Karen Brown is the author of Little Sinners and Other Stories, which was named a Best Book of 2012 by Publishers Weekly, and Pins and Needles: Stories, which was the recipient of AWP’s Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction. Her new novel is The Longings of Wayward Girls.
From Brown's Q & A with writer Caroline Leavitt:
So much of The Longings of Wayward Girls (great title, by the way) is about memory, the things we try to forget, and how memory is often transformed by time. Can you talk a bit about that, please?--Marshal Zeringue
Growing up I had a best friend who moved away when I was five. Years later, in middle school, she reappeared to tell what seemed to be outrageous stories about me. Had I really been so painfully shy in kindergarten that she had to speak to the teacher on my behalf?
“Mrs. Susskey,” she’d say. “Karen wants to know if she can get another piece of paper.”
I’d always believed I had an excellent memory—and yet either I had somehow forgotten part of the past, or my friend—who had no reason to lie, was making it all up. I became intrigued with the versions of the past we tell ourselves—how our memories are unintentionally faulty, and we cannot always remember correctly. Misremembering is a fascinating aspect of characterization.
Just recently another childhood friend (for whom the novel is dedicated) sent me a photo of a tiny porcelain box decorated with dragonflies that I’d given to her for her birthday when we were young. I never remembered giving her the box, but I recognized it immediately—almost as if I’d stepped through some sort of curtain, or portal, to hold the box in my hands, lift its lid again. I wanted to recreate that feeling in this novel—to have the past be suddenly present and immediate, both new, and yet strikingly familiar.
The novel is set against a backdrop of quaint suburbia, which made me think of how David Lynch used suburbia in Blue Velvet. Why do you think a place like the suburbs is actually the perfect location for something cruel or evil simmering under the placid surface?
It’s an appealing place—so tidy and organized. There are...[read on]