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Amy Rea’s story “Mabel at the Cabin” appears in Midwestern Gothic‘s Winter 2017 issue, out now.
What’s your connection to the Midwest, and how has the region influenced your writing?
I grew up in northern Minnesota, then moved to the Twin Cities to attend the university. Other than a year and a half living in New England, Minnesota has always been my home. Given that, how could it not affect my writing? I have the advantage of having grown up in a rural area and also lived in the metro, so I’ve experienced both sides.
What do you think is the most compelling aspect of the Midwest?
Its range of beauty. In Minnesota, people tend to focus on the North Shore of Lake Superior, but our geography is much more varied than that, and so people have different means of making a living/lifestyles/points of view. How you live on a southern prairie is entirely different from how you live on the Canadian border.
How do your experiences or memories of specific places—such as where you grew up, or a place you’ve visited that you can’t get out of your head—play a role in your writing?
It’s that thing about writing what you know. Not literally—no one is going to care about my travails in taking my elderly dog to the vet—but how people think, act, behave, why the weather’s important, how someone can develop a fondness for solitude and desolate environments—that’s what affects my writing.
Discuss your writing process — inspirations, ideal environments, how you deal with writer’s block.
Inspirations are all over the place: Dreams, conversations (my own and those I’ve overheard), memories. Ideally, I write well both in my own home office (when I can convince myself to turn Twitter off) and in coffee shops. I love working in the latter, where sometimes I’m distracted by listening to the amazing things people will say in public places. Writer’s block? Journaling. And long walks. And lots of reading of my favorite authors.
How can you tell when a piece of writing is finished?
I’m not sure I can. I usually rely on my writer friends to say, “Time to send it out.”
Who is your favorite author (fiction writer or poet), and what draws you to their work?
One favorite??? I love Elizabeth Strout’s work, for her fine character portrayals; I love Elena Ferrante’s Neopolitan novels for their unsparing look at women’s lives and relationships; I love Jennifer Egan’s taking on new challenges with every nove; and I just flat-out love Colm Toibin, period.
What’s next for you?
This story is part of a larger cycle of stories set in northern Minnesota, in a fictional town. In 2017, I’m going to work toward completing a first draft. I also write poetry, and an artist friend and I have an exhibit scheduled in March 2018, in which I write poems and my friend creates visual art around each poem’s themes. I still have some more poems to create for that.
Where can we find more information about you?
I’m pretty boring, but you can find me on Twitter: @amycrea