Elizabeth McCracken on Placing Her Characters in New Settings
In Conversation with Maris Kreizman on The Maris Review Podcast
On putting familiar characters in a new context:
When I was writing these stories, I was wondering in general what it means to be out of context. … It’s always confusing seeing someone you love being completely different when surrounded by other people. I wrote five stories about Sadie and Jack, and I wrote them because, frankly, I had a deadline for a short story collection and knew I could draft a bunch of things quickly so that I could then revise them at leisure. But when I began writing them, there was this pleasure in starting something new that I already had information to start it with. It wasn’t like continuing a novel. I had the pleasure of thinking this is a brand new thing, but I knew them.
On the magic of travel:
I love travel. … Everything is brighter and significant and you mistakenly believe that everything is representative when you see it. There’s nothing quite as astonishing as going into a grocery store and seeing the deodorant section in a place that is foreign to you. I love that feeling and I love its wrongheadedness at the same time. That sense that everything is meaningful when you travel, it’s freighted with meaning. It’s entertaining to write about characters experiencing that.
Elizabeth McCracken is the author of seven books, including The Souvenir Museum, Bowlaway, Thunderstruck & Other Stories, and The Giant’s House (a National Book Award finalist and one of my favorite novels of all time). Her stories have appeared in Best American Short Stories, won three Pushcart Prizes, a National Magazine Award, and an O. Henry Prize. She has served on the faculty at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and currently holds the James Michener Chair for Fiction at the University of Texas at Austin.