B.C.-born Claire Battershill is both a highly accomplished academic and the author of fiction that has been nominated for multiple awards. Her debut collection, Circus, came out in April.
Why did you write your new book?
The title story in the collection, Circus, was the first short story I ever finished, so I didn’t imagine at first that it would be the beginning of a book. I was just enjoying making up the main character, Susan, and cataloguing her peculiar obsessions and habits. I continued to write stories for fun over the next few years, so that was really my reason for writing the book: I was having a delightful time making characters.
Whose sentences are your favourite, and why?
Virginia Woolf’s are so complex and lyrical. She often uses sentences that get gradually smaller and simpler until they land on the heart of the metaphor. Like this, from The Waves: “The flowers swim like fish made of light upon the dark, green waters. I hold a stalk in my hand. I am the stalk.”
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Always have something in the mail.
Which historical period do you wish you’d lived through, and why?
You know, I think I like it here, where we are, right now. But if I had to go back I’d pick the glitzy 1920s in Paris or London or New York. I love reading about the inter-war period: hedonism, sparkly dresses, abstract art, strange novels, first-wave feminism. Yes, please.
Would you rather be successful during your lifetime and then forgotten or legendary after death?
Oh, I’d like to enjoy it.
What agreed-upon classic do you despise?
Clarissa by Samuel Richardson. Too much swooning.
Which fictional character do you wish you’d created?
Andrew Kaufman has a character in All My Friends Are Superheroes called The Perfectionist. She’s, well, she’s perfect.
Which fictional character do you wish you were?
Maybe Viola from Twelfth Night. She’s feisty and aristocratic and she gets into all sorts of shenanigans. Actually, a lot of Shakespeare’s comic heroines seem to have a pretty good time.
What question do you wish people would ask about your work (that they don’t ask)?
I’d like to be asked about humour. Sometimes people are afraid to laugh in a literary context or afraid to ask about jokes, but I’d love to talk more about them.
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