I recently reviewed a wonderful short story collection called Corporeality by Hollis Seamon. It is a gritty, imaginative and moving collection that really struck a chord with me. It was clear to me that the emotions lurking beneath these stories were drawn from life experiences, so I was interested in finding out more about the person that wrote them.
Today I welcome author Hollis Seamon to Booklover Book Reviews.
In a revealing article about her upcoming novel, Somebody Up There Hates You, a young adult novel spawned from a short story included in the collection Corporeality, Hollis Seamon shares her experience of spending many years visiting a children’s hospital while caring for her young son. That son also grew up to become a writer – listen to an interview with Hollis and her son Tobias, discussing their latest book releases.
BLBookReviews: It was the cover art of Corporeality that first caught my attention, and then the title – I took great meaning from both. Could you share with us how that cover art and title were chosen and what they mean to you?
Hollis: All credit for the fabulous cover of Corporeality goes to the editor of Able Muse Press, Alex Pepple, who chose the image and designed the book. And, of course, to Renee Hoekzema, who created the “Girl and Duck” image. For me, the cover perfectly captures both the realism and magical aspects of the stories, in its misty colors and mysterious, partially-effaced figures. The title is a reflection of my interest in our human existence as embodied creatures. “Corporeality” means the life of the body and it’s used, often, in contrast with our spiritual lives. I see no contrast between the two: for me, our bodily lives are who we are and who we are is a deeply spiritual mystery. And, on the literal level, many of the people in these stories suffer from bodily ills and ailments—ailments that are very much part of their stories.
BLBookReviews: One of the themes in the collection is the importance of personal choice, and the ‘paths not taken in life’. Was there a defining moment that set you on the path to becoming a writer?
Hollis: I’ve always been a fierce reader of fiction. But I didn’t become a writer until my late twenties when, on a whim, I signed up for a fiction writing course at Bard College, where I was a part-time student in the University Without Walls program. I sat in that classroom and I began to write stories and I thought, “This is it. I’ve come home.” And for all the many years since, I have written stories and novels, mostly for the pure joy of it. I teach fiction writing at the College of Saint Rose in Albany NY and Fairfield University’s MFA in Creative Writing Program: my hope is to give some of my students that same sense of homecoming, along with a lifelong love of language and story-making.
BLBookReviews: Do you have a favourite story in Corporeality, or are you like a parent who is not allowed to have favourites?
Hollis: My favorites change from day to day. When I give a reading, I try to settle on a story that sounds good, read aloud, and that will, I hope, speak to that particular audience. Most recently I read “Annus Mirabilis” and it was so much fun to play around with the fairy tale elements and the direct address to the reader. So, at the moment, that’s one of my favorites.
BLBookReviews: While I am generally not a fan of fantasy, I found the juxtaposition of gritty and often unpleasant reality with minor fantasy elements a disarming technique in Corporeality. What was the primary driver for that – entertainment or to make the life lessons easier for readers to swallow?
Hollis: I’m not at all sure that I ever consider that there are life lessons in my stories—or, if there are, that’s for readers to determine, not for a writer to plan. And, although I am also not a fan of what passes for fantasy these days, I do love fairy tales and magic realism. So those elements play into my stories, in ways that I don’t predict or always understand. I suppose it has something to do with a sense that perhaps, just perhaps, there are layers and layers of mystery lying just beneath the surface of our everyday lives. I don’t know that—but I wish it to be true.
BLBookReviews: What makes the stories within Corporeality so special for me is that they clearly come from such a personal place. Is it difficult to share so much of yourself on the page?
Hollis: Yikes—this question makes me nervous! I suppose that there is no escaping it, though. I write from what I fear and what I dream and what I have lived. The characters here are all truly imaginary, as are the events. But the places are often real and the emotions are ones that I have felt, definitely. I write what haunts me—there seems to be no other choice.
BLBookReviews: Thank you so much for joining us today Hollis and congratulations on publishing this wonderful collection.