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We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler - Shortlist author interview

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler - Shortlist author interview

Our interview with Karen Joy Fowler about her shortlisted We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Seamus Heaney said: “I've always associated the moment of writing with a moment of lift, of joy, of unexpected reward.” Is this a sensation you recognise?

Absolutely, I recognise this sensation. Only I might quarrel with the word “always”. In my experience, joy is a reliable, but infrequent guest at the desk. Despair can also show up, but mostly my emotions run more moderate, ranging between irritation and pleasure, a faint sort of self-loathing and a pleasant buzz of satisfaction.

Do you enjoy writing?

I enjoy re-writing. Love it. The first draft is a dispiriting experience. So I only do a paragraph or so of it at a time and begin rewriting almost immediately. As a result, I never have anything that could honestly be called a first draft.

You have said in an interview that We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is the book you were meant to write. Can you explain what you meant by that?

Don't I sound full of myself when you quote me back to me? Please stop doing that. What I meant was, that although all my books have centered on issues that matter to me and I have managed to create many characters I came to care for, the issues and the characters in We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves come from somewhere so deep in my childhood, are rooted so early in my own autobiography, I could argue that I started writing this book when I was six years old and first began quarreling with my father over the issue of whether animals could think or not.

That childhood sense of identification with animals, that Mowgli desire to be accepted by animals as an animal, is still a part of me even as the grown up me is fully aware that nature does not love me back. I think I'm quoting Czeslaw Milosz when I say that no one can think too long about the food chain without going mad.