Lindsay Hunter’s debut collection, Daddy’s will kick you right in the nads. It’s unrelenting, unabashed set of stories will surprise you, make you laugh, and most importantly make you want to read it over and over. One of the best story collections I’ve read in a while (right up there with Paula Bomer’s Baby, Mary Miller’s Big World, and Bonnie Jo Campbell’s American Salvage), it was a pleasure to get a chance to ask Lindsay a few questions about the book.
RWB: Though I love all the stories in Daddy’s I think my favorite (and who knows what this says about me) is “The Fence.” And it’s one of those stories that just smacks of a great story behind the story, so what was the impetus for this particular piece?
LH: If I remember correctly I wanted to write about a dog, and then it got all turded up from there. The dog’s in there though, Marky, so I guess that is a success. That was maybe the first time I’d stopped stopping myself while writing and just let it all hang out. Then I remember I read part of it in my Art of Place class at SAIC and I was positively delighted and so was Mary Cross, my professor, she was making these joyful murder chortles, and then I looked around at my fellow workshoppers, some of whom were wearing mottled fartfaces, and I stopped. I submitted it to Nerve and they accepted it a day later.
RWB: I’ve read interviews where you mention the importance of the South on your writing, your language, and that is definitely evident. I referred to your writing in a conversation with someone recently as a dirtier version of Flannery O’Connor, but what writers would you say molded the southern charm of your stories?
LH: Dang that is probably an insult to Flannery O’Connor, but I’m flattered so maybe it equals out. I’ve said it a million times before but reading Cruddy really affected me. And then I’d also be reaching back to where I grew up for stories to tell, which is a town in Florida called Ocoee, and I love country music a lot, and I’ll dip in to Cormac McCarthy pretty frequently to see what else I can see, and the song The Deeper In by the Drive-by Truckers is a perfection I’ll never achieve but I keep trying anyway.
RWB: While many of the stories in the collection are certainly in some sort of realist vein, there are some, such as “That Baby” that bend the realism with a certain fantastical or surreal element. Almost like a tall tale might. (I couldn’t help thinking of Paul Bunyan when reading this story). Realism sometimes gets a bad rap in indie lit. What role does the thought of realism versus non-realism play in your writing?
LH: I guess I don’t really think to myself “this will be a realistic tale” when I sit down to write. I think I really just let the story go and I rarely intervene. And when I sat down to write That Baby I wanted to write about a giant baby, and what that would feel like, and how such a child’s selfishness and brute instincts, which are how a normal baby survives and communicates, could conflate to outlandishness. I like the idea of strange banality or banal strangeness.
RWB: You have a knack for setting up expectations in your stories and then, if not shattering them, shifting them just enough to create a welcome surprise. I’m thinking, for instance, “Peggy’s Brother.” There’s more wonder and exploration than one might expect as the events unfold, and less of what could have been more severe or dangerous. This made me wonder if your stories are plotted out early in the writing process or if the events take shape and develop as you write.
LH: I generally sit down and write because of 2 reasons: I either have a nugget of a story I’d like to tell in mind, or I have a first line. I tend to edit as I go, but I get it all out in one sitting, and I rarely go back for more editing. So things definitely take shape and develop as I write. As I’m writing I’ll think “okay now this is how it’ll end” but that can change once I get there.
RWB: Obviously you don’t shy away from overt sexuality or bizarre sexuality in your stories, which would seem to purport a comfort level with things of a sexual nature (even if not to the degree your characters are). What do you think has shaped your openness to writing this sort of raw material that others might shy away from?
LH: I’m extremely comfortable talking about sex. I pretty much take for granted that everyone is just as comfortable reading/talking about it as I am. To me, sex is a core form of communication in literature. It’s a way of showing without telling (yep, I just said that). I almost can’t help writing about it sometimes. I think, though, that the reason I feel such permission to lay it all out like that is because I’ve had incredibly supportive audiences over the years—whether it be professors or peers or people I’m reading to at Quickies!—if all those people told me to take it somewhere else, I’d probably be writing technical manuals about C++ and frosting liquid cheese onto Velveeta cubes in an apartment with curtain walls.
RWB: Often the physicality of your characters feels like an escape. What are they escaping?
LH: I think my characters are like anyone else and just want to escape reality but don’t feel like doing all the work it’d actually entail.
RWB: For those of us who are addicted to your writing what should we look forward to next from you? You mentioned in your self-interview at The Nervous Breakdown that you’re working on a novel. Can you tell us anything about it?
LH: Yep, I’m novelling it right the fuck up. All I know right now is that it isn’t as far along as I’d like it to be, it’s a series of glimpses told by a variety of characters, and it’ll probably involve a murder. But it’s of course going to be like anything else I write—light on plot, heavy on imagery.
Ryan W. Bradley has pumped gas, changed oil, painted houses, swept the floor of a mechanic's shop, worked on a construction crew in the Arctic Circle, fronted a punk band, and managed an independent children's bookstore. He now works in marketing. His latest book is Nothing but the Dead and Dying, a collection of stories set in Alaska. He lives in southern Oregon with his wife and two sons.