Jessica Francis Kane (APS 17) is the author of the short story collection Bending Heaven and the novel The Report. She is a contributing writer for the Morning News. Her new collection of stories, This Close, is forthcoming from Graywolf Press. Jessica will read, along with fellow contributors Mark Bibbins and Tom Drury, at the APS 17 launch party at BookCourt, February 27, 7 PM.
1. Can you describe your daily routine, any rituals or habits?
This question makes my heart sink a little bit because I've been feeling lately that I've lost my daily rituals, or misplaced them somehow. I wrote a lot of my first novel in Bobst Library at NYU and now that I'm beginning a new one, I find I can't go back there. Apparently I need a new, world-class library for each book! Not very practical.
I've had some great rituals in the past, though. When I lived in London, my husband and I walked across Hyde Park every morning. It took almost an hour and by the time I got to the library, I was always ready to write. At other times in my life, I've gotten up early to write before work, and after the children were born, I hired a babysitter so I could escape to a café or library for a few hours. The thing I know to do, the most essential thing, is to write before I do anything else in the day, and that is hard to accomplish when you have two young children. Coffee is very important, and I've always loved writing on my laptop, but again, lately that hasn't been working. It has become the instrument of distraction from the outside world. I'm thinking about getting a typewriter.
2. Where do you go to people-watch?
When am I not people-watching? It's an occupational hazard. I do it everywhere. I also love its cousin, eavesdropping, and had a strange experience last year when we were living in Germany. My eavesdropping was suddenly cut off because I don't understand German. I like to think my people-watching improved because my listening comprehension was so reduced.
3. What are your anxieties about language?
As a person, I am an explainer. I'm probably an overexplainer. If two people are talking and there seems to be a misunderstanding in the making, I'm the one who will try to fix it. But as a writer, I never want to explain. I want to get down on the page only what is necessary for the reader to understand what is going on in the space above the page, as Willa Cather described it. That's my anxiety. I want to write above the page.
4. Is there a character, a scene, a moment that you dream of conveying, but haven't figured out how to yet?
Oh, yes. And now the question becomes how can I tell you about it here without trying and failing once again? I don't even know how to begin.
5. What landscape do you most often fantasize about?
It always used to be the sea, but last year when we were in Germany we did a lot of walking in the mountains and now I find I want to be there again. I dream of walking paths and mountain peaks and biergartens in the middle of nowhere.
6. What is the last book you didn't finish?
The unfinished book on my nightstand at the moment is Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff. I started it during Hurricane Sandy, by candlelight, and I was enjoying it, but when the power came back on I never got back to it. I always feel bad about an abandoned book. I leave them first on the top shelf of my nightstand, then they get moved to the bottom shelf, where they get really dusty, and then, eventually, I reshelve them. I leave the bookmarks in to remind me where I was, just in case. Probably one day all those abandoned bookmarks will come flying out like a flock of dark birds, each one branded with a page number.
7. What are you looking forward to?
The thing I want most: to be in the middle of a novel again, working deeply and well.