Thursday, December 23, 2021

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Claire Hopple

Claire Hopple is the author of four books. Her fiction has appeared in Hobart, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, New World Writing, Timber, and others. More at

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
The first book was a slow buildup of almost a decade of writing. After that, the process sped up. Tell Me How You Really Feel, my third book, was different than the first (and second) in that I tried to break from my short story core. Attempting a novella was only possible by thinking of the chapters as stories. I had a lot more fun with it than I thought I would.

2 - How did you come to fiction first, as opposed to, say, poetry or nonfiction?
Writing poetry and nonfiction seems impossible. At least good poetry and nonfiction. I think I'm just naturally inclined to fiction.

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?
I'm a turtle when it comes to writing. I start with bullet points in a notebook until they've built up into something. Then I lay them out on notecards and write the first draft in a notebook by hand. After that, I type it up and continue editing.

4 - Where does a work of prose 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?
Usually I'm only thinking about what's in front of me. But when a series of short pieces are written in a set period of time, there's a general theme that emerges. There's something trying to get out and I try to listen to it as best as I'm able.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I enjoy them and want them to be over with as soon as possible, simultaneously.
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?
I love this question. Yes! I think the act of writing is always posing questions on some level. Occasionally writers even try to answer them. Each book of mine has asked different questions, from struggling with what it means to be an adult to the connections we attempt to make with others.

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 current role of a writer is embracing the echo chamber. The role of a writer should be anything other than what it is.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
Definitely both. It depends on the editor too. My most recent experience for my forthcoming book with Word West was outstanding. Joshua Graber is exactly the kind of editor you want. He sees what you're trying to do and he helps you get there.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
The high school classic: Say something old a new way/avoid cliches.

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (short stories to the novel)? What do you see as the appeal?

I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. But really I learned they're a lot more similar than I imagined.

11 - 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 work 8.5 hours a day at my regular job, read books on my half-hour lunch break, and read as much as I can during my free time. Ideas will form with enough reading of others' work and by giving myself the space to think.

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
Reading widely always helps. There are some books that I don't even think are all that good on their own but they get my brain firing in a certain way.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
The sweet wood smell of dresser drawers and cedar chests.

14 - 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?
All of the above can be amazing influences. Also traveling and giving yourself space to play/breathe/think.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
Amelia Gray, Renee Gladman, Sam Pink, Tao Lin, Scott McClanahan, etc. As far as presses go, I really like Dorothy, Soft Skull, New Directions, Two Dollar Radio, Coffee House Press, Dzanc Books, and The Cupboard Pamphlet.

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
It's hard for me to differentiate between external pressure (whether real or perceived) and personal goals. I don't think about it much, just see what's ready to come out that's worth letting out.

17 - 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?
A website developer perhaps. Coding is intriguing to me. It's language just like anything else. Maybe I would have been normal, started a family or something, but it's difficult to imagine. Sometimes I long to be normal and other times I think it seems awful.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?

I can't not write. I've tried to quit and it didn't work. I've resigned myself to the fact that it will always be there, like eating or brushing my teeth, and that I'll always be enamored with words and how they come together.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
Semi-recent favorite books: All Fires the Fire by Julio Cortázar (trans. Suzanne Jill Levine), The White Dress by Nathalie Léger (trans. Natasha Lehrer), Pets: An Anthology ed. Jordan Castro, Imaginary Museums by Nicolette Polek, The Dominant Animal by Kathryn Scanlan, Temporary by Hilary Leichter.

Recent fave films: A New Leaf (1971), Some Kind of Heaven (2020), Home Movie (2001), Shadows in Paradise (1986), The Conversation (1974), The Long Goodbye (1973), The Swimmer (1968).

20 - What are you currently working on?
Last week, I just finished a novella about a woman who takes over the lives of others. She literally steals their identities, or at least tries. It's the most fun thing I've ever written.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

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