BackStory: Five Questions with Carolyn Oliver

La Infanta Margarita by Diego Velázquez

BackStory: Five Questions with Carolyn Oliver
Author of Infanta

What inspired you to write ‘Infanta’?

I intended this piece as a companion to Ravel’s Pavane for a Dead Princess, a stately dance that, thanks to its title, tends (for me, anyway) to sound funereal. Though Ravel didn’t, as far as I know, refer to a specific dead princess, I’ve associated it with the Infanta Margarita Teresa of Spain (later Holy Roman Empress), often painted by Velázquez.

Who are your favourite historical fiction writers (flash or otherwise) and why?

Hilary Mantel (those sentences!) and Hendrik Willem van Loon (Van Loon’s Lives is a childhood favourite, in which a historical personages arrive at the narrator’s house for dinner once a week).

What is your favourite part of the writing process? Your least favourite?

I love revision; I hate first drafts. Across the board, in any genre, my first drafts are miserable. Revision is resuscitation.

What are three words that were edited out of this piece?

Across, foot, borne.

What are three words that describe your favourite place to write?

Sunwashed, quiet, upstairs.

Painting of La infanta Margarita by Diego Velázquez circa 1653-1654, courtesy of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, accession number GG_321, via Wikimedia Commons.

Carolyn Oliver’s very short prose and prose poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in SmokeLong Quarterly, Indiana Review, Jellyfish Review, jmww, Unbroken, Tin House Online, CHEAP POP, Midway Journal, and New Flash Fiction Review, among other journals. Carolyn lives in Massachusetts with her family. Links her writing can be found at