Debut Author Snapshot: Carmen Maria Machado

Posted by Goodreads on October 2, 2017
Carmen Maria Machado In her debut book of short stories, Her Body and Other Parties, author Carmen Maria Machado tells tales of women's bodies through the lenses of horror, fantasy, and science fiction.

These are stories about sorrow and violence, about sex and pandemics. For example, "The Husband Stitch" retells the urban legend of the girl with the green ribbon around her neck. "Especially Heinous" uses Law & Order: SVU as a way of exploring the voyeurism around sexual assault. "Eight Bites" tells the story of a woman who gets gastric bypass surgery and is haunted by the body she loses.


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Machado's work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy 2015, Year's Best Weird Fiction, Vol. 2, and other publications. She's currently the artist in residence at the University of Pennsylvania and lives in Philadelphia with her wife. She also says she's obsessed with books, dogs, martinis, clothes, costume jewelry, and video games.

Goodreads: This short story collection is an original mix of sci-fi, horror, magical realism, and fantasy that is being described in readers' early reviews as eerie, queer, haunting, raw, brilliant, and ferocious. How did you develop these ideas for your debut book, and did you set out to write a genre-bending book?

Carmen Maria Machado: I didn't set out with those particular terms in mind; rather, I wrote the stories that I wanted to tell—the stories I wanted to see in the world, the stories that explored the things that I explore in my head every day—and I used the tools of horror, fantasy, and science fiction to get there.

GR: What does your book have to say about what it's like to be female today?

CMM: I think these stories explore the precariousness of being a woman, especially a queer woman, in a world bent on crushing you to powder. This has always been the case, but of course as an American woman, I am feeling this anxiety very acutely nowadays.

GR: What would you like readers to take away from your short story collection?

CMM: I want readers to reconsider what they believe to be true about the world they live in. I want women and queer folks to feel recognized. I want people to be aware of the surrealism and horror and science fiction that surrounds them every single day.

GR: The centerpiece of your book is the novella "Especially Heinous," in which you recap every single episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit but with a supernatural bent. We just had to ask, why Law & Order: SVU?

CMM: A few reasons! First, I once got swine flu and ended up watching multiple seasons of SVU while in the middle of a hallucinatory fever. So I think that had something to do with it. But more importantly, I wanted to explore our cultural interest in narratives about sexual violence, and what better way to do that than reimagine our most popular narrative about sexual violence?

GR: What writers are you influenced by, and how do those influences show themselves within Her Body and Other Parties?


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CMM: Among my influences are Kelly Link, Karen Russell, Shirley Jackson, George Saunders, and Nicholson Baker.

They manifest in my collection thusly: Kelly Link's utter disregard for the boundaries of genre, Karen Russell's gorgeous images in service to liminal fantasy, Shirley Jackson's unsettling details and female protagonists, George Saunders' dark humor, Nicholson Baker's generous approach to writing about sex.

GR: What are you currently reading, and what books are you recommending to your friends?

CMM: Some recent books I'm obsessed with: Bennett Sims' White Dialogues (an eerie and brilliant short story collection), Samantha Hunt's The Dark Dark (ditto), Alissa Nutting's novel Made for Love, and Kathryn Davis' Duplex. I also just got a peek at Mallory Ortberg's The Merry Spinster, and it was so incredible, I wanted to just run screaming through the streets.

GR: What's next for you? Any preview you can give readers?

CMM: I sold a second book to Graywolf [Press] earlier this year, a memoir about abuse in same-sex relationships. So that'll be coming out in 2019. I have a bunch of other projects in the works, but it's not clear what my next-next book is going to be. But my WIPs include a novel and a book of essays. So we'll see!

Read more of our exclusive author interviews on our Voice page.




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