Please welcome Letitia Trent to the blog! Her brand new novel, ECHO LAKE, just came out from Dark House Press, and she was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about it, and more!
What made you decide to dive into the world of dark gothic in Echo Lake? Will you tell us a little about it and what inspired the book?
My favorite books are a little dark, a little violent, and has a big dose of the gothic, so this was a natural way for me to go in my own writing. A couple of specific things inspired the book. First, I learned about the flooding of a man-made lake near where I spent my teenage years in Oklahoma. When the lake flooded, a nearby cemetery flooded, too, and many of the coffins dislodged from the ground and floated up to the surface. I loved the image of unearthed coffins, floating along the water, and how much that image made me think of the things that we bury coming up to the surface. Second, in the same town, there was a gruesome and still unsolved murder of an elderly woman in her home; she was found with her throat cut, no signs of burglary, no motive as far as anyone could tell.
When I was reading about this murder, I saw several comments on message boards by people in town saying things like “somebody knows who did this: they need to talk” or “A lot of us know who did this and he will get his justice”. It made me think of how “justice” in an isolated, rural place can be very different from justice in a suburb or city and how isolated places can be incredibly secretive and closed off to the outer world.
Tell us more about Emily Collins. Why do you think readers will connect with her?
She’s a character who feels very much unmoored, who doesn’t have a home, doesn’t have a family, and isn’t completely sure who she is or how she fits in the world. In the beginning of the book, she lets life happen to her, like many people do. By the end, she has a bit more autonomy and is making choices about how she wants to live. Still yet, everything isn’t “fixed” for her. I hope that people recognize that struggle of individuation in themselves and also see how one’s history, and the history of our parents, affects our own choices.
What is your writing process like?
Well, before I had a baby, I would start I writing in the afternoon, after dinner, usually with a drink, and go for a couple of hours. I tend to be working on one major thing and then a couple of other things that I can turn to when I get bored. I listen to music when I write, though music with discernible lyrics is sometimes distracting. Now, I don’t really write much anymore because I have a two-month old, and I’m sure my schedule will be very different when I’m able to write again.
You’ve published extensively and have even published a full length poetry collection, but have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us more about yourself and your background?
I’ve loved reading since I was a kid, but it took me a very long time to believe I could write. I grew up in a pretty poor family and didn’t have a sense that I could be whatever I wanted to me: my possibilities were limited, and I didn’t really know anyone personally who loved books or wanted to write the way I did. I grew up in pretty isolated, rural areas of Vermont and Oklahoma, which contributed to this feeling of being alone with an interest that few people shared. Luckily, around the time I turned 18, I had the internet, which put me in contact with other writers. I was also encouraged by several excellent teachers, both in undergrad and grad school.
What’s one of the first things you remember writing?
I was in third grade and it was a poem called “The Wind” that my teacher recommended I send in for a “Golden Pencil” award (which would be awarded at the year-end elementary school assembly). She told me to write the poem in print and turn it in for the award, but I didn’t realize what “print” meant and turned it in in cursive, so it didn’t qualify. Still yet, I remember her enthusiasm for the poem and how much that affected me.
What are a few of your biggest literary influences?
I’d say Sylvia Plath, both her poetry and prose, is one of my biggest influences, followed by the Bronte sisters, who I’ve been reading since I was very young, and the poet Wallace Stevens. As an adult, I loved Marilynne Robinson’s novel Housekeeping, and I go back to that book yearly. I have a thing for Victorian novelists like George Eliot and Thomas Hardy. I like writers who straddle the line (if there is one) between genre and literary fiction, like Tana French, Brian Evenson, Kelly Link, Haruki Marukami, Jorge Luis Borges, Caitlin Kiernan, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Patricia Highsmith. I also adore the food writer MFK Fisher, particulalry her book The Gastronimical Me.
If you could experience one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
That’s a great question. I’d love to read Jane Eyre again for the first time. Or maybe The Great Gatsby, another book I know so well that I can hardly remember not knowing it.
What are you currently reading?
I don’t have a lot of reading time right now, but I’ve been working on The New Black: A Neo Noir Anthology and Game of Thrones, which I read aloud to the baby just so I can get some reading in. I skip all the scary parts and only read those in my head.
Echo Lake goes to some dark places, but what is something that truly terrifies you?
Drowning. Car accidents. All of the things that could possibly happen to people I care about.
What’s next for you?
I have the novel Almost Dark out from ChiZine Publications in 2015 and am working on both a poetry collection and a novel. When I have the chance, I plan on writing more essays about film and television (when I’m able to actually get out and see a film!).
Keep up with Letitia: Facebook
About ECHO LAKE:
30-something Emily Collins inherits her recently murdered Aunt’s house, deciding to move to Heartshorne, Oklahoma, to claim it and confront her family’s dark past after her dead mother begins speaking to her in dreams, propelling this gothic, neo-noir thriller toward terrifying revelations of murderous small-town justice when a horrible community secret is revealed through the supernatural pull of Echo Lake.