|Born||Helen O. Oyeyemi
1984 (age 32â€“33)
I tend to prioritize emotional realism above the known laws of time and space, and when you do that, it's inevitable that strange things happen. Which can be quite enjoyable, I think.
The way that people feel changes everything. Feelings are forces. They cause us to time travel. And to leave ourselves, to leave our bodies. I would be that kind of psychologist who says, 'You're absolutely right – there are monsters under the bed.'
I've always felt happy in my own company. It's only when I get around other people that things get sticky.
Fairy tales, because they have a very clear structure, are easier to interfere with. Also they have this really weird logic: the kind of logic that you only really experience when you're not feeling very well, or as a child.
I don't think my writing has much to do with my age. For me, my biography is more about what I was reading at what age. It's more of an intellectual thing of wanting to be free to write and think without being too bound by categorisation. I don't think I'm made for these times; I feel more like an old-fashioned writer.
I take aliens very seriously and don't appreciate light entertainment or weak approximations being made of them.
I'm greedy about cities – I like to form my impressions of them on my own, and on foot as far as possible, looking and listening, having conversations with bridges and streets and riverbanks, conversations I tend not to be aware of until a little later, when I find myself returning to those places to say hello again, even if only in memory.
So many times I've encountered people who are just kind of like, 'Yeah, Nigeria,' and, you know, thump their chest and seem very sure of, like, being Nigerian. And I'm just kind of, like, I wish I could be that sure.
I have been in love with Emily Dickinson's poetry since I was 13, and, like an anonymous post on findagrave.com says, 'Dear Emily – I hope I have understood.' Emily's poems are sometimes difficult, often abstract, on occasion flippant, but her mind is inside them.
I sometimes get asked: 'How come the men in your stories don't have such strong characters?' And I'm like: 'I don't care.' I just want to find out about all the different lives a woman can live. But my feminism has never been against men. It's not erasure; it's just they're not the focus. In real life, they're quite nice.
I don't feel there's a difference between the real world and the fairy-tale world. They contain psychological truths and, I guess, projections of what the culture that tells them thinks about various things: men, women, aging, dying – the most basic aspects of being human.
The way I live now is that I only write, which means that I'm very poor but very happy. Everything in my life is the way I want it to be.
I think I started writing about identity, and I used to believe that identity is the story. But now I'm not so much subscribed to that. I mean, with 'Mr. Fox,' it has a feminist agenda as well. And so, as I sort of been away from writing about identity, I still feel that kind of tug of roots and, you know, cultural background.
The first book I really loved was 'Little Women' – I'd have given anything for Beth to have been allowed to live; I remember crying very much over her death, trying to make the words change just by staring at them. I loved 'Anne of Green Gables,' too; 'What Katy Did;' and 'Peter Pan.'
I can recommend wearing blue mascara whilst writing. I'm telling you, it really adds something.
I remember that I used to get lots of books from the library, and 'Little Women' was one of them. And I used to just cross out the parts of it that really upset me because it's such a sad book in so many ways. I'd cross out the parts that upset me, and I would rewrite new endings.
Dickinson is my hero because she was a joker, because she would never explain, because as a poet she confronted pain, dread and death, and because she was capable of speaking of those matters with both levity and seriousness. She's my hero because she was a metaphysical adventurer.
Sometimes I feel weird about time. Sometimes I feel that it doesn't go in the order we perceive it. There are… repetitions that maybe we decide not to notice because it is simpler. I like to pick up on those moments.
I always wanted to be a writer! But I wanted to do other things, too – be a psychologist, a librarian, et cetera. Now I've decided that reading fiction that features characters who are in those professions will do.
A few people have tried to make me see that my writing isn't quite their thing by saying to me: 'What about realism?' To which my general response is, 'What about it?' However, I wouldn't be at all surprised if one of my favorite writers, Marilynne Robinson, was to say something similar if asked 'What about the fantastic?'
I don't despise 'Don Quixote,' but it is a book I don't… get. I'll have to come back it. Maybe there'll be a gateway story that opens it up for me; that happened for me with 'Paradise Lost' and the 'His Dark Materials' trilogy.
I love taking things out of context and playing with them and chopping up rules.
The way 'The Icarus Girl' came about was by me just basically bragging it with a literary agent and telling him I'd written 150 pages when I'd only written 20. And I think it was when the agent e-mailed me back right the very next day after sending him the 20 pages and asking to see the other 130.
I love character and voice, and my favourite books have been the ones in which I've become completely absorbed.
I do tend to feel more connected to dead writers, perhaps because they have finished their work.
Years ago a friend and fellow writer, Nick Antosca, once made a remark about it being best not to threaten, but to simply act. An effective way of going about things, I think.
The more forcibly I'm made aware of the fact that I'll never be the kind of storyteller I most admire, the less I'll be troubled by that. I'll probably just become more myself.
I don't think anything can help me socially, to be honest: I have this terrible personality. I don't really know how to describe it… maybe I'll go with surly.
I do love Shirley Jackson, but I don't deserve to be named in connection with her. I remember reading 'The Haunting of Hill House' and having goosebumps for hours. The way she builds narrative pressure in that book is just amazing. I think you could reread it a few times and actually go out of your mind.
I was a real mess at school. I got a bit of a reputation for being the weird girl: the girl who'd go silent randomly and just kind of write down replies to people's questions in a book.
Authors I've longed to write like – but realize I actually can't even begin to – include Poe, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Kafka, Daniil Kharms, Witold Gombrowicz, Emily Dickinson, Robert Walser, Barbara Comyns, Ntozake Shange, Camille Laurens, Zbigniew Herbert, and Jose Saramago.
I think, basically, what I'm good for is reading – a lot. I think I'll always be more of a reader than a writer, definitely. There are sooo many books in the world I haven't read, sometimes I feel as if they're all piled on top of my head weighing me down and saying, 'Hurry up.'