Emma Cline | Granta's Best of Young American Novelists

I really like the artificiality of
fiction – even though it's often embarrassing and clumsy, you know, to
create something out of thin air. It seemed shameful that Alice recognized celebrities, but she did. A stutter in her glance, a second look – she could identify them almost right away as famous, even if she didn’t know their names. There was some familiarity in the way their features were put together, a gravitational pull. Alice could identify even the C-list actors, their faces taking up space in her brain without any effort on her part. So, can you tell me a bit more about
writing 'Los Angeles'? Yeah, it's sort of a funny story. I wanted to write a little bit about LA and California, and then also that funny age when you're not a teenager anymore, but you're not fully an adult. So Alice is 21, 22, and sort of in that mode where she's trying to figure out how the world operates, and they work at this store which is – kind of, obviously American Apparel – where I worked briefly. So, yeah, I mean, why are you drawn to writing about that? I think this story especially is so much about, like, surfaces, and trying to decide what kind of person you are, or feeling that you can do things without them really impacting you, which I
think is something that I remember from my early twenties too – or the – you know, it's this time where everything feels a little bit pretend or make-believe, and then there's
that idea like does it actually go away or or does it imprint itself on you in
some way, even if you can't recognize it at the time? I also just recently read
your story 'Northeast Regional' Oh, yeah Which I really enjoyed, and you know, also
quite dark characters. What draws you to those kind of dark themes? Yeah, I think I'm interested in the distance between like, how we think of
ourselves or how the characters think of themselves – which is always generally as
a good person. Yeah. Matched with like, what people are actually capable of, even in small ways, not big things like murder or that kind of thing – although I'm interested in that too – but even just, more like, the daily ways that people betray each other. And do you start with voice usually or? Both with this story – 'Los Angeles' – and the New Yorker story, I feel, and The Girls for me setting is almost the most important or the way that I can enter into a space,
and into the idea of writing a story about something. I think it's often like,
oh this atmosphere I'd really like to write about, like, what characters
will activate that atmosphere in some way that's interesting to me? So like,
'Northeast Regional' is kind of like, oh there's a certain kind of East Coast
light when you're on a train – or like even prep school sort of stuff. How
do I get to write about those things, those settings – what characters will
animate it? Thanks so much for coming in. Thank you. And congratulations again for being on the list.

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