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Jane Liddle

we photographed the writer in her old neighborhood

we photographed the writer in her old neighborhood

PHOTOS BY DAVY KESEY • INTERVIEW BY CARIANN BRADLEY • NOV. 15, 2019

This interview is a really special one for me. I found Jane when I was in college, and studied one of her pieces in "The Best Small Fictions of 2015." I don't know what about the story resonated so intensely for me — the main character's unabridged honesty, the piece's unusual formatting. Like most of us when we find something we love, I was in a place where 'Will It Ever Be Deep Enough" by Jane Liddle was the singular thing I needed to read. I felt understood. And I guess that's what art and writing and everything is all about — connecting and understanding each other. I thought Jane would be a good fit for l'Odet because what she writes parallels our own mission: our commonality is our need to connect over what's happened to us, what we've survived. Below is a quick chat with Jane so you can get to know her a little better. I encourage you to check out her work or try to stumble on some new artists you might not know today. — Cariann, editor

Midnight Woman Moon

CARIANN: Tell me a little bit about your background so the readers can get to know you a little better!

 

JANE: I was born in the last few months of what would qualify me as Generation X and I still have affection for its aesthetic (informal, juvenile, ugly), attitude (distrusting, apathetic, sad), and ideals (anti-corporate, DIY, riot grrrl) and art (Kill Rock Stars and K records, zines, Sofia Coppola). I am not, currently, apathetic, creating zines, or dressing in a way meant to challenge, but that is where I’m from, at least that’s how it feels, more than a place ever did for me (Newburgh, NY, and Manchester-by-the-Sea, two East Coast opposites). I went to college in Pittsburgh and majored in writing, then moved to Brooklyn (with a short stint in Somerville, MA, between, best not talked about). I didn’t write for ten years. I quit my book publishing job and started freelance copyediting, and started writing again. I felt the most at home during that time. Now I live in the Hudson Valley, work in a bookstore part-time and write book reviews. It doesn’t feel like my home yet, even though the area is, technically, where I’m “from.”

 

C: How would you describe your writing? And what is your ultimate goal with it?

 

J: I am always looking for ways to complicate a character’s goodness. I’m not interested in heroes. I like to force a reader to be sympathetic or at least invested in someone’s bad/criminal/unethical choices. I’m interested in betrayal, not just betraying one’s friends but betraying one’s ideals.

 

C: How do you think you’ve matured as a writer?

 

J: I don’t write veiled fictional satires of exes anymore. At least I try not to.

 

C: Where do you get your inspiration for your short fiction pieces? A lot of them have such different characters that really fully grow in the short amount of time I’m given to know them. Character development is what I love so much about writing and I’m always so curious about it.

 

J: My stories come from two places. One place is an idea I have for a project, or a puzzle. An example of this would be my book Murder. I had an idea to write very short stories about murder with the intention to demonstrate how anyone could become a murderer. How there are many possibilities in becoming one and it could happen to you. Another example of this would be a story told in the form of a quiz. Like, how can I do this in a way that’s interesting and still a story.  And other times a full story comes into my head and it’s a matter of getting it down. Those stories are more traditional, not like I’m working out a trick. I find them more satisfying in the long term.

 

 C: Going off of that, how do you flesh out characters in such a limited amount of time/space?

 

J: You only need a couple highly specific details, usually in relation to another character to show who someone is. So, saying a character only smokes American Spirits is a superficial detail, but showing that same character tell another that she’s out of cigarettes when she has a full pack in her purse shows a key part of that character. Sometimes if I’m lost I’ll try to think of someone I know who reminds me of the character and that can give me new ideas on how the character should behave.

 

C: My platform Midnight Woman and the magazine l’Odet both deal a lot with subjects of mental health and more taboo topics, too. I see that in a lot of your work as well, and I’m wondering if you’ve ever personally dealt with mental health issues and if it informs those themes.

 

J: I read at least six advice columns every day. So clearly I’m trying to find answers for … something, while also remaining totally unwilling to directly confront that something. Depression and mild drinking, sure, but also detachment. I write reviews for self-help books, and the common solutions/suggestions for all issues are journaling, exercising, and meditating. I do none of these. Maybe if I did my psoriasis would clear up.

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C: This isn’t really a question, but more of a fan-girl moment. Your hooks are just insane. It’s what I fell in love with when I first read “It Will Never Be Deep Enough” and you hit it again and again in all the other work I’ve read. I would absolutely get “I was at a party for the end of the world.” framed on my wall or something. Who wouldn’t want to keep reading? Okay, fan-girling over.

 

J: Thanks! A lot of times those hooks are in the middle of the story in the first draft and in revision they get moved up and tweaked.

 

C: What’s up next for you? What are you working on?

 

J: For a long time I was working on a book about daydreams. At some points it was a study of it, at other times a reporting/transcription. I sat on the idea too long and it feels musty in my brain so now I’m putting it aside. I keep setting out to write novels but the first drafts end up being 16,000 words long, which is an impossible length. I am currently working on a book that I am treating as short stories even though it is a novel. But I often have to trick myself in order to work on something so I’m telling myself its short stories because that’s manageable. That’s probably a personality type, rebelling against oneself. I’ve developed insomnia so I’m fighting against a mushy brain from lack of sleep combined with my usual laziness. The struggle is a bit more struggle-ly lately but I’m still chipping away at it.

 

C: And who are you reading right now? Who should my readers keep an eye out for?

 

J: I feel like I’m always reading Simone de Beauvoir, and just finished her memoir about her mom’s passing A Very Easy Death. I’m taking her She Came to Stay on vacation with me in a couple of weeks. I read Virginie Despendes for the first time, her book Apocalypse Baby was just a wild read of a detective novel. I loved Elizabeth Ellen’s Person/a as a work of autofiction that dealt with being a woman in love with a man but also in love with being an artist, and that conflict. Lauren Wilkinson’s American Spy had a similar conflict between love and ambitions, albeit in a more straight-forward fiction. And if any of your readers are Ferrante fans, as I am, but have read everything by her, as I have, then I recommend the back catalog of Magda Szabo for that hit of women friendships with an intellectual bent.

"I am always looking for ways to complicate a character’s goodness. I’m not interested in heroes. I like to force a reader to be sympathetic."

"I am always looking for ways to complicate a character’s goodness. I’m not interested in heroes. I like to force a reader to be sympathetic"

"I am always looking for ways to complicate a character’s goodness. I’m not interested in heroes. I like to force a reader to be sympathetic"

"I am always looking for ways to complicate a character’s goodness. I’m not interested in heroes. I like to force a reader to be sympathetic"

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For advertising opportunities, please write to us at goldie@midnight-woman.com

 

Have you been to Midnight Woman? That's our sister.

Midnight Woman is an online platform that welcomes contributors of all kinds to submit personal experiences anonymously.

We aim to redefine the way we talk about what's happened to us, no matter the subject. l'Odet exists for the named to encourage the nameless.

Midnight Woman is an online platform that welcomes contributors of all kinds to submit personal experiences.

We aim to redefine the way we talk about what's happened to us, no matter the subject. L'Odet exists for the named to encourage the nameless.