Short-Story Writer Amber Sparks: “My Loss of Sanity is Your Gain!”

01/14/2013 11:35 AM |


Curbside Publishing released Washington, D.C.-based Amber Sparks’s debut story collection May We Shed These Human Bodies in October. Harper Perennial editor (and friend of The L) Cal Morgan named it the year’s Best Small Press Debut in the Atlantic Wire. She reads tonight at Franklin Park.

For our readers who may not be familiar with your work, what’s the most accurate thing someone else has said about it?
As much as I’d love to over-flatter myself here, I think Ben Loory (author of Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day) said it best: “I always love a book that makes me fear for the writer’s sanity. I’m over here praying for Amber Sparks.” But don’t worry, readers—my loss of sanity is your gain! At least, I hope so.

What have you read (or seen or heard or tasted or etc.) recently that will permanently change our readers’ lives for the better?
I have tasted goat cheese donuts at Salt in Baltimore, and if you ever find yourselves there, readers, you must do the same. Your lives will never be the same. I have heard the new Bowie single (from his upcoming album), which is very introspective and melancholy and lovely and has already made 2013 the best year in 10 years for music. I am currently reading HHhH by Laurent Binet, which is changing forever the way I think about historical fiction (in the best, brilliant, brain-twisting way.)

Whose ghostwritten celebrity tell-all would you sprint to the store to buy (along with a copy of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius so that the checkout clerk doesn’t look at you screwy)?
Oh, definitely Karl Lagerfeld’s cat, Choupette. I mean, she already has a diary and thousands of Twitter followers. It’s only a matter of time—and I for one will be first in line to hear all about her life as a kept kitty. The clerk will understand.

Have you ever been a Starving Artist, and did it make you brilliant, or just hungry?
Yes, I was, though technically I was also a starving retail clerk/artist. It mostly it just made me iron deficient. I donated plasma and ate a lot of spaghetti. It did not make me brilliant, that’s for sure. I got out of theater and went back to school because I was tired of starving. And now that I’m a writer… I feel like no one really needs to be a starving writer, really. That seems like a silly, dreadful thing to be. There’s just no need! I mean, you can write anytime, with nothing more than pen or paper, so really, writers can hold down a job like every other human being, unless of course they’re unemployed or something. But most writers want to have a job, I’m sure. Starving artists are for operas and rom coms. In real life starving sucks pretty hard.

What would you characterize as an ideal interaction with a reader?
Oh, I love a lot of interaction with readers. I think it’s wonderful when readers email, or Tweet at me, or message me on Facebook or whatever. I think maybe I like that more than some other writers because I come from the stage originally, which is a very interactive art form. You get instant feedback on your performance. You know if people are loving or hating what you’re doing. You know if it’s falling flat. And you don’t get that with a book! You just put it out there and hope people aren’t hating it, you know? So I love to know what people are taking away from it, how they’re relating to it or not—how I performed, I guess.

Have you ever written anything that you’d like to take back?
Not for publication! I’ve certainly improved my art over the years and some of it’s a bit cringe-worthy now, but I’d never take it back. If I did that I’d spend the rest of my life erasing my trail, like that broom in Alice in Wonderland that sweeps up its own footsteps.

Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart