tiring him out so that he wouldn’t wake up mid-interview, we breakfasted out, braved the cold to look at doggies in the park, and visited the library for fun with books. (By which I mean, piling them up and then knocking ‘em down.)
Fortunately, he slept during the interview, though still there were times I hmmmed and ummmed as I searched for the next question, my brain distracted by some blip or sigh coming from the monitor. Like doing most things while parenting, I wasn’t at my sharpest. After about an hour and a quarter, just as the interview was naturally coming to a close, he began moaning “dada dadada!”
On the playback, the whole tone of my voice shifts as I struggle to get off the phone in a polite and professional way, choking down the instinct to shout “mah baby needs meh, woman!!” while Karen was mid-sentence.
Not to imply that I didn’t out myself as a work-at-home parent to Karen. When I told her about F at the start of the interview she said, “so if I hear weird noises in the background I won’t think it’s your pet Gibbon or something.” Ha! As if I’d be able to conduct an interview with the boy anywhere near me. He’d be clamoring for my attention seconds after figuring out I wasn’t talking to mama.
You can catch more of Karen’s humor and find out what it was like writing her novel Swamplandia! after receiving so much acclaim for her debut collection in my interview on The Huffington Post!