I wrote down a few thoughts about Samantha Hunt's Orange Prize Longlist title, The Seas, a few days ago. It blew me away, it was so wonderful.
Despite her incredibly busy schedule (including three children under age four!) Ms. Hunt very generously agreed to answer a few interview questions:
1.) What inspired you to incorporate elements of fantasy/fairy tales into The Seas? Is this how you initially planned to write the novel, or did it develop as you wrote?
The novel is about identity and the creation of singular realities. Identity and reality are nothing without fantasy. Also, I was reading Undine at the time. In my copy, an old copy, a few pages were missing and so it seemed natural to begin rewriting her story.
2). Are their special challenges inherent in writing a novel with fairy tale elements, or is it more freeing creating an alternate reality?
The only myth I felt bound by was the very strange idea that mermaids, the sexiest of the sexless, love men so much they want to kill them. That and the myth of a young girl’s identity in a small town that thinks it knows her.
3). Do you feel a special connection with the sea? Did you spend time there while writing or researching The Seas?
Is there a person ‑- including those who has never seen the ocean – who don’t have a special connection to the sea? It’s all mystery, all beauty, all terror, all the time. I studied shoreline in geology in college and lived in Maine for awhile but was actually in a land locked state when I wrote The Seas.
4). Why did you choose not to give a name to the main character?
At first it was simply because no name seemed to suit her and then I realized she had no name because she was looking for identity. How could she have one before she knew who she was?
5). The grandfather is obsessed with typesetting, and at one point the main character falls onto some of the letters, embedding the impressions in her flesh. Why is the creation of words so important?
Along with music, it is one of the great joys, my favorite game.
6). Do you keep a strict schedule for writing, or are you more a “when the spirit moves me” writer? Is there a physical location in which you prefer to write?
I have three children under the age of four and so I get two to three hours four times a week to write. I’m very strict. No computer so I won’t be tempted to google my fifth grade math teacher. I write long hand in the local library in a comfy chair.
7). Were you a bookish child? Was there a standout book or writer who influenced your desire to be a writer?
I was a very bookish kid. I read, and still do, everything. I find it difficult, awkward, painful even, to sit at a table and not have reading material in front of me. I couldn’t choose one book or writer from childhood. There are too many: Norton Juster, Johnny Gruelle, Ul de Rico, Mary Rodgers, Robert Cormier, Liesel Moak Skorpen, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Roald Dahl, Judy Blume, Tolkien are only a fraction of the writers who influenced me as a child.
8). Have you read a book recently that you’d recommend?
I loved Tom McCarthy’s C. Magnificent. And for a kid’s book, Tao Nyeu’s Wonder Bear.
9). Silly question, but how did it feel when you were nominated for the Orange Prize? How difficult is it to remain grounded in the midst of all the attention you’re getting for your writing?
It is magnificent and surprising. A fantastic honor to be grouped with these other wonderful books. I am so alone when I write that it still surprises me other people can see the words I scribbled down.
10). What is your next project? Have you started it?
I am working, hoping soon to finish, a new project but as an extremely superstitious person, will say no more on that topic.
Other books by Samantha Hunt:
The Invention of Everything Else
Visit Samantha Hunt's website.