In this month’s interview, our senior copywriter Luisa got to have a wonderful chat with the talented Andrea Rinard. Her story “Burning” was featured on DDR in September. Find out what she’s working on, what got her into writing, and much more.
What got you started as a writer?
I’m sure like a lot of English teachers, I don’t only love to write, I love to read. And I had stories rattling around in my head.
I’m almost 50 now, so it’s only been the last couple of years that I’ve had this urgency of if I don’t do it now, what’s gonna happen?
In the past three years, I’ve given myself a mid-life luxury. My kids are older. I’ve got a wonderful husband. He doesn’t mind when I run off to a writing workshop.
It’s only been the past three years that I’ve been thinking of myself as a writer.
I’ve journaled my whole life. I’ve always kept journals. Tragically bad poetry. Angsty, gotta pour out my soul stuff.
I have what I call my graveyard of first chapters, where I would sit down to write a novel, and I would tinker and mess with it, mess with it, so much that I would never get past the first or second chapter.
The luxury of being a teacher is that I have summers. And so this summer I actually finished a novel. Having all of June and July was really a luxury to be able to spend as many hours a day as I needed to to get it done.
What’s the name of your novel?
The novel’s called Afterworld. I actually just found out it won the Marianne Russo Award at the Key West Literary Seminar.
Do you feel closer to a certain genre or style? Why? How does this inform the way you see or experience the world around you?
I guess I’ve always wanted to write literary fiction. I always thought I would write the great American novel, but I find myself writing young adult fiction. Even in a piece like Burning, which is flash fiction, it’s very much a young adult piece about this teenage girl. And I think that’s kind of a function of my job as a high school teacher, where I’m surrounded by teenagers all the time, but also because I’ve got three kids.
My boys are very uncomplicated. I don’t know if that’s because I’m a female and they’re male and I don’t understand very much, but my relationship with my daughter is this wonderful, complex, delicious thing that I don’t know how I would live without. She’s seventeen now and in high school. So I find myself, you know, in Burning, there’s a little bit of her in that, of her responses to things. And my novel that I just finished, the protagonist is very much inspired by her.
Yeah, so young adult fiction, and just exploring, more than anything, human relationships, and how they can get disconnected. And how they play such a big impact, and how I think people are very careless with girl’s hearts. And that’s something that troubles me but also interests me as a writer.
I see the damage that’s done to girls. I don’t know if it’s just the society we live in, or if boys have more scope for resiliency. I just see girls and teens being damaged so easily and carelessly with things that, I know for me (and I’m almost 50), I still sting from things that were said to me or done to me when I was 15 or 16 years old. It just stayed with me.
And I don’t know if that same thing is true for men. I don’t know, and I can’t speak to that as I’m not one, I didn’t have that experience, but the lasting effects of things that happen to teenage girls is something that I see played out on a daily basis, you know, with the girls that I have in my classroom, the girl that I’m trying to raise. And I just find it fascinating, and it’s not something intentional, it’s just something that I keep coming back to in my writing.
Would you say that there are times in your life that you’re drawn to other styles? What draws you to them? Life events? Moods?
I mean, a lot of times I have to be forced, I’ll be honest. I’ve gone to the Yale writer’s workshop for two summers and have been asked to write in a different style or genre.
Also when I read something. I just finished Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies, and kinda just want to write like her now.
Yeah, anytime I read something, that really moves me or makes an impression on me, I think that kind of seeps in a little bit, but I’m still trying to find my own style. So it’s kind of hard to differentiate what’s mine and what’s something that I’m emulating or being influenced by.
Who are you reading right now?
Kristen Arnett. Yeah, she’s just published Mostly Dead Things for her debut novel, and she’s coming to USF next week. So I wanted to make sure that I read her book before she came.
I’m trying to read everything by Lauren Groff since I’m signed up for her workshop at the Keywest Literary Seminar. So that’s what’s on my book stand now. And of course, my students are always handing me stuff.
Can you tell us one quirky fun fact about yourself?
Oh, gosh. *laughs* I’m trying to figure out which one, so I don’t sound like an insane person.
Um, I wear shoes against my will. I’ve got the Fred Flintstone feet.
I get what’s called 7/11 feet, where you just don’t wear shoes and you run into 7/11 to get your Slurpee across the parking lot, and then your feet are black at the end of the day. It’s pretty gross.