Kasey Thornton on the Power of Writing What You Know
In Conversation with Brad Listi on Otherppl
Kasey Thornton is the guest. Her new book, Lord the One You Love Is Sick, is available from Ig Publishing.
From the episode:
Kasey Thornton: I told my mom when I was in seventh grade—and seventh grade was actually when they started doing the career stuff with us, which I think is absolutely vile, that in middle school you’re asking kids what they want to do with their lives. But I got home and I was like, I want to be a writer. And she said, okay, well, what do you want to write? And I said, everything. I want to write everything. And she was kind of like, okay…
And then I ended up by some freak accident not going to the agricultural college like everyone else or the party school like everyone else; I went to a very respected liberal arts school in the area, and I went to my first creative writing workshop. And I had recently read The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, and that’s a pretty popular one since the movie came out. The reason why I’d written a lot of genre stuff, I think, the sci-fi and the historical and fantasy—and I’m not I’m not shitting on those; they’re perfectly legitimate genres. But when I was a kid, I just was kind of mucking around with them. I did that because my life wasn’t very interesting, and so I was like, I can’t write about my life. No one’s going to be interested in that. I just live in a dumb southern town, and I army crawl under church pews, and I run around the town and play on my dad’s farm equipment, and no one would be interested in that kind of life.
And then I read Secret Life of Bees, and the way that she wrote the South, it just glowed with all of its glory and devastation, and I suddenly realized that there is absolutely power in writing about what you know. And that’s what I started doing.
The alcohol came into things. I started writing short stories for school; I’m a product of the workshop system very much. That’s my pedigree. I know it doesn’t work for a lot of people, but I am a successful turnout of it. I started going to workshops and writing short stories, and the alcohol—I don’t know, I think just having a deadline and having your grade depend on writing this story by Monday gave me enough incentive to work through the drunkenness, so to speak, and just pound something out. And a lot of the stories in the book are stories that I wrote in workshops, and I just threaded them together. I don’t think the alcohol affected that simply because the deadlines didn’t allow it to. I was very committed to what I was doing, so I was able to work through it in ways that I perhaps wouldn’t have been able to work through it otherwise.
I’m not going to lie and say that getting off of alcohol and the medications that I’m on have my mind perfectly clear for writing. I mean, I’m on a muscle relaxer and any number of things for my mental health. It’s a cocktail. And I’m not going to say that all of those pills have made me a better writer. I’ve just had an easier time living with them.
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Kasey Thornton attended both the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and North Carolina State University for her MFA in Fiction. Her creative work has been featured in the Masters Review, TJ Eckleberg Review, tinyjournal, Colonnades Literary & Art Journal, and Apeiron Review. She lives with fellow author Kevin Kauffmann in Durham, North Carolina, where her family has resided for over two hundred years.