Tanya Seale’s story “Dissolving Lori” appears in Midwestern Gothic‘s Summer 2017 issue, out now.
What’s your connection to the Midwest, and how has the region influenced your writing?
I was transplanted to the Midwest as a young woman, hoping it would be a stop on the way to somewhere more exciting. I’ve birthed and reared two pretty remarkable human beings, earned two degrees, experienced love, heartache, friendship, betrayal, heartbreak, and great loss here. I’ve also made lifelong friends whose heart and soul are the Midwest. I’ve taken trips, and I’ve come home – what has become home – again. So I suppose I’ve created a life in the Midwest that, for me, has held some pretty exciting moments. These are all wells for my writing – the places, the people, the remembrances. When it’s time to move on from here, I can see myself being nostalgic in many ways, knowing that this stop has served my imagination well.
What do you think is the most compelling aspect of the Midwest?
When I first moved here, it was the four distinct seasons that made me love the Midwest most. And even still, the wakening in spring each year stuns me; the foliage in fall makes me catch my breath. Plus, we get just enough snow in winter and plenty enough heat in summer. But also, there are great characters born here. Midwesterners are smart, scrappy, traditional salt-of-the-earth. Each year, the river crests and the levee breaks, but not before the sandbags appear.
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?
We all tell stories about places we’ve been and the people who have shared those places and spaces, whether we’re reenacting a pickle jar disaster scene we saw on aisle 4 at the Shop ’n Save, or attempting to relay the exquisite beauty of an extraordinarily colorful sunset. I grew up in West Texas, and then I grew up again, even more, as mentioned above, in the Midwest. Those two regions smell and taste and look and sound and feel different from one another. They each have their own voices, and their own characteristics, and so naturally, they play a very important role in my storytelling. For writers, our places and spaces should become authentic characters that actively participate in the story.
Discuss your writing process — inspirations, ideal environments, how you deal with writer’s block.
My process is as confusingly ethereal as anyone else’s, really. I often experience writer’s block, and I often choose to cook, garden, invest in a new Netflix series, exercise, scrub toilets, anything to avoid the task at hand. But discipline is at least half of the process, isn’t it? If I can’t think of anything else to say, I make myself write about having nothing to say. Usually that gets old after a few minutes. There is never an ideal environment, there is no inspiration. There is only this chair, this laptop, this empty page, and these few moments.
How can you tell when a piece of writing is finished?
A piece is finished when I am making it different, not better.
Who is your favorite author (fiction writer or poet), and what draws you to their work?
It’s really hard to choose a favorite. You all know that, right? I read a whole lot of plays (because I also write plays) and I read quite a bit of young adult fiction as well. But I like Chekhov, Faulkner, Gabriel García Márquez, Jhumpa Lahiri . . .. I could go on. The only book that has ever knocked me off kilter for weeks, though, was Looking for Alaska by John Green. The first time I read it, I was on a road trip home to visit family in Texas. I finished the last pages in the car on the way there, and I could do nothing but weep covertly for hours, staring out the passenger’s side window. I spent the entire trip thinking about how perfect that book is, and how devastated I was that I couldn’t even talk about it, because no one else in my non-writerly, real-life world had read it or would be interested in reading it.
What’s next for you?
I just finished writing a full-length dramedy called Homesick about recent empty-nesters Karen and Rick, whose marriage is on the verge of collapse. In this play, I break the fourth wall and use the audience as a marriage counselor. It’s sort of a nod to Ibsen, but with contemporary subject matter. I will be sending that out for development and/or production opportunities, and I will be
cooking, gardening, investing in a new Netflix series, exercising, scrubbing toilets beginning a new project.
Where can we find more information about you?
You can find me at tgseale.com