Monday, April 17, 2017

Q&A with Katherine Heiny

Katherine Heiny, photo by Leila Barbaro
Katherine Heiny is the author of the new novel Standard Deviation. She also has written the story collection Single, Carefree, Mellow, and her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including The New Yorker and The Atlantic. She lives in Washington, D.C.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Standard Deviation, and for your characters Audra and Graham?

A: A​ long time ago—seriously, like 20 years ago—a friend of mine went to a wedding where she knew nothing about the bride other than the fact that bride gets very wet during sex. 

Much later, I began writing about that wedding, or how I imagined that wedding​, and I developed a character who has no filter, who would not only know such a detail but have no problem revealing it. And then I wondered what it would be like to be married to such a person. The rest of the novel grew from that idea.

Q: How was the book’s title chosen, and what does it signify for you?

A: The book’s protagonist, Graham, is very scientifically-minded yet he’s married to a woman who is almost totally ruled by impulse and emotion.  “Standard Deviation” has always seemed like an oxymoron to me, and it seemed to describe their marriage perfectly. 

Q: The story is told from Graham’s viewpoint. Did you ever consider telling some of it from Audra’s?

A: I don’t think I could write from Audra’s point of view.  She is very …other-directed, if that doesn’t sound too crazy.  (I don’t mind if it sounds a little crazy, I guess.) 

I can tell you what Audra would say in almost any situation but I couldn’t begin to tell you what she’s thinking. Also, I think it the novel is Graham’s story—he’s the one who changes. 

Q: Origami is a big theme in this book—why did you decide to focus on that?

A: My son went through a period of intense infatuation with origami, and we wound up going to conventions and things, because that’s what you do you love someone who loves origami. 

And I learned to love it, too, although I don’t actually do origami—once at a convention, a woman said to me, “Oh, you’re a non-folder” and I can’t begin to describe the scorn in her voice. 

But overall, I just feel really lucky:  some people get to find inspiration, and some people get to make their children happy — I got to do both.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I just finished a short story about a woman who gets very, very drunk at the airport.  Everyone I’ve described it to so far has said, “Oh my God, is it about me?”

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: Well, I keep saying that I’m more reserved and less impulsive than Audra, but a few days ago, my son asked me to email his teacher about something and then he added, “And don’t try to be funny.” So maybe I have less of a filter than I thought.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Katherine Heiny will be appearing at the Bethesda Literary Festival on April 22, 2017. 

No comments:

Post a Comment