In Rainsford’s Follow Me to Ground (Scriber, Jan.), a supernatural healer named Ada falls in love with a human.
Did your background in the visual arts influence the novel?
At the time I started writing the book, I was pursuing a master’s in visual arts practices in Dublin. I was looking at texts from Simone de Beauvoir and Julia Kristeva and the language they used around female experience, and also how Irish artists like Jenny Keane and Megan Eustace dealt with similar language and stereotypes visually. I started thinking about what all these intense metaphors and imagery that get ascribed to female bodies through psychoanalysis or horror films. That was how I ended up writing Ada.
Can you talk about how Ada is both intimately connected with yet estranged from the human population, or her “Cures”?
I’m interested in the ethics of intimacy and desire, and how intimacy is something that maybe isn’t available to everybody, or that can only look like a particular thing for particular people. Ada has this strange intimacy with the Cures, where she’s inside of their bodies (which doesn’t strike her as unusual at all), but then the carnal intimacy she has with Samson opens up another way of seeing the world.
Can you discuss Ada’s peculiar healing practices?
I’ve always been drawn to how weird practices of Western medicine are. If you look at something like a doctor’s appointment, you get undressed in a stranger’s room and they look inside your body. It’s inherently bizarre, but it’s something that we’re so accustomed to and is built into our concept of healing. So I wanted to think about the violence built into very normal types of medical treatment, which we don’t interpret as violence because they’ve been defined in particular ways.
How did you merge the story’s realist and fantastic elements?
I think there’s something about a strong economy of phrase with a magic realist slant that’s really affecting. I suppose it’s what the world looks like to me: realist and gritty but always inflected with strangeness.
What inspired the Ground, the magical patch of earth where Ada came from?
I was in West Cork, Ireland, and the landscape there is very dramatic. Looking out, I became struck with this image of a father and his daughter digging a grave for somebody who wasn’t dead yet. That was an abstract moment of inspiration. But a friend recently pointed out, “You’ve lived your whole life in Ireland!” We have bogs here that can swallow and preserve bodies, which then get found hundreds of years later in pristine condition. That was influencing me for sure on a subconscious level.