A story – ‘The Green Ribbon’ – from one Schwartz compendium has made itself felt in her own fiction. The motif is referenced in her story ‘The Husband Stitch’, which some feel to be the strongest in her collection.
Machado says of her writing process: ‘I’m a real vampire. Whenever I find a thing I like – a form, a genre, a trope – I’m like ‘How can I use that…?’
Other writing, TV, all kind of influences feed into her stories. ‘Especially Heinous’, one of the octet that makes up Her Body owes much to the influence of American cop show Law & Order: SVU which Machado found herself watching while seriously ill with swine flu (to the point whereby she was hallucinating).
Categorising her story collection has caused some bafflement among booksellers and librarians, she admits. ‘They are like ‘Where does this go?’ Machado smiles. Her own judgment? ‘I think horror actually wins out.’
Her own favourite story is ‘The Tooth’ by Shirley Jackson (1916-1965), the American queen of horror and mystery.
‘A great short story,’ says Machado, ‘is like a punch on the nose. When it’s over you’re sort of disoriented, you’re like ‘What’s happened? That was so fast and yet so painful or so changing in this way.’ It’s like ‘What happened?’
‘It’s like with a novel there’s something really beautiful about the dance with the novel. You engage with it over a period of time, but a short story can just take you through and sock you right at the end and then it’s done. I love that feeling that I’ve been changed very quickly… and the art involved in the short story, having that turn, having that sort of movement, is very interesting to me as a reader and a writer.’
The constructions that some admirers put on her own work take her by surprise at times, she admits. ‘I have a terrible secret,’ she laughs, ‘which is that as a writer about eighty per cent of whatever people attribute to me is pure accident… or habit…’
Machado is currently engaged in a memoir project. More fiction is on the horizon, and she says, ‘At the moment I’m really into haunted house stories.’
Returning to the way her writing is received, Machado says: ‘I think people do respond to the ballsiness of it. I think people respond to that. I think other people will hate it. Readers will either love it or hate it. Nobody is going to say it’s just okay. They’ll either be angry that this book exists or so excited, ‘I love it so much’.
‘And I think that’s really exciting.’
Read Jon Gower’s review here www.horla.org/her-body-and-other-parties/
Finally we’d like to thank Carmen Maria for posing for a snapshot for the Horla album in front of a piece of wall art, which may be one of a kind – rather like the lady herself.
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