OBJECTS OF DERISION

AN INTERVIEW WITH JUSTIN LAWRENCE DAUGHERTY

 
 
NGQ:
If you were a character in a story, how might you introduce yourself to the reader?
 
JUSTIN LAWRENCE DAUGHERTY:

“He wasn’t superstitious, but believed in ghosts. He was in the habit of being lost. He wanted to chase down the vanishing things of the world. He would never find himself in the center of a crowd. The wolves, he thought. The wolves are always there.”
 
NGQ:
To mention just a few things you’ve already accomplished (this is not to make you feel tired, but to indicate the breadth and magnitude of all you’ve done so far), you founded Sundog Lit & Cartridge Lit, and currently work as Co-Publisher at Jellyfish Highway Press. What has your time as an editor and a publisher (and an overachieving master) taught you about your own writing? Is there anything you’re especially grateful for out of all these experiences?
 
DAUGHERTY:
Being an editor has really taught me to expand and reimagine my own writing. I’ve encountered so much wild and varying writing, like you do as an editor and constant submissions reader, and so I’m awed by the new and exciting things writers are doing. This pushes me. Makes me a better and more challenged writer. I am more creative, more curious, more searching, more present, because of the work I’m reading and consuming as an editor. I think what I’m most grateful is that I get to promote and champion great writing. It’s really what I hold most dear. Working to give back to the community and being a part of the community is as important to me as getting my own work out there. I can’t imagine writing and not enthusiastically shouting out the work of great writers.
 
NGQ:
You Are Alive is forthcoming from Civil Coping Mechanisms Press (CCM) in 2018. What was your initial inspiration for your novel? What was it, be it character or image or concept, that grasped you tightly and never let you go through the writing process?
 
DAUGHERTY:

At first, I was really obsessed and focused on the emergence of ice and glaciers and snow. This is a book I’ve called an ice age western from the start. The idea of a world emerging from climate collapse was with me through the book. The way that new world is a different type of frontier from the one of American history, of westerns. A frontier that emerges out of desolation and human-caused destruction. It made sense that the book would be a western, then, too: the premise is initially a western trope: a woman sets off on a path of revenge for the murder of her father. I was interested in the ways frontier is redefined in this world and in the isolation and loneliness of such a journey in this world.
 
NGQ:
Speaking of processes, what does your writing process look like? Do you have a set kind of schedule you try to stick to, or do you write whenever you can?
 
DAUGHERTY:

I try to write in the mornings. I am usually awake with the sun. I get a cup or two of coffee in and try to get to work for a couple hours. I read more. I walk around. I stress. I am done with writing by noon. I go outside. I don’t plan much or have set goals, though if I get 1,000 words down in a day, that’s something. I love the very early morning quietness and solitude before everything is loud and busy.
 
NGQ:
What is your favourite line of anything you’ve ever written? And why do you think this has such a hold over you?
 
DAUGHERTY:

“There were reports of mermaids off the coast.” This first line from my story, “Mermaids,” really sticks with me as a moment my writing shifted and I started to find my identity and obsessions as a writer. The surreal and the weird, the possibly magical. It sort of signals the more overt fabulist I would become. I still love this story, five years later.
 
NGQ:
What do you turn to when you’re in need of inspiration?
 
DAUGHERTY:

I turn to a lot of culture when I feel the creative well running shallow. Lately that means Joy Williams, Amber Sparks, Ocean Vuong, Jamaal May, Blood Meridian, Claire Vaye Watkins, Laura van den Berg. HBO’s The Leftovers. Spending time outdoors and talking to dogs. Reading and taking in art. I want to get more into yoga and less into social media. I’m starting to really value presence and I am as media-immersed as anyone and want to change that. I think it can help to focus more on being in the world.
 
NGQ:
And finally, can you tell me who & what you’re reading of late?
 
DAUGHERTY:

I’ve read a lot of work in 2017 for PhD exams, but I’m lately really into Joy Williams, Bonnie Nadzam, Yuri Herrera, Rebecca Solnit, Ishmael Reed, Megan Giddings, Allegra Hyde. Graphic novels like Prophet or Low. My favorite book by far I’ve read in the last year is The Changeling by Joy Williams and everyone should read it. Everyone. Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky with Exit Wounds is something I keep opening up and it always makes me feel the need to push harder and search more for honesty in my work. Incredible book, but everyone already knows that.
 
 

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