In Tides (Grove, Jan.), a woman leaves a note for her brother and sister-in-law and sets out with a vague desire to visit the sea.
How did Tides come about?
The germ was to write about a set of siblings who had too close of a relationship that was hampering them from leading an adult life with their own relationships and families. As I started writing, I became more interested in Mara, the female protagonist. What had become more alive was Mara pulling away from the relationship with her brother.
You leave a lot of white space on the pages, with paragraph breaks and short snapshots of Mara’s inner life. How did you come up with the structure?
I tried to sort of figure out what were the parts that felt true to the story. After I had written a messy first draft, the language felt dead. What I wanted was language that shed itself, like the layers of skin. I opened an entirely new blank page and started writing with these shards of language from the original draft, and then I wrote it through following that tone. Allusion and absence and just an intense distillation were what were most important to this character in this circumstance, and they allowed me to get to the parts of Mara that were raw. It felt like I was swimming in new territory for me as a writer, which was extremely exciting.
Tides deals with some dark and deeply human themes—loss, grief, intimacy, and the self—how did they inform Mara’s narrative?
At the beginning of the novel, Mara is almost aphasic. It’s almost as if she’s lost any kind of orientation to the self; she’s almost a non-self. I was thinking about these moments of intimate loss and grief where you’re sort of carried away. So much of the book was about me grappling with who we are in relation to others and who we are to ourselves. In Mara’s case, she’s completely engulfed by this loss in a way that means she can no longer make herself out from others.
Mara’s impulse to walk away from her life feels very strong. Could you talk about what inspired that?
I think most of us who are socialized have moments where we’re like, “Damn, it would be nice to just not have to be a parent or a wife or a or a sibling or a teacher,” and yeah, I think that fiction is a great place to explore that possibility. I think it’s a lot harder to disappear now. It’s also harder to have secrets in our overly exposed realities. Mara is basically living out of her pocket. She refuses to use any kind of device, specifically her debit or credit cards, because she can’t be a pin on a map.