interview: nicole trilivas
A couple of weeks ago I reviewed Nicole Trilivas’s debut novel Pretty Girls Make Graves. I spoke to Nicole about her candid writing regarding sex, what’s coming next in her writing, and iconic females in literature.
The narration and content of the book is very raw and honest, particularly when it comes to sex, and motivations behind sex. Why do you think so many writers are fearful to write about it? I think it’s a matter of habit: Sex is tricky to write about because of the inherent awkwardness of it. Just as movies have soft lighting and soundtracks laden with dreamy female vocalist, writers have heavy-handed adjectives and metaphors. Instead of being frank, it’s easy to fall back on these time-tested, “romanticized” methods of managing the clumsiness, or to just gloss over it all together. Of course the danger of this is that it’s not true-to-life.
Justine travels to many countries and cities, and this in part is based on your own wanderlust. Do you think it’s important to venture overseas in order to find out more about who you are? Absolutely. One of quickest ways to find out who you are (or to craft who you are) is to get out of your comfort zone. Traveling overseas is the most efficient and immediate means that I can imagine to accomplish this.
If you could tell Justine one piece of advice, what would it be? Carl Jung said, “The greatest and most important problems in life are all in a certain sense insoluble. They can never be solved, but only outgrown.” So I would tell her that this too shall pass. Of course I’d imagine that she’d roll her eyes, light a cigarette, and say something snarky because that’s the tragedy of youth—no one else can get you through it, you just have to keep going until you reach a clearing.
If you could reinterpret any fairytale or mythological story, what one would it be? Though it didn’t work with the story line for Pretty Girls Make Graves, I would really like to skin and pin bone Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid. There are such thick thematic threads of Christ-like sacrifice and almost-religious affliction that run through the story, which is a tragedy (unlike the Disney movie). There’s this one quote that goes: “A mermaid has no tears, and therefore she suffers so much more,” which encapsulates a point often reiterated in western psychology that if we bottle up our emotions, and don’t express them—we suffer. Mermaids, I suppose, are doomed to suffer.
Who do you think the most fascinating female from literature is? I really have a thing for Medea’s badassery. The ancient Greeks believed in catharsis: the idea that if you “experienced” an emotion through art, than you would not necessarily have to experience it in real life. This is why so many of their plays deal with such extreme and grotesque ideas (i.e. Medea and Oedipus Rex). Medea is calculated, not crazy: She didn’t just murder her children in rage, which would make it easy to write her off as a psychopath, instead it was a tactical move. I think I’m fascinated by her because she’s not a monster, she shockingly relatable. And it scares me that we can easily understand where she’s coming from.
Out of all the female characters you’ve read in literature and folklore, is there one in particular you haven’t been able to empathize with or feel a connection to? I have trouble understanding Ophelia from Hamlet. Her suicide is kind of emo–which is a shame because it’s such a tragically beautiful tableau (a young virginal maiden drowning herself in a river surrounded by flowers), but this is negated by the fact that her action wasn’t warranted (even in an artistic sense). I mean, Hamlet barely gives her attention so she drowns herself? And then when he finds out he barely grieves. It feels over the top. It’s so unlike the proud Cleopatra or fiery impassioned Juliette. Ophelia’s suicide looks cheap and melodramatic in comparison.
What made you decide to go the self-publishing route as opposed to the more traditional channels? Sheer necessity! I attempted to take the traditional route, and I was in communications with several agents at different times throughout the course of shopping the book; however, no one was ready to fully commit. So instead of letting Pretty Girls Make Graves languish on a hard drive, I decided that I would self-publish.
What’s coming next for you in terms of writing? I just started doing character studies for a new novel–it may or may not be about female frenemies, Munchausen syndrome, and hostessing in Japan. Of course those are just where my compass is directed now, but who can tell what will happen when I get going. I tend to and also let myself go wildly off course.
Nicole’s blog lives here