Hello fiendish ones!
Today in the MADHOUSE we're going on a witch hunt with author, Juliet Escoria. Juliet is the author of the short story collection Black Cloud, which was originally published in 2014 by Civil Coping Mechanisms, and in 2015, Emily Books published the ebook, Maro Verlag published a German translation, and Los Libros de la Mujer Rota published a Spanish translation. Witch Hunt, a collection of poems, was published by Lazy Fascist Press in May 2016. She was born in Australia, raised in San Diego, and currently lives in West Virginia.
Last month, I read Juliet's collection, Witch Hunt, and I really enjoyed the raw honesty that is her voice. Her poems are straight-forward, without any sugar coating, and I loved how raw the collection as a whole came off. Great read-- definitely recommend it. But while you're purchasing her book, let's learn a little bit more about our poet.
While burning at the stake,
Stephanie M. Wytovich
WYTOVICH: Tell us about your poetry collection. What inspired you to write it and how did you go about doing so, i.e. what was your thought process/research like?
ESCORIA: I was trying to write a novel and it wasn’t going well—I felt confused and lost and insecure about my writing. Lucy K. Shaw asked me for a contribution for The Re-Up issue of Shabby Doll House, so I decided to write a few poems. They came to me quickly, and the process of writing them was really fun, which reminded me of a lesson I learned while writing my story collection Black Cloud – I write because it’s enjoyable. If the act of writing is more struggle than not, the work suffers and it means I’m doing something wrong. So I decided to do something impractical, which is put the novel on hold and write a poetry collection in the meantime. My husband, Scott McClanahan, and I had been joking that poetry isn’t real writing and that a poetry collection could be written in a month, so I decided to try and write it as fast as I could. Every day, I’d go into my office space for an hour or four, and write as many poems as I could in that time. It ended up taking longer than a month – I worked on it solid for around three, and then fiddled with it for a few months more after that. It was a really enjoyable experience. There’s something freeing about poetry, I guess because you are only juggling so many pieces.
WYTOVICH: How did you come up with the name for the collection?
ESCORIA: I started writing the book in November of 2014, which was in the middle of Alt Lit-gate. I was disappointed in what happened with that—it seemed like what started as a very important conversation quickly dissolved into sensationalism, a conservative take on female sexuality, and a minimization of the important work female writers had done under the guise of Alt Lit—so the term ‘witch hunt’ was fresh in my mind while I was writing the poems. I have a picture drawn by Carabella Sands above my desk of a witch burning at the stake, and one of the poems in the collections references witch hunts. It seemed like a fitting title for a number of reasons.
WYTOVICH: In regards to your writing process, what do you find is the hardest part? The most enjoyable?
ESCORIA: Waiting is the hardest part. I’m an impatient person. I get frustrated that writing takes so goddamn long. The most enjoyable is maybe the third or fifth go-around on a draft, when I’m doing the ‘embroidery’ – making sure the language sounds how I want it to sound, cutting out unnecessary words, and the like.
WYTOVICH: Who are some of your influences in the genre? Do you have any writing rituals that you tend to follow either before/during/or after you write?
ESCORIA: As far as poetry goes, I was influenced by Yoko Ono’s Grapefruit. While I was writing Witch Hunt, I was exchanging poetry with Elizabeth Ellen (whose collection Elizabeth Ellen will be published shortly – it’s amazing) and her work influenced me as well. Noah Cicero sent me a draft of his collection Bipolar Cowboy in the writing process, and that also affirmed what I wanted to do with my book.
As far as writing in general: Scott McClanahan, Mary Gaitskill, Denis Johnson, Dennis Cooper, Grace Paley, Amy Hempel, Lucia Berlin, Joan Didion.
Rituals: When I’m having a hard time, I light a candle and some incense before I start for the day. I like to listen to music. The last thing I do before I ‘finish’ a piece of work is change the font and spacing, then print it out and read it aloud. I’m very partial to writing on my desk—it’s hard for me to write anywhere else, although sometimes I do fine edits on the couch.
ESCORIA: The Outsiders is a re-read—I’ve loved SE Hinton since I was a child. The Michael Connelly is a not-so-guilty pleasure—my dad gave me this book for Christmas, and he’s one of the few writers we both like. Proof of the Spirit World I got for free from the local antique mall. It’s from the ‘20s and I am hoping it is haunted.
WYTOVICH: What is next in store for your readers?
ESCORIA: I finished the draft of the novel that was giving me trouble and sent it to my agent a couple weeks ago. I’m hoping it’s not too awfully long before publication. It’s a fictional account of my teenage years, when I was having a lot of problems, and contains pictures and scans of old documents. Some of the documents are forged.
WYTOVICH: If you could give one piece of advice to new writers, what would it be?
ESCORIA: Nobody will miss your writing, so only pursue it if you can’t NOT write. Otherwise, do something more useful with your time, like studying engineering or cleaning your bathtub.
Book Summary: The much-anticipated full-length poetry collection by the critically acclaimed author of Black Cloud, Witch Hunt delves into the terror and beauty that occurs when love, madness, and addiction collide.
Review of Witch Hunt at Electric LiteratureNotes on Witch Hunt at HTMLGIANT
Excerpt of Witch Hunt at the Fanzine