Tara Lynn Masih Interviews Lily Brooks-Dalton, author of “The Light Pirate”

TM: First off, huge congrats on the success of this worthy, award-winning book, The Light Pirate. I saw in another interview you did that you did not set out to write this story, that you were leaning in another direction. That somehow you ended up in two Florida residencies, and you were in Key West participating in one residency when a hurricane approached. Tell us how this changed the course of your novel. Also, give us your opinion on creativity and the process of instinct and intuition when creating something that begins from imagination.

LBD: Thank you, Tara! That’s true, I did make a big course correction while I was in Florida. I was actually working on an entirely different novel and it just wasn’t coming together. I didn’t immediately switch gears to working on The Light Pirate when I was in Key West, but that is definitely where this new seed was sown. It took me a little while to come to terms with the fact that I needed to go in a different direction, but once I did this idea of starting a novel with hurricane preparation was right there waiting for me.

To answer the second part of your question, I think that making intuitive choices is a huge part of my writing process. Mostly what that means is listening to the work and being willing to let go of my own designs when they are clearly not moving the story in an organic direction. It’s easier said than done, obviously, when the intuitive choice is throwing a hundred pages in the trash and starting from scratch.

Tara Lynn Masih

TM: I loved your response to receiving the Dayton Literary Peace Prize runner-up award: “My understanding of peace is that it never arrives alone. Without the company of chaos or conflict, peace is only an abstraction, thin and vaporous. Peace exists most fully in the center of the storm, wrapped in furious winds, held together by discord, and made tangible in terrible, beautiful contrast. I don’t know that there is another way to experience peace, or to write about it.”

I think that’s a very wise statement and applicable in many ways (given today’s world news), but in terms of climate change and your novel, which seems to me to be about finding peace within the storm, how specifically did you work with your characters and the landscape to achieve that calm at the center of it all?

Lily Brooks-Dalton

LBD: That is such a big question and I’m afraid the answer is very unsatisfying, which is that I’m not entirely sure. I’ve been thinking about this a lot, given what’s happening in the world right now, given what I do for a living and the kind of fiction I endeavor to write. . . . What is the right balance between hope for something better and a dismally accurate rendering of where we are? I don’t have a recipe for it, it’s just something that I try to feel out one sentence at a time. We need both, obviously, but the ratio is not always apparent and I think it changes constantly.

TM: Finally, in one of your poetic, italicized section openers (I loved those brief prose poetry paragraphs), you liken the ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway to a body. You close with, “But all bodies change. Even these.” Can you expand on this belief within the context of your novel? How did you try to reflect this belief of the body in both nature and in humans?

LBD: Well, I think this novel is always trying to narrow that gap between nature and human, which, by the way, I believe are not at all separate, humans are nature, but we tend to view them as opposing forces. And so, I was really interested in using the story to unpack how we see this stark difference between the two and also why that difference is in itself a fiction. Those lines about water as bodies were trying to bring the idea of human bodies and water bodies into the same breath, to really blur those lines.

TM: I believe you succeeded. Thank you, Lily, for taking the time to do this micro interview and for giving us a bit more insight into your writing process. We look forward to your next novel.



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