Dylan Thomas nominee Machado on writing the female experience

Dylan Thomas nominee Machado on writing the female experience

Cuban-American writer Carmen Maria Machado’s debut short story collection Her Body & Other Parties (Graywolf Press) is an original and thrilling exploration of the female experience, told through a potent mix of science fiction, horror and fairytales.

The title was shortlisted for the 2017 National Book Award for fiction, and has since received another nod from the Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize, with Machado joining fellow debut writers Sally Rooney and Gabriel Tallent on the 2018 shortlist.  

How does it feel to be shortlisted for the Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize?
Tremendously exciting! I’m pleased and honoured. 

What inspired your debut collection of short stories, Her Body and Other Parties
My existence as a woman in the world and my obsession with the interrogation of genre.

What are the key themes you explore?
Gender and queerness, sex and sexuality, mental illness, sexual and domestic violence, fatness, liminality. 

Your stories cover horror, science fiction and fairy tales - have you always been interested in these genres?
Yes! Ever since I was a kid. I always loved the work of Ray Bradbury, Hans Christen Anderson, Lois Duncan—any kind of fiction that changed my emotional temperature. 

Have you encountered any prejudice against genre fiction? 

Do you have a background in writing?
I studied writing, if that’s what you mean! I got an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 2012. 

Do you think the title is particularly important in the current social and political climate? 
Yes—I think it’s always been important and relevant, but it’s particularly important and relevant right now. 

Do you think short stories are enjoying a renaissance of late – for example, the online popularity of Kristen Roupenian’s “Cat Person”?
I think short stories go through boom and bust cycles, but until short story authors stop getting asked when they’re going to write a novel and command the kind of advances and sales that novelists do, I’d hesitate to call it a "renaissance".

Are you working on anything new at the moment?
A memoir, coming out from Graywolf in 2019. 

What was your favourite book of 2017?
Lesley Nneka Arimah’s What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky (Tinder Press), Jenny Zhang’s Sour Heart (Bloomsbury Circus), and Bennett Sims’ White Dialogues (Two Dollar Radio). 

You can read about the full shortlist here