A micro-interview with Beth Bosworth by KR Associate Jasmine Thomas.
Beth Bosworth is the author of A Burden of Earth and Other Stories and of the novel Tunneling. Her fiction has appeared in Hanging Loose, The Kenyon Review/KROnline, Seneca Review, and elsewhere. She divides her time between Arlington, Vermont, and Brooklyn, New York, where she teaches English at Saint Ann’s School. Her story “The Source of Life” appeared in the Winter 2012 issue of KR.
KR: Is there a story behind your KR piece(s)? What was the hardest part about writing it?
BB: Arielle Steinbaum, the narrating main character of my story The Source of Life, has just moved to Vermont, albeit a somewhat altered Vermont. I live in that state too part of the time. Arielle has two dogs, an older dog and a younger one that used to belong to her estranged son. I have two dogs, an older one and a younger one. But Arielle is a separate person from me and her reality different from mine. I found working inside her life exhilarating and kept circling back to it. The hardest part about writing The Source of Life was causing a certain character to suffer—I might not have done it had David Lynn not suggested that the story had merit and that he’d be pleased to see it again.
KR: What internal or external factors have the biggest influence on your creative process?
BB: I like to start writing early in the morning, so I prefer not to have anything else to do then.
KR: What’s one book, contemporary or otherwise, that you wish you had written?
BB: Sometimes a really fine work of nonfiction makes me think there’s no need to go on fictionalizing. Russell Shorto’s The Island at the Center of the World had that effect on me.
KR: What have you learned about the writing process in the last five years?
BB: Hmm. I’ve learned that money equals time to write. I’ve learned to cut off internet access in our home in Vermont. I’ve learned that fiction seems to require some degree of deception. In the past a sense of dishonesty would dog (no pun intended) my efforts to manipulate events such that the whole took form. That push over the edge into fiction may be what brings fiction alive, but it has taken me forever to accept this.
KR: When we publish, whether in print or online, we hope we’re making a sustained art–something that endures and continues to be significant. What role will sustained art have in a future that’s sure to be full of iPads/Pods/Phones and Kindles, hyper fast computers, and a reality where we can always be online, all of the time?
BB: Kindles don’t seem that problematic to me, except that they run on electricity. We who remember pages may miss them if they vanish, but you get other things in exchange, like search functions and instant dictionaries.
Meanwhile, sure, I vacillate between thinking we’ve invented a narcissistic technology with which we lethally self-hypnotize, rather like Marlowe’s Faustus is mesmerized by that flashy parade of seven mortal sins–we’ve invented something with everything homo sapiens sapiens seems to adore, bright lights, finger keys, letters, pictures, etc.–and thinking that this new generation of internet users, the first generation to grow up entirely in the computer era, will find ways to circumvent its more nuisible effects. My students, teen-agers, seem a little less impressed by technology in general.
But will people still read, which is probably your question? If the world continues to turn, sure.