R.O. Kwon on Writing Religion, and Learning to Be a Teenager From Dawson’s Creek
The Author of The Incendiaries on The Maris Review
On finding a life in the arts:
Maris Kreizman: Are the questions you receive from undergrads about craft? I imagine on your book tour you experienced a lot of people who had also given up their faith.
R.O. Kwon: They do ask a lot about craft. A lot of them have questions about being an artist in the world and the practical steps of finding a life in the arts. I love talking about that, because as an undergrad I had no idea. I knew there were living writers, but mostly I had been reading very dead white writers.
Maris: That’s college.
R.O. Right. I knew Henry James made a life for himself but that dude is dead as fuck. I didn’t know how to figure that out, so a lot of people ask about that. A lot of writers who are marginalized in any way have a lot of questions about that: how to write and how to think about writing as a woman, a queer person, an Asian person, a person of color. The nice thing about talking to undergrads is that they are not stressed out yet about publication. … Their love is still pure, and it’s very energizing.
On religion in current fiction:
R.O.: It’s been really interesting to hear from religious people about the book. It’s not what I expected, but I wasn’t sure what to expect. A lot of very religious people have been reading the book, but not with hostility. What seems to happen predominantly is that when religious people read the book they appreciate all the ways the book doesn’t laugh at faith. … Faith is not a punchline. It’s not a joke. Faith is taken seriously. That’s partly because it’s not as present in current fiction, especially fiction that is not intentionally geared towards religious people. It’s been really lovely to have conversations with religious people and just talk through things.
On how Dawson’s Creek taught her to be a teenager:
R.O.: When I got to college and was a little more chill about my studies, I realized that I had been this completely studious, extremely driven student for a long time. I had never tasted alcohol, I definitely hadn’t had sex and barely kissed a couple boys, so I started watching Dawson’s Creek, of all things. I just wanted to know what other high school students were up to. I felt like I would have to fit in in a different way. How do you do that? So I tried to learn about being a teenager from Dawson’s Creek.
R.O. Kwon is a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow. The Incendiaries is her first novel, and it was named a best book of the year by over 40 publications. Kwon’s writing is published in the New York Times, The Guardian, The Paris Review, Buzzfeed, New York magazine, NPR, and elsewhere. Born in South Korea, she has lived most of her life in the United States.
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