Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. She published her first book in 1963 and has since published over forty novels, as well as a number of plays and novellas, and many volumes of short stories, poetry, and nonfiction.
From her Q & A with Mia Funk for Tin House:
Mia Funk: If I were to go into your online browsing history, what would I find?--Marshal Zeringue
Joyce Carol Oates: A hodgepodge of many things, I’m sure.
MF: It’s said you never have writers block. So what feeds your imagination? What gets you going writing in the morning?
JCO: Though I am never exactly “blocked” I do have difficult periods. I am led by a fascination with material—the challenge of presenting it in an original & engaging way. I have no problem imagining stories, characters, distinctive settings & themes– but the difficulty is choosing a voice & a language in which to present it.
MF: Which books of yours came to you naturally? And why?
MF: Which ones were more of a struggle?
JCO: Blonde, which is my longest novel, was a considerable struggle simply because of its length & complexity. It is a “fictional biography” of Norma Jeane Baker, who becomes “Marilyn Monroe” encased in a sort of American postmodernist epic.
MF: What do you find most challenging to write?
JCO: The novel is the most challenging form if you are trying to create something original. Obviously, all genres can be written “to form” . . .
MF: When you are creating characters, do they already have a strong presence in your mind’s eye?
JCO: Characters begin as...[read on]