This upcoming Saturday, we are having an author signing and release party with author SJ Sindu. Her debut novel, Marriage of a Thousand Lies, will be released this Spring 2017. At the event, there will be copies of her chapbook, I Once Met You But You Were Dead, for purchase. Her chapbook was the winner of the 2016 Split Lip Turnbuckle Chapbook Contest. Below is an interview with SJ Sindu that discusses her experiences as an emerging author.
1. You've written both fiction and nonfiction pieces, with I Once Met You But You Were Dead including both fiction and nonfiction, and then your debut novel Marriage of a Thousand Lies. Do you prefer one over the other? Is one harder to write than the other?
SJ: I really do prefer fiction, though I write both. There's just something about the freedom that fiction affords. With nonfiction, I can only tell a particular story a handful of different ways. But with fiction, I can tell that same story a thousand ways. I enjoy both, but the majority of what I write turns out to be fiction. If you notice, the chapbook doesn't label which pieces are fiction and nonfiction, and that's because I don't want it to matter. I want to place the reader in that ambiguous space where they don't know what is True or Real, because I think we're at our most vulnerable when we're a little uncomfortable.
2. As an emerging author, do you want your pieces to all connect in some way through themes or topics, or would you like them to stand alone?
SJ: I want my pieces to be varied and eccentric, and for each to have its own signature. I admire that ability in Jeanette Winterson and Cormac McCarthy--this skill for taking bizarre, disparate ideas and filtering them through a unified consciousness (the unique identity and voice of the writer).
3. How much of your own experiences do you put into your fiction? Do you follow the saying "write what you know?"
SJ: It's the little details that I pull directly from real life. The way an awning casts a shadow at sunrise. The jagged teeth of a friendly cashier at Trader Joe's. The smell of sulphurious water in a hot shower. The first time you tried pickles. That funny story of the time we got thrown out of a bar on New Year's Eve. These details bring a story alive, and I often keep a journal of these observations so that I can work them into stories later. But the big stuff is usually made up.
4. What is your favorite part of the writing process?
SJ: My favorite part is the thinking, the dreaming. Usually this part takes place during bike rides in the woods, or while driving, or just while staring out a window. I love the rush of ideas, or the working through of a problem. I also love actually writing, but these moments of ramping up for writing sometimes feel the best. I also like, at these moments, to talk to other writers--usually my partner, who is a poet. We talk a lot about aesthetics and our writing, and I love having that connection with someone.
5. What is the best piece of writing advice you've ever received?
SJ: Write what scares you.
6. Are you reading anything? If so, what are you reading? If not, what is a book that has left an impact on you?
SJ: I'm currently reading for a couple of different awards, so I can't talk about it, but a couple of weeks ago I read an advance reader copy of The Hour of Daydreams, by Renee M. Rutledge, which is coming out in 2017. And just before that, I read an advance copy of Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett, also coming out in 2017. Look out for these books!
Come visit SJ Sindu this Saturday (1/14) from 5PM-7PM and pick up a copy of her award-winning chapbook. The weather has been nice and cool, so bundle up and join The Bookshelf this Saturday night. See you there!