Skip to content

Drunk on Ink Q & A with Sonya Huber and “Drunk Women Takes Your Keys’

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. 

Sonya Huber is the author of five books, including Opa NobodyCover Me: A Health Insurance Memoir, and the new essay collection Pain Woman Takes Your Keys and Other Essays from a Nervous System. She teaches at Fairfield University, where she directs the low-residency MFA program. She is a displaced Midwesterner, mom, Buddhist, loud-laughter, and says “dude” and “awesome” much more than she should.


About Pain Woman Takes Your Keys and the Other Essays from a Nervous System

Rate your pain on a scale of one to ten. What about on a scale of spicy to citrus? Is it more like a lava lamp or a mosaic? Pain, though a universal element of human experience, is dimly understood and sometimes barely managed. Pain Woman Takes Your Keys, and Other Essays from a Nervous System is a collection of literary and experimental essays about living with chronic pain. Sonya Huber moves away from a linear narrative to step through the doorway into pain itself, into that strange, unbounded reality. Although the essays are personal in nature, this collection is not a record of the author’s specific condition but an exploration that transcends pain’s airless and constraining world and focuses on its edges from wild and widely ranging angles. Huber addresses the nature and experience of invisible disability, including the challenges of gender bias in our health care system, the search for effective treatment options, and the difficulty of articulating chronic pain. She makes pain a lens of inquiry and lyricism, finds its humor and complexity, describes its irascible character, and explores its temperature, taste, and even its beauty.

SONIAH KAMAL: First author/book you read/fell in love with?

SONYA HUBER: Oh my gosh…. My first true love of an author was George Orwell. It was when I read 1984 in high school that I fully understood exactly how deep an author could get into my head and heart. What Orwell does with language continues to thrill and inspire me.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?


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

Right now I think Orwell’s “The Politics of the English Language” should be wallpapered everywhere.

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

I really really wish I would have read Portrait of a Lady by Henry James because I needed that kind of warning about dysfunctional relationships and how a woman could be almost consumed by a controlling man.

A favorite quote from your book 

“The pain-woman speaks in a pared-down voice; she is a dreamy laser. You can’t tell her a single thing. She has room for only one emergency. She has to creep slowly and hold onto the back of chairs as she moves, but she has a strange superpower. She cares more about the vulnerable soft flesh of everyone more than my normal busy pre-pain self.

She aches in slow motion for everyone’s crumbling life.”


Your favorite book to film

I can’t think of one!

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

Women and Children First in Chicago. Also the Strand in New York.

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

I wish I’d known that I was as good a writer as anyone else. I gave up on writing after I graduated college because I thought I was lacking something essential. I later learned that the only thing writing requires is persistence, plus a brash ability to bother strangers.

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

I think each book offers its own problems and challenges, and at a certain point (or many points) in the middle of each book, those problems appear to be practically impossible to solve. But what I think gets easier is the routine of working through a book; the general feeling of being lost inside a book comes to feel more familiar and even becomes comfortable as a place to live rather than as a crisis. I think each round of book marketing is as challenging as the first time, but I know not to just appear at a bookstore and hope people will show up.

Dog, Cat, Or?  


Favorite book cover?

The cover of Lynda Barry’s What It Is, a beautiful hand-drawn and hand-painted sea of monkeys and fire and sea creatures and other images.

Favorite song?

“No Depression” by Uncle Tupelo

Ideal Vacation? 

My ideal vacation would be to go to a literary city (maybe London) and just have time all by myself to write and to wander around museums, do research, etc. BUT I would also love to go to India someday, or Greece! So many places I haven’t been.

Favorite work of art?

This is a terribly difficult question. I will have to say that when it comes right down to it, I always go back to the box assemblages made by Joseph Cornell.

What is your favorite Austen novel and film adaptation?

I have to say my favorite film adaptation is Sense and Sensibility because: Emma Thompson. As far as the novels themselves, I loved Mansfield Park for its social critique.

Favorite Small Press and Literary Journal?

University of Nebraska Press! And I love Brevity: A Journal of Concise Nonfiction.

Last impulse book buy and why?

I took a trip to Mass Museum of Contemporary Art and bought a thick book entitled Explode Every Day: An Inquiry into the Phenomena of Wonder. It’s a miraculous hodgepodge of images, interviews, and ideas that all circle around the concept of wonder, which I love.

Soniah Kamal is an award winning essayist and fiction writer. Her novel Unmarriageable: Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan, a parallel retelling of Pride and Prejudice and set in contemporary Pakistan, has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal.  NPR calls it ‘thought provoking and deliciously readable’ and People Magazine says “This inventive retelling of Pride and Prejudice charms.” Unmarriageable is an Amazon Best Books pick, a People Magazine’s Pick, a New York Post Best Book pick, a Library Reads pick and more. Soniah’s debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Award for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and is an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s short story ‘Jelly Beans’ was selected for the Best South Asian Short Stories Anthology 2017. Her TEDx talk is about regrets and redemption. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Buzzfeed, Catapult, The Normal School, Literary Hub, and has been widely anthologized. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Georgia State University where she was a Paul Bowles Fellow in Fiction. She currently teaches creative writing at Rhineheart University and reviews books for the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Soniah will be giving a keynote address at the Jane Austen Summer Program Conference (2019) and she is a Jane Austen Literacy Ambassador. She was born in Pakistan, grew up in England and Saudi Arabia, and currently resides in Georgia.

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Mike Chen: Here and Now and Then, a novel

Ruth Franklin: Shirley Jackson A Rather Haunted Life, biography

Colleen Oakley: Before I Go, a novel

Emily Midorikawa: A Secret Sisterhood: The literary friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf, biography

Shabnam Samuel: A Fractured Life, memoir

Elise Hooper: The Other Alcott, a novel

Anne Boyd Rioux: Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters, non fiction

Devoney Looser: The Making of Jane Austen, non fiction

Kristen Miller ZohnThe Currency of Taste- Gibbons Georgian Silver, coffee table book

Vanessa HuaA River of Stars, novel

Chaitli SenThe Pathless Sky, novel

Sonya HuberPain Woman Take Your Keys, memoir

Kathy Wilson FlorenceThree of Cups, a novel

Sara Luce LookCharis Books and More, independent book store

S J SinduMarriage of a Thousand Lies, a novel

Rosalie Morales KearnsKingdom of Men, a novel

Saadia FaruqiMeet Yasmin, children’s literature

Rene DenfeldThe Child Finder, a novel

Jamie BrennerThe Husband Hour, a novel

Sara MarchantThe Driveway has Two Sides, memoir

Kirsten Imani KasaiThe 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 BathenaA Girl Like That, YA novel



No comments yet

Leave a Reply

You may use basic HTML in your comments. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS