Sharon Harrigan’s memoir, PLAYING WITH DYNAMITE, has just been released. I asked Sharon a few questions.
- Which authors have most influenced your work?
So many! But for brevity I’ll just name Joan Didion. Aren’t we all influenced by Joan Didion? One of the things people have told me is that even though the frame of my story is only two years—the time when I’m searching for my father—that by the end they feel as if they’ve been given the whole arc of my life. I’m pleased by that comment because it’s how I felt about The Year of Magical Thinking. Even though Didion’s frame is only a year, at the end we feel as if we’ve experienced the arc of her whole decades-long marriage. Using time that way is a technical nightmare, but I hope I pulled it off.
- What would you like your readers to take away from your memoir?
Most of all I want them to be moved. I want them to allow feelings to float to the surface about their own fathers. Their own mothers and brothers and sisters, too. I want them to think about lost family connections, second chances, and the stories we tell about ourselves.
- Were there events you didn’t include for fear of offending someone?
When I was writing the first draft, or even the second and third drafts, I didn’t think about how people would react, about whether they would judge me for the things my narrator does or whether they would be offended by the way I portrayed them or how I described their house or transcribed their speech or whatever. It’s like writing with your hands tied behind your back if you’re always worrying what people will think. But after I got a contract, I did take some things out. Not about me, but about other people. There was one thing in particular I was really scared to tell people about myself. I almost deleted that scene, but in the end, the impulse to do so felt cowardly, so I took some deep breaths and did some yoga and let it stay.
- Have any reactions to your memoir surprised you?
Maybe the most surprising was an e-mail from a friend who said in the first sentence, “I had to stop reading your book.” He said he would finish it later, but he had to take some time to process all the emotion my story was bringing up about his own life. It took me a minute to realize he was paying me a compliment, saying the work was that powerful.
- Would you tell us a little about your next project?
A strange novel that does what I don’t think any other novel has tried to do before (and correct me if I’m wrong): use a first-person plural point of view with two people speaking in one voice. And after that, I swear I’m going to tackle something less technically difficult!
Check out Sharon’s book on Amazon.