Chantal V. Johnson on Letting the Reader Be Smarter Than Her Character
In Conversation with Alex Higley and Lindsay Hunter on I'm a Writer But
Welcome to I’m a Writer But, where two writers-and talk to other writers-and about their work, their lives, their other work, the stuff that takes up any free time they have, all the stuff they’re not able to get to, and the ways in which any of us get anything done. Plus: book recommendations, bad jokes, okay jokes, despair, joy, and anything else we’ve got going on that week. Hosted by Lindsay Hunter and Alex Higley.
In this episode, Chantal V. Johnson (Post-Traumatic) talks to us about capturing the traumatized mind of a brilliant woman, her unique writing process, her use of dialogue and argument, going to auction, retiring from law, and more!
From the episode:
I was interested in that tension—this idea of a person of high intellect, and a person of high self-awareness and insight still unable to, unwilling to, not yet ready to look at certain aspects of her life and really face them. That’s something that everybody goes through, but I think it feels particularly strange or difficult when the person is so self-aware. It seemed like a good way to generate internal conflict within a character, and to create a sense of dramatic irony for the reader. I do think that’s important; for this story I wanted the reader to have a little bit more awareness of certain things than Vivian. In part because she’s so smart, and I just wanted to show how dumb she is as well.
Chantal V. Johnson is the author of the debut novel Post-Traumatic, published by Little, Brown in April of 2022. Post-Traumatic has been longlisted for the 2022 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, named a Best Debut Novel of 2022 by Debutiful, and hailed as a “sharp psychological novel” by The New Yorker. Chantal graduated from Stanford Law School and worked as a tenant lawyer for over seven years. She lives in New York.