Ivy Pochoda on Writing About Violent Women (Without Making Excuses for Them)
In Conversation with Brad Listi on Otherppl
Ivy Pochoda is the guest. Her new novel, Sing Her Down, is out now from MCD Books.
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From the episode:
Brad Listi: As I was reading, another thing that was occurring to me is that I have not seen stories where women are perpetrators of violence very often. I was searching my brain. I couldn’t think of one.
Ivy Pochoda: Well, there are ones. You will see it in different aspects of crime fiction, like domestic violence and domestic drama and psychological thriller, where a woman’s had enough or has amnesia and killed a bunch of people that she doesn’t remember. Or you see it in Gillian Flynn’s books—and I really like Gillian Flynn—but it doesn’t feel real to me. Those don’t feel like good reasons to be violent. They feel like book reasons or sensational reasons.
I, too, hadn’t read a lot about violent women. But I realized when I had, their violence was always excused by some action perpetrated upon them by a man. So when we talk about violent women, we are very comfortable with their violence if it’s like Thelma and Louise, who have been wronged by their husbands; or Aileen Wuornos—who’s not a fictional character, who’s a real person—who is a prostitute, who was abused; or a woman in a psychological thriller who has a vendetta against something that happened to her in her past that caused a split personality, and a split personality is off doing horrific deeds but meanwhile she’s at home making cake. I’ve read that book like three times. That book exists and it keeps coming out.
When we read about violent men, we don’t have these excuses for them as much. So I really wanted to write a book that was about violent women, and I wanted to write it like Cormac McCarthy might write about violent men. He doesn’t really excuse their behavior, he just lets them go for it. You haven’t read it because I don’t think it’s really been written.
Ivy Pochoda’s other books include the acclaimed novels Wonder Valley, Visitation Street, and These Women. She won the 2018 Strand Critics Award for Best Novel and the Prix Page/America in France, and has been a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Edgar Award, the Macavity Award, and the International Thriller Writers Award. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times, among other publications.