Brittany Tuttle, author of the Shebooks fantasy thriller Stone and Spring, shares her thoughts about sexism, sci-fi and too much coffee.
What prompted you to write Stone and Spring?
The short answer might be a lot of coffee. Stone and Spring was one of those rare pieces that seemed to drop from the sky, fully formed. I sat down in a cafe and started writing, and there it was. I do think there are parts of the story that reflect my subconscious dealing with depression, making it into a fable.
Are there certain themes you find recurring in your work?
My upcoming novel is about four grown siblings on a road trip, searching for some truth about their father, who died when they were young. It centers around one of the sisters, who is strange and not quite human. The tone is very different from Stone and Spring—but this idea of an odd woman on a search for truth seems to be something I needed to write more than once.
How do you think your gender identity has affected your writing?
I’ve always assumed I would write about women, and I want to write about them almost as if patriarchy had never existed—put them into worlds where nobody has ever had a sexist thought and move on with the story. I’m tired of the oppressed woman narrative. I want to revise history, or at least our conceptions of it. I don’t think stories about women who have sovereignty over their lives are any less true; It’s just that we aren’t used to hearing that narrative.
Is there such a thing as women’s writing? Do you hate the term “chick lit”?
I’ve spent far too much time thinking about this question. It’s got me brushing up on Hélène Cixous. I kind of just want to start using the term “dick lit” and move on.
Have you ever experienced sexism as a woman writer?
I am fortunate that my first experience with publishing has been with Shebooks. I can’t imagine a better place for women who write. Working in a library, I’ve found it’s not unusual for men to come in and say they don’t want any recommendations for books written by womenl; they won’t read those. To these guys, I say, Great! I didn’t want to commune with you anyway. My audience is someone else.“
When did you first decide you were a writer?
Just now when you called me a writer.
Do you have an imaginary reader you write for?
No. When I’m writing I pretend that no one is ever going to read it. That’s the only way I’m able to turn off my internal editor and write the thorny stuff.
What’s the greatest risk you’ve ever taken in your writing?
My first short story was about a unicorn. I was seven or eight. I used the thesaurus to replace the word tired with “fatigued.” In the long run, I think it’s really paid off. But it was scary at the time.
What advice do you have for an aspiring writer?
Sit down and write. Don’t worry if it sounds good. Don’t worry about plot or details. Just sit down to write as much as possible, and see what’s there. Don’t expect it to be easy.
Have you ever written anything personal that upset people close to you? Have you ever shied away from writing something because people you know might read it?
There are some things to be written as memoir or essay, and others that can only be woven into fiction. That said, I do love Anne Lamott’s advice that “If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
How did you dream up the setting for this story?
I keep trying to think of something profound or at least helpful, but I really don’t know. There is a real setting—Wyoming—and an imagined setting, a sort of haunted forest. The setting was necessary for the story. The disturbing images appeared in my brain, and I wrote them down.
Do you currently have a job other than writing?
I work at my local library. I’ve never been able to keep a job that isn’t in some way related to books. I also have two little girls. I couldn’t keep that job without books, either.
An odd fact about you?
I don’t get brain freeze. Like, ever.
What is your favorite word right now?
Have you ever been in a book club? What does that experience offer you?
I’m in a book club right now. I think I’m a really bad book club member. I try to be open-minded, but underneath I tend to think opinions about books that differ from mine are wrong. Don’st tell my book club I said that.
Do you have an e-reader?
I don’t have an e-reader. I’m not against e-readers; I don’t think they signify the end of something that is vital to the survival of our reading race. I read Shebooks on my iPad–I just downloaded Anna Marrian’s Love Junkie–but really need to get an e-reader to reduce the strain on my eyes.
Who are your favorite authors?
Sylvia Plath, Cormac McCarthy, and Maria Semple.
What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m getting ready to send my road-trip novel Angel Food off to print. I’m also working on a short book of essays about being a feminist and raising daughters.
Other than writing, do you have any secret talents?
I think I’m really great at accents. My husband might disagree.
Any last words?
One thing that keeps me writing sometimes is Neil Gaiman’s advice: “Trust your story.”
Want to escape to another world? Try Brittany Tuttle’s otherworldly frontier tale Stone and Spring, only at Shebooks!