Why We Write: Albe Harlow

Q1. What inspires your creativity?

I’m not exactly sure what causes one to produce art. At the risk of being reductive, I’ll say that I have a great human desire to avoid entropic oblivion.

Q2. What conditions do you like to write in? Standing on your head, sitting on the bus, eaves dropping at a party…

Alone, sometimes amidst a crowd, often with a drink. (Invocations of solipsism are incidental.)

Q3. Are there any writers that you most strive to be like and why?

The question is a bit too vague for my taste in relation to the infinitive. Carving out a market for one’s personal style seems to be a process of riffing and imitating, consciously and unconsciously. My first imitations were poetry and proverb, hewed as the sorts of things I’ve come to loathe: the sugary, the lyrical, the cute, the positive, lush with rhyme and symmetry. I venture to assert that this kind of drivel is not uncommon among young persons inclined to write.

Q4. What is your favourite book and why?

After reading The Sun Also Rises for the first time, I put my shoes on. Maybe I’d eaten lunch and then put my shoes on. Anyway, I went about my business and did not think of the book. Over the course of about eight years, the occasional memory of some exotic adventure passed through my mind. It occurred to me as a blend of fiction and lived experience, an ephemera of emotion and color and smells, the feeling of a place to which I hadn’t ever been; a flash of red, the taste of fresh trout and vinos de la tierra, a jolt of acceleration over the dark Seine, a wrinkled nose, lovely and odious; eventually, these memories had grown into something of a private myth. One day I was scanning or cleaning my bookshelf when I came upon Hemingway’s novel. Immediately, the lighting in my mind changed: a lazy Spanish countryside day, an adrenaline-lashed Parisian night. I set the novel aside for another read, aware of its relationship to my strange recollections. After I was done, I wrote the first draft of my novel in four months. It might go without saying that the initial manuscript was a Pernod-informed disaster, but when writers talk about that first time, I’m personally reminded of The Sun Also Rises.

Q5. Do you have any tips about the writing process?

I am not sure that I’m in the position to give others advice. If I was speaking with a close friend, I’d tell them what’s worked for me: write more, read constantly and shed pretension like sweat in a Jamaican summer; in a tautological sense, anything integral to voice will survive the purge.


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