Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Next Big Thing: Interview with Chella Courington

The following is a "Next Big Thing" interview with Chella Courington about her book, Talking Did Not Come Easily to Diana.

What is the working title of the book?

Talking Did Not Come Easily to Diana

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Diana McPhear first appears in a poem entitled “Redder than Diane’s Lipstick” published in Gargoyle. I like her name and became attached, looking for a place where she could thrive. I teach at a community college where many of my friends are adjuncts, always struggling to make ends meet while writing novels and painting watercolors on the side. I want to show their lives through Diana, who has an MFA in Poetry and teaches at Earl Warren Community College.

What genre does your book fall under?

Prose Poetry and Flash Fiction while Musa, Diana’s online publisher, lists it as microfiction.

What actors would you choose to play the part of characters in a movie rendition?

Since Talking Did Not Come Easily to Diana is told largely from Diana’s perspective with much of the focus on internal thought, I would choose Kate Winslet as Diana. Winslet does a fine job with introspective characters like Ruth in Holy Smoke and Julia in Hideous Kinky. She’s also the right age for Diana. There are several Xs: two boyfriends, a girlfriend, and a husband. The husband is a controlling CPA whom Kevin Bacon can portray. One boyfriend is a lumbering outdoorsman. Maybe Seth Rogen. The other boyfriend is unbelievably traditional and wants a good cook to wait on him. Jon Hamm is perfect. The manipulative girlfriend is Jodie Foster.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Diana's a quirky, adjunct writing professor who spends a lot of time in her head, thinking about the past and depending on her cat Rhoda for affection.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

When I received my MFA in 2009, I didn’t want to become a statistic. So I’d show up almost everyday to write and found it much easier to follow a character than write a new poem each day. Of course, if I’d been working on a novel-length poem like Robert Browning’s Ring and the Book or an epic poem like Alice Notley’s The Descent of Alette, it would have been easier to enter the work on a daily basis. By the end of my MFA, I had moved largely to prose poetry, a step away from flash fiction, and felt comfortable in that space. It seemed right for Diana’s story as her mind was her playground. To return to the question, I spent nine months to a year writing and revising Diana while teaching 140 community college students.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The vast number of talented and undervalued adjuncts with whom I teach at Santa Barbara City College.

What else about this book might pique the reader’s interest?

Here’s a telling review by Barbara Schweitzer on Amazon: “Chella Courington's new book is a coming-of-age story of an English major pursuing academic teaching. Her character moves through the adjunct-slave-labor camps to a professorship with eyes opening wide for us. Diana's complexity, dark humor, and slanted view of the world make for a fabulous relationship with the reader. This Diana is true, and the prose poetry that drew her so clearly is sheer pleasure to the ear. I wish she had stayed around longer in the pages, and I hope Chella Courington gives us more of her, or another Diana, soon.”

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It's published by Musa Publishing online, and available through Amazon.

Opening Piece

Diana loved anything orange—cats, lipstick, hunting vests, nail polish, hard hats, life jackets, water guns. When she slipped through her mother’s legs, almost butting the doctor’s stomach, her skin turned a yellowish red. “I did crave pumpkin,” her mother said. “Before my water broke, I ate a whole pie, crust and all.” It took eleven days of being rubbed in olive oil and resin, her mother’s fingers lightly massaging Diana’s new skin that capitulated to air in March before trout season, before her father deserted them for Pennsylvania streams. Her eighth Halloween she painted her nose and toes tangerine and swathed herself in a sheet, RIT-dyed sunshine orange, that her mother soaked in white vinegar until the bleeding stopped. Even then in third grade, she knew what they didn’t. How we climb into our wombs at night, sheets over our heads, and wait for the water to float us back.

Next week's interviews will be with:

1. Robin Winter
2. Theo Winter
3.Rob Stephens
4. Marcia Meier
5. Claudia McGarry

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