Darcey Steinke speaks with Gainsayer’s Gabriel Don
What is it that draws you to the novel form, as opposed to shorter forms?
I have written a few short stories but I really love the sustained narrative of the novel. A story told over weeks, months or years, in which you can follow a character and watch them mess up and maybe even try to do better. The novel is the form closest to actually life, of all the art forms. I really dig that.
Could you tell me about your experience as a Stegner fellow at Stanford University?
I was thrilled to get the Stegner and I loved living in San Francisco. It was a hard time for me though. I was breaking up with a boyfriend and trying to live a life of my own making. I take some of the blame but the Stegner did not go well for me. The head of the program at the time was very conservative and he had a real problem with women. I felt harassed by him, in a big way. I know he did not like my work but he also was mean and condescending. I ended up leaving at the mid year point. That was very hard for me. But in retrospect I am so glad I had the courage and nerve to do it. I feel very proud of myself.
What is a muse?
I think the muses are really just the people that went before us, who were creative and left things, books, music and art that we can still commune with. I mean when I get into an author I love, like Barry Hannah, even though he is dead I can commune with his soul. That is what I think a muse is.
How do you balance being a writer, a mother and a teacher?
This is hard. Very Hard. I don’t think the world supports mothers the way they should. I was a single mother too, so it was very tough. Lots of joy too, but hard at times to balance it all. I don’t think I did balance it all frankly. Mothering to me is a beautiful and intellectually rich thing. I wanted to do the very best I could for my daughter so I had to let the reins of writing go a little in those early years. Hard for me but worth it when I see what a force Abbie, my daughter, is now. She is a freshman at Bard College and on every level just fantastic.
What advice do you have for people who want to be a writer?
Read a lot. Don’t watch television. Write everyday. Figure out what your passion is, the static in your life, your own thematic contradictions and write into that.
Your latest book Sister Golden Hair was just released, what happens after a writer has finished their book and it has been published and printed? What other obligations does a writer have other than to their pen and page?
You do lots of interviews like this one! Also reading a lot and going around the country to book festivals. I also was asked to do Twitter and Facebook. You need to sort of hustle to get your book out there these days.
What does a unicorn represent to you?
I love unicorns. I have a story called the Unicorn Girl that my artist friend Marnie Weber did some art for. It’s a project I am super excited about. The character is half unicorn half girl.
How are women positioned within the creative industries?
It’s still harder for women. It’s better than it was, but still hard. The literary world still canonizes every year or two the new cool genius young male writer but this does not happen with women. It’s harder for a women to get traction. And to seem important.
You played guitar in the female rock band Ruffian, how do you approach song writing?
I have not written a song for a long time. But I hope to soon. I just got myself a tuner and some headphones for my amp and I want to get at it again. In the old days a line would stick in my head, or a melody. I remember once having a melody in my head and calling my answering machine, this shows it was the old days, and sang the melody into the machine so I would remember it. I very much love my band Ruffian and though we are all really busy now, I do hope we will write songs and come together again as a band.