Rea Tarvydas lives and writes in Calgary, Alberta. Her stories can be found in The New Quarterly, The Fiddlehead, and Grain magazines. Work is forthcoming in the WRITING MENOPAUSE Anthology (Inanna, 2017).
Tarvydas’s debut book of short stories, HOW TO PICK UP A MAID IN STATUE SQUARE, is published by Thistledown Press (2016).
Please visit her website www.reatarvydas.com
1 - How did your first book change your life? Having my first book accepted for publication is a major deal because, these days, searching for a publisher mirrors searching for the Las Vegas toilets at Burning Man. The Las Vegas toilets are mythical, a bank of port-a-potties with a fancy neon sign above them. Everyone talks about them. I think it’s all about the fantasy of a clean, porcelain toilet. But do they really exist?
2 - How did you come to fiction first, as opposed to, say, poetry or non-fiction? I came awake to the creative process lying dormant inside, and started writing short stories at age thirty-seven.
3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes? It varies. Sometimes a solid first draft comes quickly, and other times a single scene comes slowly and I have no fucking idea what I’m doing there. It’s like I’m abandoned in the Deep Playa. It’s hot. I’m tired. My feet are in the sand. Then, off in the distance, across the sea of grief, I spot the bleachers.
4 - Where does a work of fiction usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning? I start with an image or a line of dialogue. I write a scene. And another, and another, and another. It’s an organic process.
5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings? I love reading my work at public readings because I write in a desert.
6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are? Fiction is about what it is to be a fucking human being. (David Foster Wallace)
7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be? The role of the writer is to write what troubles them.
8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)? A good editor is both difficult and essential because they call you on your bullshit.
9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)? Be persistent.
10 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin? I write for a couple hours each weekday morning.
11 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration? I listen to music and watch movies and read books. Art is amazing. Sometimes, during the day, I just kind of ride my bike out into the art world and see what I can find.
12 - What fragrance reminds you of home? A whiff of smoke from a wood fire mixed with Mr. Clean.
13 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art? Music and science and art are a big part of my creative life. And I travel.
14 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
15 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done? If you think I’m going to say go to Burning Man, you’re wrong. I can’t stand the heat.
16 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer? I’ve had other occupations but, at heart, I’m a writer. It’s not an occupation; it’s an obsession.
17 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else? A desire to be heard.
18 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film? (book of poetry) When My Brother was an Aztec by Natalie Diaz
19 - What are you currently working on? A novel that is structured like a series of stories. There are all kinds of strange things going on. It’s not going well but thanks for asking.