Saturday, November 06, 2010

Marya Hornbacher

I think writers return and return to places, maybe a little obsessively, in their work. I don’t know why they do. I don’t know why some writers are so deeply immersed in place, and keep trying to describe the place they’re in and bring the reader into it with them and show them what it’s like and make them feel the place for themselves. I’m one of these weirdly place-centric writers. It bothers me when I can’t find myself in a place in my work; it makes me feel like I leave the reader floating in midair, unable to see or sense their surroundings, and it makes me very uneasy. So I keep coming back to places. One of them is obviously northern Minnesota, and I’m not sure why; it just absorbs me and I want to take people here. Though I’m not from here originally, I spent long spells of my childhood here, driving north on Highway 10 through cornfields and fields of sugar beet, to visit relatives who were loud and a little scary but fascinating, the same relatives who morphed into characters in my novel—and now they’re doing it again.

People ask me often if the characters in my fiction are me, or my family, or people I know. The answer is no; they are people who have taken on a life of their own, emerging mostly from names that pop into my head, names or features of people familiar to me, but who walk away from their starting point and take on form and substance totally unknown to me until they write themselves down. It’s an eerie process, and I don’t particularly like it; fiction is awfully amorphous and dictates itself according to its own interior logic. Not knowing how it will go until it goes there is a deeply unsettling process, and very uncertain, and it seems like you’re feeling around in the dark for a thing, and you don’t find it till it’s found.
-Marya Hornbacher