Interview with… Gina Troisi

Hey, it’s the third Monday of the month… again! And this month, I’ve invited Gina Troisi to the Fountain Pen to share her writing with us.

Gina is the author of the memoir, The Angle of Flickering Light (Vine Leaves Press, 2021). Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including Fourth Genre, The Gettysburg Review, Fugue, Under the Sun, Flyway: Journal of Writing & Environment, and elsewhere. Her stories and essays have been recognized as finalists in several national contests, including the 2020 Iron Horse Literary Review Trifecta Award in Fiction, the 2018 New Letters Publication Award in Fiction, American Literary Review’s Creative Nonfiction Contest, 2018, and others. She has taught classes and workshops in both traditional and non-traditional settings, including writing workshops for female adult survivors of sexual assault. She lives in coastal Maine.

Welcome Gina, what else should we know about you?

I have been pretty much obsessed with writing since I was a kid. But for many years, as a young adult and even into my twenties, I lacked the discipline necessary to devote myself to a regular practice. I tell myself that rather than wasting time, I was living my material. If there is such a thing as an addictive personality, I have one, and while that can be problematic when it comes to substances, I find that it can be helpful when it comes to making art. I heard Lidia Yuknavitch speak on a panel at AWP some years back, before I had ever heard of her or her work. She said, “I believe in art the way other people believe in God.” And I thought, that’s it—that’s exactly how I feel.

That’s a great quote from Lidia!

Why memoir? Did you choose it, or did it choose you?

I write in multiple genres—memoir, fiction, and poetry—but when it comes to my recently released memoir, The Angle of Flickering Light, the genre most definitely chose me. Like so many memoirists, I did not have a conscious desire to write about myself—or at least I had no intention of presenting the work as nonfiction, if that makes sense.

I was writing autobiographical fiction long before I admitted to myself that what I was actually writing was memoir. But, as it goes in this world of writing and storytelling, it feels like we are rarely making conscious choices when it comes to our obsessions and fixations, our themes and topics, and ultimately, our genres. I find that the content of my work often informs the structure, and the genre.

What do you hope your readers take away from your work? What are you trying to achieve?

As far as my recent memoir goes, my wish is that readers will be left with an ultimate feeling of hope, of inspiration. That it will serve as a reminder that even when we are struggling, dealing with grief and loneliness and despair, we are never truly alone. Most often, we can endure much more than we believe we can. I also hope that readers will take away the great reminder that through art, anything is possible.

No matter what genre I am writing in, I strive to shine light on moments, circumstances, and relationships that might not always be given enough contemplation. I want to provoke readers to think—about class issues, and addiction, and about how people unintentionally end up in situations they have a difficult time getting out of. I am fascinated with the idea of the underdog. Mainly, I aim to create characters that readers will empathize with.

How do you approach a new project? Are you a plotter or a pantser, or somewhere in between? Where you do get your ideas?

I have actually never plotted anything—not a story, or an essay, or a book. I am one hundred percent a discoverer. The only way I am able to figure out where a piece is headed is by actually going through the process of writing it, which can sometimes take longer than I’d like. In the past, I’ve worried that this might be inefficient, but I have come to terms with the fact that it’s important for writers to know and accept our individual processes, and this is the process that works for me. I’m not sure I could do it any other way. I suspect that if I did plot something out, it would still change drastically as I wrote and discovered the heart of the story.

My ideas come from experience—from reflecting on my own experiences as well as those of others. And from much observation and contemplation.

Tell us about your most recent publication.

My debut memoir, The Angle of Flickering Light, was released from Vine Leaves Press on April 6th of 2021. The book is about parental deception and infidelity; it explores what it means for a girl to run wildly and recklessly into womanhood, clinging to any version of love, making temporary homes for herself again and again, before finally discovering what it means to become rooted.

What’s next for you?

I am working on two novels-in-stories, which are both about halfway to completion. One of the collections revolves around a particular restaurant in a small New Hampshire mill town. It explores economic and class issues, and consists of a cast of characters who thread a larger narrative about the way it’s possible to find and form surrogate families.

The other collection takes place in a coastal Massachusetts town, and is focused on the lives of a married couple who lose their only child in a tragic car accident just after he turns eighteen. It poses questions about parenthood and loss and perseverance, and it sifts through what ultimately sustains us when it seems that nothing will.

Both of those sound really interesting. Good luck with them, and thanks for stopping by today.

You can find out more about Gina on her website, and she hangs out on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

You can read my review of The Angle of Flickering Light on Goodreads.