Issue 133 | June 2013
"I was delighted that the British edition has The Faraway Nearby's genre, on the back cover, listed as "memoir/anti-memoir" at my request. Memoir has become, at its most predictable, the new nonfictional branch of conventional fiction. There's difficulty. There's overcoming. There's happily ever after. And happily ever after is usually defined as having acquired all the usual goods. There's often a kind of trophy display there that's no gift to a reader. There's also a kind of assurance about the self that doesn't work for me: that the author knows who she herself is, and who others are, and that people are consistent. That works really well for plot-based storytelling, but it doesn't resemble the realities I'm interested in, where the self metamorphoses, contains surprises and inconsistencies and contradictions, and has fluctuant and ambiguous boundaries."
"Sometimes it can seem like being a lesbian is a bit like being marooned on a deserted island, outside society, with few resources. That's changed, but I think that sense of isolation, certainly historically, the characters, they endured it. And I have always liked the idea of remote islands for as long as I can remember. In my mind there is a connection between the outsiderness of being gay and being marooned on an island. I mean it in a quite humorous way. I don't mean it like sitting in a pub and rocking backward and forward in grief."
The real-life America that Carter encountered was profoundly different from her London home. In 1980 she wrote to her editor, Susannah Clapp, from Providence: “Everybody tells me not to go out after dark; the Mayor of Providence is accused of having raped a woman at gunpoint, admittedly some years ago in another town.” “In the frozen solitude of New England” Carter wrote that the memory of London “made me weep with nostalgia for the sheer rudeness -- the vile, obscene, funny rudeness -- of everyday life at home… Here, physical violence is tolerated. The crime rates would go down, I think, if Americans stopped saying: ‘Have a nice day,’ to one another.”
"I've always adored spooky books and movies. And, though they scare me, it's always in a way that I love and enjoy. So I'm terrified, but I don't mind being terrified. Though I have to say, writing The Orphan Choir really scared me and upset me -- it was a bit much for me at times. I don't know if I'm supposed to admit this, but initially the book had a much jollier ending -- but some early readers said, "If it's going to be this scary, you need to escalate the fear and horror at the end, not diminish it." So I gritted my teeth and went full-on horrific."
"The scenes depicting a character's dementia were certainly the most difficult passages to write, both because they demanded my sharpest craft tools and because they were the most emotionally wrenching. I had to distance myself as much as possible from the character because she was becoming increasingly distanced from herself, and because the absolute last thing I wanted was for those passages to become sentimental or melodramatic or self-indulgent. It was a very difficult line to toe, and without question I spent the most time in revision on those passages. I don't think there's a single syllable of those sections that didn't get revised multiple times."