Thursday, September 29, 2022

Q&A with Ainslie Hogarth




Ainslie Hogarth is the author of the new novel Motherthing. Her other books include The Lonely. She lives in Canada.


Q: What inspired you to write Motherthing, and how did you create your character Abby?


A: There are a million answers to this question, but one of them is that I became very interested in stories about folie a deux, which is a psychiatric syndrome in which delusions are transmitted from one person to another. The most sensational examples of folie a deux are about couples who murder together.


Though that’s not Ralph and Abby’s story, I wanted to know more about the process of two brains becoming sick together, sharing madness, and, more importantly, I wanted to explore the extent to which shared madness is possible in any close romantic relationship.


Maybe even a necessity for close romantic relationships, particularly as we’ve defined them for straight women: hopeless devotion, blurred boundaries, implicit trust, the expectation that you and your husband will fulfill one another’s every physical, emotional, and mental need.


So that’s how the story, and Abby—a lightning rod for all the bad intel passed down to women about marriage and relationships—started.   


Q: The writer Courtney Maum said of the book, “This novel is bursting with smart, provocative, heart-breaking things to say about the nature of grief and its ability to take up just as much—if not more—physical space than the actual person lost.” What do you think of that description?


A: I think it’s such a lovely interpretation of the book! And one that I really appreciate. Because as much as Motherthing is a horror story, it’s also very much a love story. And “what is grief, if not love persevering?” I thought this line from WandaVision (another narrative that’s as much about the action as the love story) was actually a very good line, despite what the internet had to say!

Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it?


A: Not exactly. I’m not sure how to explain more without giving away the ending.


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


A: There is a study I read way back in high school, I write about it in the book, about baby laboratory monkeys, taken from their mothers, attaching themselves instead to a bit of foam and terrycloth. Essentially these baby monkeys were able to get some semblance of what they needed from a terrycloth surrogate.


I was so struck by this idea that a baby creates its mother, as much as a mother creates her baby, and this is something that Abby does all the time, forever creating motherthings out of unwilling participants, getting what she needs from them whether they realize it or not. Desperate too, to become a motherthing herself. So that’s where the title came from.


Plus the word thing is part of a long lineage of horror titles. And for good reason—it’s a very creepy word!


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m working on another novel right now, though I’m not sure how much I can say about it other than it’s about mothers and capitalism.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Basic first aid!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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