November 24! Orange County Public Library! Hillsborough Local Author Book Fair! Where one of the awesome authors you’ll be able to meet is Laine Cunningham!
Tell us about your latest work.
For fifteen years, I worked solely on novels. The results, four full manuscripts and one work in progress, won multiple national awards. Despite these achievements, my skills advanced slowly.
Two years ago, I turned to short stories. The format allows me to experiment with a broader range of human experience, voice, techniques, and themes. A number of literary journals and colleges have recognized these efforts.
The stories explore the liminal frontiers of individuals warped by social expectations—the demands that serve the status quo rather than the human heart. The inner dreamscape is displayed even when that territory evokes nightmares. Institutionalized violence, governmental aggression, and other conflicts spur readers to consider their impact on our global society.
Authors I love:
Patrick Süskind, David Mitchell, Lesley Nneka Arimah, Tarjei Vesaas, and Carmen Maria Machado.
What’s your biggest motivation for wanting to be a writer?
To be heard.
I grew up in a Baptist (Southern Baptist, at that) household in a military family. Holy patriarchy, Catwoman!
In addition to not feeling heard among my family, I look around and see that female and trans writers are not heard equally. If the author is a he then we all tuck ourselves comfortably into our places and prepare to be enlightened and entertained. Let the author be a she, however, and we prepare to be patient, to be kind enough to give this story a chance before we turn away.
Pronouns provide only basic (and binary) information: male/female. They cannot announce age or race or nationality. They certainly cannot announce intricacies such as personality, skills, preferences, habits or habitat. They even cannot positively convey biology; standing alone, the pronouns could as easily apply to a hamster as a human.
This bias has, to date, determined how well she is able to be heard. Study after study shows that in the world of business, women are perceived to have spoken more than men—by both genders—when they have in fact spoken less.
I read an opinion piece by a parent who had set out consciously to read stories to her child with an equal number of male and female protagonists. Her eight-year-old son then claimed that they read stories mostly about girls. The actual ratio was 28 percent. Not only had a conscious effort failed, her child perceived a wildly different ratio, and at the tender age of eight.
This means women are broadcast, their voices are projected, less often. They are listened to less frequently. And apparently, by people of every age, even when they are listened to it is with a weariness at the sound of “too many” women’s voices have been heard already.
My work as an author and, beginning next year, as the editor of a start-up literary magazine, is intended to make myself and other female voices be heard.
For more on Laine and her books, check out www.LaineCunningham.com or follow her on Twitter @AuthorLaine