Can you tell me what gave you the idea for this story?
I wrote this story when my oldest was six months. I’d gone from having zero responsibilities and writing whenever I pleased (all the time), to having to take care of myself as well as another human being. It was awful! I was terrified.
“Sacred Cows” is a story about grief, but it’s also about identity, and especially about women’s struggle to find their own identity (or just a place to rest) in a world that demands that they be mothers, daughters, wives. Is that a statement you set out to make? Can you talk about that a little bit?
It’s not a statement, really—not in a feminist way, where I’m frustrated by the inequality of gender roles. It’s more personal than that. I find that I want to be good at everything I do, but it’s impossible. Every day, I fail someone I love, on some level, and that includes failing at my own career ambitions. But that’s life. I can’t be good at half the jobs I have. My kid goes to school with un-brushed hair, and we eat the same meal three or four nights a week, because those things are low priorities for me. I haven’t finished a novel since I had my older daughter three and a half years ago, and that’s because I wasn’t in the head space to concentrate the way I needed—at least, not on spec, without a paycheck in advance so I had some justification for not being around. It’s painful, and frightening, being a mother. But I can’t imagine my life without my family. I wouldn’t like it.
Men’s roles are just as tough, but it’s not often discussed, except in an Updike way, in which they’re absent or avoiding responsibility. What about the ones who stick around, cook, do laundry, make the money, tell the bedtime stories? Nobody tells them they’re doing a good job. In fact, they get crapped on for being pansies.
What are you working on now?
I’m finishing up a screenplay for my agent (well, a draft of it—they’re hard!), then onto an adult novel in January. I’ve had a good amount of time away, and am burning to get back to the work-thing I love most: novels.
What’s your favorite campfire ghost story?
Definitely the guy with the hook story that Bill Murray told in Meatballs. Also, I re-watched the original Dawn of the Dead last night, and it scared the crap out of me. Oooooh, Romero.