Small Talk: Attica Locke

Attica Locke’s debut novel Black Water Rising was shortlisted for the 2010 Orange prize. Born in 1974 in Houston, Texas, she studied at Northwestern University and has worked as a screenwriter. She lives with her husband and daughter in Los Angeles.

Who is your perfect reader?

Probably me. I write books I’d like to read.

What books are currently on your bedside table?

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, Townie by Andre Dubus III and The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion.

What book changed your life?

13 Ways of Looking at the Novel by Jane Smiley.

What is your daily writing routine?

I get my daughter to school, then I go for a long walk or hike and think about what I wrote the day before or what lies ahead. Then I have an early lunch, so I won’t have to stop writing to eat, and I write until it’s time to pick up my daughter from school.

What is the strangest thing you’ve done when researching a book?

Sleep in a cottage on a plantation.

Which literary character most resembles you?

I like the idea of looking like Sethe from [Toni Morrison’s] Beloved. She’s strong, maternal, sensual and smart.

Who are your literary influences?

Jane Smiley, Toni Morrison, Dennis Lehane, Pete Dexter, Larry Brown.

What are you scared of?

Snakes, aeroplanes, anything happening to my family, writing books.

What do you snack on while you write?

I don’t. Just water, and sometimes wine in the evening.

What keeps you awake at night?

Worrying about my daughter, my career, my health.

Who would you like to be stuck in a lift with?

My husband.

When do you feel most free?

On a walk or writing a first draft.

How do you relax?

Wine and books.

What is the best piece of advice a parent gave you?

“No” is a powerful word; use it well.

What would you go back and change?

The paint I chose for my bedroom walls.

What would you change about yourself?

I would be less neurotic ... and taller.

Do you keep a diary?

Yes. I used to write daily. It’s harder for me now – my time usually goes first to the project I’m working on. But I have consistently kept a journal for 27 years.

What book do you wish you’d written?

Fifty Shades of Grey – so I could redo my kitchen.

What are you most proud of writing?

My wedding vows.

What does it mean to be a writer?

That you are always working. They say that people in law enforcement have “cops’ eyes”, meaning they see things that other people don’t. Well, writers are the same. We’re constantly taking notes on the human condition.

Attica Locke is the author of ‘The Cutting Season’ (Serpent’s Tail)

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