DB: Knowing that you struggled with choosing content, is there anything you wish you could go back in time and change about Soft?
SFW: The book has been revised numerous times and some stories I would have liked to keep were revised out. The final version is half as long as the original. With each revision, the book became more condensed. I had more recent stories of the twins, JB and Jodi. They have evolved into pretty fascinating teenagers, not easily to be pegged. Most of what we see of them in the book stems from the earlier part of their childhood.
DB: To you, what makes a good story? Not a normal one, but one that you curl up with on a day off and get lost into until bedtime.
SFW: A good story is written in an original voice of authority. Because I most enjoy realistic fiction and memoir, I want to believe the story is true whether it is fiction or nonfiction. I want to recognize the motivations behind the actions of the characters. Even though I most enjoy stories that are grounded in our everyday realities, I get very excited about mystical imagery and lyrical prose. I love it when prose writers take the care of poets to tell their stories in an artful manner. At the same time, it should feel authentic.
DB: Is there anything you find particularly challenging when it comes to writing?
SFW: With my memoir, I struggled most with structure. Now, that I am writing fiction, the question I continue to ask myself is “does this sound real? It is believable?” I don’t want to write shocking tales just because shock seems to be in the ether these days. I want to write stories that show how extraordinary we all are. I’m resisting the shock factor because that feels like an easy way out of doing the really hard work of writing believable and relatable stories.
DB: So you see shock factor as a cop-out for writing good work?
DB: That’s definitely an interesting point, and I have to agree. What are you working on right now? What are you reading?
SFW: I am currently working on a novel. In this novel there are family secrets, religious exploration, and discussions about race. These elements provide the backdrop of the primary story, where a perfect child unravels and the child who was considered hopeless saves her sister. I never knew I would enjoy fiction as much as I am enjoying telling the story of this fictional family.
In recent weeks, I’ve read some wonderful books: Citizen by Claudia Rankine, Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Slow Motion by Dani Shapiro and Love Imagined: A Mixed Race Memoir by Sherry Quan Lee. Currently, I am reading a collection of short stories, the company of heaven: stories from Haiti by Haitian-born poet and short story writer, Marilene Phipps-Kettlewell. Her writing is loaded with images that activate all senses–very, very beautiful. My reading life has been very fulfilling as of late.
DB: It sounds like it has been. I’m jealous.
Stay tuned for Part Three on Friday, April 24.
Meet the blogger:
Deziree Brown is a 2015 BFA graduate of Hamline University. She often claims to have been born with a poem written across her chest. She has been published twice in The Fulcrum, and is quickly making herself known in the literary world and planning to stay a while.