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Drunk on Ink Q & A with Sara Marchant and ‘The Driveway Has Two Sides’

 Drunk on Ink is a blast interview series conducted by Soniah Kamal, Jaggery Blog Editor and author of the forthcoming novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan. 

Read Jaggery Issue 11 Spring 2018

Sara Marchant received her Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts from the University of California, Riverside/ Palm Desert. Her work has been published by Full Grown People, Brilliant Flash Fiction, The Coachella Review, East Jasmine Review, ROAR, and Desert Magazine. Her essay Proof of Blood was anthologized in All the Women in my Family Sing. Her novella ‘Let Me Go’ was anthologized by Running Wild Press.  Her novella, The Driveway Has Two Sides, was published by Fairlight Books in July 2018. Sara’s work has been performed in The New Short Fiction Series in Los Angeles, California. Her memoir, Proof of Blood, will be published by Otis Books in their 2018/2019 season. She is a founding editor of the literary magazine Writers Resist.

About The Driveway Has Two Sides, a novella

On an East Coast Island, full of tall pine moaning with sea gusts, Delilah moves into a cottage by the shore. The neighbors gossip as they watch her clean with her black hair tied back in a white rubber band. They don’t like it when she plants a garden out front—orange red Carpinus caroliniana and silvery blue hosta. Very unusual, they whisper. Across the driveway lives a man who never goes out. Delilah knows he’s watching her and she likes the look of him, but perhaps life is too complicated already…

Soniah Kamal: First author/book you read/fell in love with?

Sara Marchant: The first book I fell in love with was Baby Island by Carol Ryrie Brink. It’s about two little girls whose ship to Australia sinks and they are put in a lifeboat with four babies and set adrift without adults accidentally. They wind up on a deserted island and hijinks ensue. I think I loved it because I loved babies and playing house. This was my first chapter book and it forced me to become a stronger reader because my entire family refused to read it aloud to me more than once. I stole my copy from the school library I loved it so much. It lives on the bookshelf next to my bed to this day.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

To unwind I drink green tea with honey because it is bitter, sweet, and astringent…just like me. Although I recently discovered beer with pineapple juice and I fear my life is about to be ruined.

A novel, short story, poem, essay, anything you believe should be mandatory reading?

I believe James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time should be read by every human being on the planet. Absolute required reading.

Any classic you wished you’d pushed through in your teens?

My stepfather was forever asking me to read his favorite book, Horse and Buggy Doctor, and I never did and after he died I was too ashamed to read it and every time I see it on my mother’s bookshelves I hate myself.

A favorite quote from The Driveway Has Two Sides

Anton felt light-headed. He took a few steps toward the safety of his car. The unpaved garage smelled like gasoline, mildew, and loneliness. She was waiting for his answer.

Your favorite book to film?

My favorite book to film would have to be Game of Thrones because I never believed Martin’s female characters. Of course, the whole show should be about Arya, but hey.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

I’m very fond of The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles, but mostly I patronize the bookstores attached to libraries. Used books still have a lot of love to give.

The one think you wish you’d known about the writing life?

The one thing I wished I’d known about the writing life is that the friends I would make in my MFA program would become some of the most important people in my life. They are worth the enormous debt I’ll have until I die.

Does writing/publishing/marketing get any easier with each story/novel published?

No, writing doesn’t get any easier. But it is sort of like when Harry Potter is able to make that Patronus because he knows he can because he’s already done it in the future? This isn’t about validation, it’s about confidence in one’s abilities.

Dog, Cat, Or?

Our canine children are Little Joe and Nena. The goat, Tessie Hutchinson, is the bane of our existence, but we can’t bring ourselves to eat her. The horses are Job and Ezekiel, but I mostly avoid them. My husband had a cat when he married me, but we are now and forever after cat-less.

Ideal vacation?

My last favorite traveling experience was when I had to get home from Cuernavaca, Mexico because my stepfather was ill and I traveled by myself to Acapulco and then home to San Diego and being alone, in unfamiliar space, was exhilarating. But usually I just want to be left alone to read on vacation.

Favorite book cover?

My favorite book cover is The Driveway Has Two Sides. I mean, look at it! It’s perfect!

Favorite song?

Gun Street Girl by Tom Waits deserves a movie of its own.

Literary Festival Anecdote

My only Lit Festival anecdote isn’t very literary. I was trying to reach the bathroom and got entangled with the line for the John Green signing. There must have been hundreds of pre-teen John Green fans and when they thought I was trying to CUT IN LINE, they all wanted my blood. I started screaming, “Bathroom! Bathroom! I’m just looking for the bathroom!” and they let me live.

Recommend a Small Press and Literary Journal?

I have two favorite small presses: Fairlight Books and Running Wild Press. Soon, I shall have another: Otis Books. My favorite literary magazine is Writers Resist, for obvious reasons!

Last impulse book buy and why?

My last impulse buy of a book was a large print sci-fi novel written by Walter Mosley that I bought for my mother although she hates sci-fi and now she’s angry at me because she loved Walter Mosley and now she’s disappointed in him for writing sci-fi. Sigh.

Soniah Kamal’s novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan is forthcoming from Penguin Random House. PRE ORDER . Her debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s TEDx talk, Redreaming Your Dream, is about regrets, second chances and redemption. Her story Jelly Beans was selected for The Best Asian Stories Series 2017 and her award winning and Pushcart Prize nominated work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, Literary Hub, Catapult and The Normal School.

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Kirsten Imani Kasai, The House of Erzulie, a novel

Thrity UmrigarThe Secrets Between Us, novel

John Kessel, Pride and Prometheus, novel

Lisa Romeo, Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love After Loss

Rachel May, An American Quilt: Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery

Rebecca Entel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, novel

Jamie Sumner, Unbound: Finding from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood

Falguni Kothari, My Last Love Story, novel

Tanaz Bathena, A Girl Like That, YA novel

 

Drunk on Ink Q & A with Kirsten Imani Kasai and ‘The House of Erzulie’

Drunk on Ink is a blast interview series conducted by Soniah Kamal, Jaggery Blog Editor and author of the forthcoming novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan. 

Read Jaggery Issue 11 Spring 2018

Kirsten Imani Kasai writes very dark, very weird fiction. Her third novel, The House of Erzulie was published this February by Shade Mountain Press. According to Foreword Reviews, Kirsten “makes the macabre beautiful.” In addition to teaching English Comp, Advanced Literature and writing, she’s the publisher of Body Parts Magazine: The Journal of Horror & Erotica and owner of the MagicWordEditingCo. which offers a full range of services to creative writers, academics and scientists. She has an M.F.A. from Antioch University Los Angeles and lives in Southern California with her family.

 

About The House of Erzulie

The House of Erzulie tells the eerily intertwined stories of an ill-fated young couple in the 1850s and the troubled historian who discovers their writings in the present day. Emilie Saint-Ange, daughter of a Creole slave-owning family in Louisiana, rebels against her parents by embracing spiritualism and advocating the abolition of slavery. Isidore, her biracial, French-born husband, is horrified by the brutalities of plantation life and becomes unhinged by an obsessive affair with a notorious New Orleans vodou practitioner. Emilie’s and Isidore’s letters and journals are interspersed with sections narrated by Lydia Mueller, an architectural historian whose fragile mental health further deteriorates as she reads. Imbued with a sense of the uncanny and the surreal, The House of Erzulie also alludes to the very real horrors of slavery as it draws on the long tradition of the African-American Gothic novel.

Soniah Kamal: First author/book you read/fell in love with?

Kirsten Imani Kasai: Man, I’ve been reading since I can remember. The first book that I received as a gift was given to me by my Montessori preschool teacher: The Blow-Away Balloon by Racey Helps. I still have my inscribed copy, and have read it to my kids. Others that I read multiple times and loved as a child/teen were: The Egypt Game and Witches of Worm by Zilpha Keatley SnyderWatership Down by Richard Adams and Roll of Thunder Hear Me Cry by Mildred D. Taylor. Dare Wright’s Lonely Doll series absolutely fascinated me (though upon rereading as an adult, there are some disturbing undertones). I loved Michael Bond’s Paddington books and read of ton of Lois Duncan, and was really into the original Flowers in the Attic series when it first debuted. I read Carrie by Stephen King multiple times and remember sitting in my room, intently practicing my telekinesis. I was never able to bend a spoon or move an object from across the room, but oh! How desperately I tried!

 

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Yorkshire Gold tea with vanilla cream to start my day. Zinfandels from Lodi and Paso Robles or New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs for wine, and once in a while, a really good Manhattan with Luxardo cherries.

 

A novel, short story, poem, essay, anything you believe should be mandatory reading?

The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

 

Any classic you wished you’d pushed through in your teens?

Moby Dick.

 

A favorite quote from The House of Erzulie.

My heart will beat for you until the coroner cuts it from my body.”

“Daylight is the charwoman who scrubs away night’s filthy stains.”

“I come alive then, peeling back my skin, unrolling that fine, fawn suede from my redbones and gristle.”

(Fine, fawn suede! Redbones and gristle!)

 

Your favorite book to film?

Gosh, I view book to film adaptations as beings entirely distinct from the source material, and they’re often restricted to fit the time restraints of a film. To expect a film to accurately reflect all the nuance of a novel is foolhardy because they’re such different mediums. That said, I ADORED “Room with a View” when it came out in 1986. I practically memorized the whole film, and my best friend and I would write letters to each other as the characters (usually Cecil). I even wrote a fan letter to Rupert Graves, c/o the studio, and he responded with a handwritten letter, which is still tucked away in a scrapbook somewhere. Actually, I have more affection for the film than the book.

 

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego and the Park Hill Cooperative Bookstore in Denver.

 

The one think you wish you’d known about the writing life?

All those hours hunched over a notebook or keyboard take a toll on your body. Now I have to remember to stretch, exercise and use correct posture at my desk to prevent back/shoulder/neck problems and carpal tunnel.

 

Does writing/publishing/marketing get any easier with each story/novel published?

Ha! Ask me again when I’m rich and famous. JK, yes, it does. It’s a learning experience and having built a great network of friends, allies, connections, writers, bookstores, etc., getting the word out and connecting with people has become easier. Also, my third novel was recently published, which gives me a little more professional credibility and industry gravitas.

 

Dog, Cat, Or?

Even though I’m asthmatic/allergic, I’ve had pets since I was 10. Several cats, two dogs, fish, birds, frogs and a hamster have lived in my household—some of which were for my kids. I have two dogs now but, that said, I’m ready to be unencumbered by animal care and clean-up when the time comes. Truthfully, I find pet ownership unsettling. It’s a weird form of cross-species slavery (mostly with dogs, because they have such terrible Stockholm syndrome). It’s odd to me that people who object to animals being used for meat, leather, etc. will still have a dog who is essentially their captive and completely dependent on them for its survival, who don’t want wild animals endangered yet will take a puppy or kitten away from its mother. I have a lot of (unpopular) theories about dog ownership as it relates to white privilege, class and socio-political hierarchies, but that’s an essay for another time.

Ideal vacation?

I’m desperate to visit Scandinavian countries and see the fjords, the aurora borealis and all the natural wonders. Finland, Sweden, Iceland,

 

Favorite book cover?

The cover for The House of Erzulie, obvs.  My actress daughter is the cover model!

Re: other people’s books, how can you choose? There are so many great ones.

 

Favorite song?

New Order’s “Age of Consent” always makes me happy. I so love the twangy guitars and effects of post-punk/New Wave 80s bands. I’ve had Hallucinations by DVSN on repeat lately. I can get completely wrapped up in songs and play them endlessly, just soaking them up. Other desert island albums include:

Ella and Louis”

John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman

Kate Bush’s “Hounds of Love

Once I was an Eagle” by Laura Marling

And a whole lotta’ Prince.

 

Recommend a Small Press and Literary Journal?

Shade Mountain Press, definitely! Rosalie Morales Kearns is incredibly dedicated and has amazing literary sensibilities. It’s been such a joy to work with her on The House of Erzulie.

 

Last impulse book buy and why?

I recently picked up Cindy Crabb’s book Things That Help: Healing Our Lives Through Feminism, Anarchism, Punk & Adventure. It’s an alphabetical compendium of her 90s Riot Grrrl zine Doris all typed and hand drawn. Reading it has completely resuscitated my sense of activism and hope. I’m currently coveting The New Annotated Frankenstein and Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey because both of those works have influenced my own writing.

 

Soniah Kamal’s novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan is forthcoming from Penguin Random House. PRE ORDER . Her debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s TEDx talk, Redreaming Your Dream, is about regrets, second chances and redemption. Her story Jelly Beans was selected for The Best Asian Stories Series 2017 and her award winning and Pushcart Prize nominated work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, Literary Hub, Catapult and The Normal School.

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Thrity Umrigar, The Secrets Between Us, novel

John Kessel, Pride and Prometheus, novel

Lisa Romeo, Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love After Loss

Rachel May, An American Quilt: Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery

Rebecca Entel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, novel

Jamie Sumner, Unbound: Finding from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood

Falguni Kothari, My Last Love Story, novel

Tanaz Bathena, A Girl Like That, YA novel