Vending Machine Press Presents Interview with Alexandra Naughton

1. What was your early life like? Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Philadelphia. My early life was cool, my sister and I played make believe games a lot with the neighbor kids, and kickball in the sidestreet. I didn’t like school because I was bored but I read a lot of books on my own, particularly during Ms. Elias’s fifth grade class where she gave us the same homework assignments over and over again. She yelled at me once for reading a Judy Blume book during class but we were not learning anything so I don’t know what her problem was. She sucked and was probably just clinging on to her job until retirement. That sounds terrible. I had some really great teachers in highschool and college who inspired and challenged me, but my gradeschool experience was not fun. I got bullied a lot because I had a unibrow.

2. What made you want to write?

Beautiful and confusing moments that floor me that leave me shaken so I try to recreate them.

3. What are your writing habits like? Are you always working on a story or poem?

I write a lot. I usually have a notebook on me. I read a lot too. When I am doing these things I feel productive and less useless.

4. Can you discuss your literary influences, or at least name some writers whose work you greatly admire?

Jean Rhys, Lorrie Moore, Roxane Gay, Amy Tan. I read all the early Amy Tan novels when I was in the 7th or 8th grade. Someone accused me of only reading women writers and while that’s not even true, I guess I gravitate toward women writers more now.

5. How important is community amongst fellow writers, do you get along with other writers?

I think I get along with other writers. I love collaborating and I love throwing parties so engaging with the writing community is important to me. I have a press and I am always looking for really good writing to publish and promote.

6. If you haven’t already, do you think you will ever write a novel?

I’m working on a new novel called Soft Opening right now. My first novel, American Mary, was published by Civil Coping Mechanisms in 2016.

7. Do you feel a sense of home? Is there a place like that to you?

The sun in California and the way sunshine saturates everything feels like home to me. My fantasy right now is to go to the desert alone and stay in a motel and finish the novel I’m working on. That idea feels like a place I’d like to visit.

8. Do you have any writing rituals or superstitions, before you start to write?

My space has to be clean. And I have to be in the right mood, and so I set the mood by cleaning and lighting incense. I work in bed a lot so I usually prefer to do major writing days after I’ve done laundry and have clean sheets on the bed. The music I listen to varies but I sometimes will listen to one song on a continuous loop to set a sort of constant energy coming out of me. I get into a rhythm and having the same song playing is comforting.

9. Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Both. Probably at the same time. It drains something but energizes something else, or maybe relaxes something.

10. Are you a science fiction fan? If so what attracts you to the genre?

I don’t really read science fiction or fantasy. I have an Octavia Butler novel that I’ll read eventually. I think about the movie Total Recall a lot because I feel like we’re living in a world like that right now and honestly that idea is terrifying to me, how much Philip K. Dick was able to predict.

11. Do you think literature can help readers make sense of their lives?

Sometimes I hear a song or read a passage and feel like it was written for me and I can’t really describe the feeling, it just fills me up almost to the point of bursting and it’s wonderful. So yes, definitely.

12. How autobiographical are your stories/poems.

I think all writing comes from a personal place even if it’s not memoir. We’re writing out our thoughts. I’m writing out my ideas. It’s not autobiography but it’s also not completely fiction. It’s a truth, whatever that means.

13. I would be remiss if I did not ask. What is your favourite films and TV shows?

movies: The Birds, Body Double, She’s All That, The Godfather (Part 1)

tv; Weeds, The Wire, Breaking Bad, Scandal

14. Are you political? What do you think of the current political climate?

The current political climate is awful and frustrating and I guess all we can do is keep listening and speaking up and trying to do work that we feel is important and impactful and encouraging and maybe also just fun. Making our own meaning in this.

15. How do hope your stories/poems will affect people?

Not everyone is going to like my writing and that is okay. I want to like what I’m writing. How it affects people isn’t really the point, but I do want to ask questions that will maybe leave the person reading considering those questions as well, because I think those questions are important and should be considered.

Alexandra Naughton is a writer, editor, and little dusty possum living in the Bay Area of California. Her first novel, American Mary, was published by Civil Coping Mechanisms in 2016. See links to her work at https://www.alexandranaughton.com/