Q & A With Megan Abbott

By Isabelle Rodriguez

Every once in a while members of FLARE are given a wonderful opportunity to interview and introduce new writers to our readership. Recently we had the chance to do an E-mail interview with Megan Abbott (Dare Me, You Will Know Me) and pick her brain on her journey with writing and specifics about her own stories.


As an author known for writing mysteries, was this genre something reflected in your early writing or discovered later on?

No. I guess I think my work fits more nearly under the crime fiction label, and I have always been interested in true crime—though mostly for the psychology. I’m fascinated by why we act the way we do, the aspects of ourselves we can’t control, how we overcome trauma, how we fight our own demons. Those are the books I was always drawn to (from Shirley Jackson to Joyce Carol Oates) so I guess it makes sense that I ended up writing in that world.


What do you feel is the best skill a writer should develop?

Discipline. It’s the only way it happens. You have to commit, get in the chair every day (or as close as you can) and be willing to write badly for 90% of the time in order to get that 10% that works. There are many, many harder professions, but the particular challenge in writing is it only happens if you’re giving it everything.


What aspect of writing do you find most frustrating and how do you choose to deal with it?

Revising. So often you’re trying to convey something and it just isn’t coming across. But, at a certain point, it’s very hard to read one’s own manuscript, to figure out the problems, to have any distance. It takes practice and ruthlessness.


You write about contemporary feminist topics (such as female sexuality in The Fever) is this something you’re conscious or unconscious of when you are writing a story?

Mostly unconscious. But I think about it in my waking life all the time. It affects everything. When I sit down to write, it probably creeps in naturally. That said, I don’t write from ideology or judgment. When I write, I just want to explore.


Several of your recently published works (The End of Everything, The Fever, Dare Me) feature young women as narrators, what do you feel your story gains from this perspective?

A voice too often ignored, dismissed. I hope that’s changing—-it feels like it might be. When I witness the response, say, to Emma Gonzalez’s powerful voice, I’m hopeful.


Do you want your works to stand on their own or do you want them to thematically build off each other?

Boy, I don’t think about it like that because if I did it might be crippling. I’m sure there are so many connections—they form a map of my obsessions! But I try not to think about that. I just try to let it be.


—— Megan Abbott www.meganabbott.com