Terese Svoboda sees the world in a different light. Her prose inverts the predictable, challenges the average aesthetic, and subtly weaves the essence of human nature between letters. Terese is a true writer- one who tells the truth in a way we don't expect it. Her piece "A Day in His Country" which appears in Volume II of WTR, follows a schizophrenic girl through her journey across the world and across her mind, a piece that delves into the introspective in a way never seen before.
hy do you write?
Terese Svoboda, Volume II Contributor: An obsession. You can never get writing right.
Yasmin: Is every piece unfinished then?
Terese: Every piece locks into place but sometimes that's yet another illusion.
Yasmin: What's your editing process like?
Terese: Messy. As you could tell from our back and forth, I like to edit until the very last moment. I'm very good at eliminating, less good at adding. Although I have come up with inserts, I usually squeeze them so hard it's almost not worth the extra input.
Your style in 'A Day in His Country' is certainly unique- it reads to me at least, as a stream of thought. Was that done intentionally?
Terese: I wanted to mirror the confusions/associations of a schizophrenic.
Yasmin: I definitely saw the main character with some sort of mental disorder.
Terese: But she has ambitions, she uses a logic that syncs her ambitions to her downfall.
Yasmin: I saw her as selfish in a way. I read most things extremely literally so I saw the piece for what it was on the surface.
Terese: A very selfish logic. A closed brain. All that lurks under the surface is dangerous.
Yasmin: One of our art contributors Steven Labadessa said in a recent interview that all his work is a reflection of his current state of mind, or of himself. Is that something that occurs in your work as well? Are your characters representative of you in a way?
Terese: This story was written at least twenty years ago and re-thought for your magazine. I'd always been enamored of its cryptic strangeness. In this case I wouldn't say the character is representative of me but of someone close to me.
Yasmin: Why resurface the piece now?
Terese: With the wisdom of time having passed, I saw it was very close to being finished.
Yasmin: What happens next? Or rather, do you think a character continues to exist after the story is over?
Terese: Some of her behavior is in a novel that's I'm circulating now called "Scylla and Her Sister," about the two characters from the Odyssey but in contemporary time.
A story ends when it ends, I don't think an ending really has necessarily to do with character. This story has a sort of Chekhovian ending like his story "Gusev" in which the sailor drowns but the story goes on.
Yasmin: Who or what has influenced your writing the most?
Terese: Gordon Lish. He beat it into my head that I could write any way I wanted and the more I exploited poetry tricks the better. That is to say, each word for him was alive and a kind of muscle that the writer flexed to keep the story going. Since I began as a poet, I could exploit that.
Yasmin: How does your poetry differ from your prose?
Terese: I have to think about space and I don't think as much about character. I move through time at the turn of a line. But John Hawkes does that in his prose.
Yasmin: What was a defining moment in your writing career?
Terese: I'd been trying to write my first novel for fifteen years and I threw everything out and started over, compliments of Lish. Only 13 rejections later, I won the Bobst Prize and the best literary agent in New York called me.
Yasmin: So if you were to give yourself advice 20 years ago, what would it be?
Terese: What Grace Paley told me once: Low rent.
Yasmin: If you didn't write, what would you do for a living?
Terese: Real estate. I like land. It's an inherited pioneer lust.
Yasmin: Who is your favorite character that you've written?
Terese: I'm partial to the heroine of my most recent novel, Bohemian Girl. I think of her as me in the 19th century.
Yasmin: What is Bohemian Girl about?
Terese: I always do a final edit on paper. Bohemian Girl is a cross between True Grit and Huck Finn, a homage to Willa Cather, and a story about a girl who is given to a mound building Native American to pay for a bet her father lost. A wild pioneer story with a hot air balloon, a Bohemian prince, and Willa Cather as a snotty girl making a cameo.
Yasmin: That sounds great! I'll be sure to get a copy!
Terese: It was named one of the best Westerns of 2012 by Booklist, not a nomination I had anticipated.
Yasmin: That's fantastic!
re there any negative aspects to being so successful?
Terese: Gosh, you flatter me.
Yasmin: Haha, only saying the truth!
Terese: David Ignatow told me once that it was all about staying in the game.
Yasmin: So the literary industry makes writing a competition?
Terese: You can't feel the breath of the horses as they round the corner? Thievery is the absorption of the zeitgeist plus all the reading you've ever done. Individual imagination is just a tiny bit of all the work involved.
Yasmin: So, do you think that there's no such thing as originality but rather all creativity is the recycling and melding of everything you've ever experienced?
Terese: I didn't say that there was no such thing as originality--just less than you might imagine. Every word you put down in a story makes the next word more predictable. I see my job as trying to upend that predictability.
Yasmin: Do you think you succeed?
Terese: Once in a while.
Yasmin: One last question: what is something we should ask our next interviewee?
Terese: What do
read right before they fall asleep
To see an excerpt of Terese's piece 'A Day in His Country', click here! To read the full piece, order a subscription to Winter Tangerine Review right here!