Corinna Vallianatos is the author of My Escapee (University of Massachusetts Press, 2012). In 2011, Corinna was awarded the Grace Paley Prize in Short Fiction. Her work has appeared in Tin House, McSweeney's, The Gettysburg Review, and A Public Space Issue 2.
1. Can you describe your daily routine, any rituals or habits?
I write in the morning, without e-mail, with coffee. It's decaf coffee, so it's really just a prop. If I'm in a rut, listening to loud music helps—it puts pressure on whatever I'm writing to have a voice. Music can sort of crack open the sometimes deadening logic of a piece. I like to have a dog or two in the room with me. Right now I'm officeless, so I write on the living room couch, staring out the window at the house across the street, which is strung with Christmas tree lights in gallon milk jugs.
2. Where do you go to people-watch?
When I'm in a crowd of other parents at one of my son's soccer games, I often find myself doing a bit of vaguely-condemnatory-type staring. Everyone's in this state of heightened appreciation for the athletic prowess of their kid, meaning acting hyper and proprietary, myself included. But if I can force myself to take a step back, then I can just be the observer.
3. What are your anxieties about language?
That I'll always be too close to my own work to be able to hear it the way it really sounds. That I'll evaluate everything I write incorrectly—either unnecessarily harshly, or from a bunker of stubborn protectiveness. That I'll never learn the true art of revision, but will resort to slashing and burning and starting again. And that I'll always think fulsome means the opposite of what it really means.
4. Is there a character, a scene, a moment that you dream of conveying, but haven't figured out how to yet?
I started something about Chandra Bahadur Dangi, the shortest man in the world, seeing the ocean for the first time. I imagined he wouldn't know how to swim, and I wanted to get him into the water to allow for a short, potent space of time for Fitzy and Wippa, the Australian radio hosts who brought him to the beach, to have some sort of ego-driven exchange.
5. What landscape do you most often fantasize about?
Sometimes Tucson, this little converted garage I lived in that had a boarded-up oil-changing pit in the floor. The amazing variety of spiky and blooming flora outside. The pale-pink color of the sky. Fantasize is probably too strong a word. Just remember very tactilely.
6. What is the last book you didn't finish?
I hate to admit this because I'm a fan of her work, but Zadie Smith's NW.
7. What are you looking forward to?
Wearing flip-flops again. Reaching the halfway point of my novel. Or the almost halfway point. Or the almost, almost halfway point—the definitively-not-beginning point. I have a hard time leaving beginnings. They have so much potential! You can still go anywhere when you're writing a beginning.