BackStory: Five Questions with Sarah Freligh
Author of November
What inspired you to write ‘November’?
I happened on a website of photographs from the ‘60s, including several of adolescents learning the fox trot.
Were there any interesting facts, details, or turns of phrase that didn’t quite make the final piece?
Many! I tend to write big, ungainly first draft blobs and then start chipping away at it. Eventually I arrive at another shape, i.e., story and form.
Who are your favourite historical fiction writers and why?
Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro and Joyce Johnson. Atwood’s Alias Grace is ostensibly about a murder and the protagonist’s involvement in the murder — did she or didn’t she? — but the book’s deeper themes explore aspects of class and gender in the late 1800s. And I particularly love the Munro stories that are set in the 1950s, a time of great change for women. Johnson’s Minor Characters, a memoir of her life in 1950s New York and her relationship with Jack Kerouac, is just an amazing piece of social history.
What is your favourite part of the writing process? Your least favourite?
I love every part of it, even the not-so-good days. There were so many years when I couldn’t write, so many years when I wrote very little because of the endless need to make money to pay my bills. I get to write now and that’s a lovely feeling.
What do you like most about writing flash?
The urgency of the narrative that’s particular to fiction combined with the precision of poetry.
If you could live for one year in any historical period, when and where would it be, and why?
New York City in the ‘50s, the West Village. Or England in the 1960s—the Beatles, the bangs, the eye makeup, those Mary Quant dresses.
What, if anything, do you have in common with your main character?
I, too, was forced to learn the fox-trot.
Sarah Freligh is the author of Sad Math, winner of the 2014 Moon City Press Poetry Prize. Recent work has appeared in the Cincinnati Review miCRo series, Wigleaf, Fractured Lit, and in the anthologies New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction and Best Microfiction 2019 and 2020.
Photograph of President John F. Kennedy in the limousine in Dallas, Texas by Walt Cisco, Dallas Morning News (public domain), courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.