Annie Proulx, born in New England, constant traveler, passionate discoverer of places, cultures and people, is also one of the most refined and influential authors of our time.
Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction with the novel The Shipping News, estimated and award-winning writer all over the world. She has a writing style that doesn’t leave indifferent and tends, for its hardness, harshness and honesty, to impress the reader.
Her writing, in fact, is naked as the last man in the last remote place in the world, true and authentic as the land we have under our feet, which defines the time we live in and our very own existence. Proulx doesn’t add sweet decorations to her writing for the beauty of her own plots, nor is her intention leave happy the reader with trivial stories. She tells the life as it is: polyhedric and different, tired and sweaty, full of hopes and decorated of regrets.
Proulx, in her life and her long literary career, has lived in many places. Among them there is Wyoming, the state of the cowboys and the infinite prairies. Place that then gave her inspiration to write some of her best and most appreciated stories, all around the world.
In this interview with Annie Proulx I talked about writing and Wyoming – a state you will find very dear to her heart.
Question: How your normal writing day develops? You have a favorite place to write, or particular routines before and during the process? Also, you have favorite music to listen or something that help you to write?
Answer: I do not have a writing routine and there is no “normal writing day.” I write whenever I can find a little free time but I am very busy with thinking and studying the changing land, reading, citizen science projects, conversations with friends, household tasks, etc. I like many kinds of music and do not claim any favorites. Right now I enjoy the works of the Danish String Quartet.
Q: You lived in many places and talked of many people. You have a favorite place where you leaved your heart? And you have a place that changed you most as a writer.
A: Of course a favorite place would be the New England of my childhood, but also Wyoming which did change me as a writer. It was in Wyoming that I decided to be a serious writer.
Q: You also lived in Wyoming for 20 years. Of course we know that for write a good story we must know the real story. How the people talk and act. What impressed you most about the Cowboy State and that then you used in your writing?
A: Obviously I liked the rural expressions generated by western life. As much of writing is observation that is what I did. I drove and hiked and skied many miles absorbing the landscape and examining how people accommodated their lives to the land’s character. There was no “most” or “favorite” anything. My mind doesn’t work that way. I tried (and try) to listen and see how different kinds of people dealt with weather, poverty, rural problems and each other.
Q: I have recently ended the collection of short stories Brokeback Mountain. The thing that impressed me most is the writing style you used. I can’t think to a more perfect word than “rugged” as Wyomingites loves call their state. You have had difficulties to understand and practice that language?
A: No, I did not have any difficulties with the language.
Q: In your personal view, where the landscapes set in Wyoming’s character and the developing of its people?
A: Yes, of course, the character of the people in Wyoming comes from the high altitude environment and from the region’s gnarled history.
Q: How do you work before write? What research you do, and how much time you dedicate to it?
A: I do a great deal of research—as much as I can, especially history and memoirs.
Q: How you find inspiration for your stories? There is something that touched you so much that immediately you said to yourself: “I must read and write about it”?
A: I assume you are asking about fiction. I am too engrossed with climate crisis to write fiction now. Maybe I can return to it some day but at the moment I am reading about ocean changes, bad farming practices, the dying of coral, kelp, sea stars, whales, pteropods, ancient swamp drainage, current floods, droughts and wild fire, destruction of top-soil and thousands of species dropping into extinction. The “inspiration” is “How did humanity do this? Why are we so blind to the natural world?”
Q: If you could give your best advice to young (and new) writers, which one would be?
A: In one word: READ is my advice. Learn to write from reading and find your own way.
Q: For last question I would like to ask you what you love most about writing. What push you to wake up and write every day, hoping the next thing will be the best thing you ever written?
A: I am attracted to the puzzle aspect of writing. Composing a short story or essay or novel is like building a kind of house, putting the pieces together in a way that makes it strong and beautiful.