Hollis Seamon, the author of the young adult novel Somebody Up There Hates You, has also written two story collections, Corporeality and Body Work, along with a mystery novel, Flesh. She has published short stories in many journals, including Bellevue Literary Review, Greensboro Review, Fiction International, Chicago Review, Nebraska Review, Persimmon Tree, and Calyx. Her work has been anthologized in The Strange History of Suzanne LaFleshe and Other Stories of Women and Fatness, A Line of Cutting Women, The Best of the Bellevue Literary Review, and Sacred Ground. She is a recipient of a fiction fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts. Seamon is a professor of English at the College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York, and also teaches creative writing in the MFA program at Fairfield University, Fairfield, Connecticut. She lives in Kinderhook, New York.
Somebody Up There Hates You
1. Favorite books/authors who inspired you?
Toughest question ever. There are just so many—and always were, from a very early age. Let me say that I was a strange kid: I read all summer, every summer. Once I found a writer I liked, I tried to read all of his/her books—cram them all into June, July, and August. Not always possible but always wonderful. A few of my favorites: Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Alexandre Dumas.
2. What’s your writing routine?
It’s boring, which is, I think, exactly what a writing routine should be: so routine that you just do it automatically. I write for two hours every morning when I’m in full-on writing mode. (Sometimes I’m not. Sometimes I’m in full-time teaching mode or big-time baking mode. So be it.) When it’s getting close to two hours and I have a great idea for what’s going to happen next, I stop writing. That way I’ll be excited to begin again the next day.
3. What part of your book was the most fun to write?
Richie’s adventures in Hudson on Halloween night, when Uncle Phil breaks him out of the hospital. Such a great escape—I was so glad to be outside, to be able to imagine and describe the scents and sounds in that outdoor air. And, of course, it’s always fun to write about characters behaving badly, which Richie and Phil definitely are.
4. Which part was the most difficult?
The last page. I wanted Richie to keep talking forever. I knew how much I would miss having his voice in my ear, once the book was over. But books, alas, must end. And so it did.
5. Is there one particular character in your new book that you most relate to? Why?
I thought it would be Richie’s mom, since I am a mother of two sons, one of whom spent much of his youth in hospitals. And Richie’s mom is close to my heart. But, really, there’s a little bit of all of them in me—or me in them. They’re just better and braver than I am. I’d like to be as fierce and sexually bold as Sylvie, as capable and compassionate as Edward, as funny as Richie. I wish I could show rage as powerfully as Mr. Calderone. But I’m not and I can’t; that’s why I’m a writer.
6. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Oh dear. Advice. That worries me. Okay: here goes. My advice is to read, read, read, and read some more. And then to write, always, with passion. Be extreme. Go right on over the top. Write about what scares you and what haunts you. (You really won’t have a choice, anyway.)
7. Cats or dogs?
Why choose? I’ve had monogamous, committed relationships with both. I’ve committed serial monogamy. I’ve had both at once. My old dog Maggie just died, at almost nineteen years of age, and I’m not ready to get another yet. But the week after she died, a stray cat that I’ve named Oscar Wild moved into my house; he’d been waiting patiently for the dog to die. He’s a great pleasure and comfort. (Cats and dogs populate my short stories. For a warning about the dangers of cats for women of a certain age, “The Trojan Cat.” For a warning about the heartbreak of old dogs, “The Plagiarist.” For an account of a magical, fat, blind Jack Russell terrier, “Fatty Lumpkin vs. The Reaper.” All are in my story collection Corporeality.)
8. If writing weren’t part of your daily work, what career would you like to have?
I’d like to buy abandoned storage lockers and sell the things that I find in my own thrift store, which I would call Dead People’s Stuff. (For why I think I could make a living at this, see #10.)
9. Which author would you most like to spend the day with?
Charles Dickens. I’d like to hear him talk, all day long, which I’m certain he could do, no problem. I’d never have to say a word, just listen. I’d serve him ham sandwiches on homemade bread, washed down with pints of ale.
10. What is your secret superpower?
I am a natural-born Picker. That is, someone who can magically find the one golden needle in a haystack of junk. For example, I can reach into a box of used books—donated to my local Friends of the Kinderhook Memorial Library group—and my hand will automatically wriggle past all of the moldy crap and light upon something very cool. My best Pick, so far: a first edition of John Irving’s Setting Free the Bears, with psychedelic 1960s artwork on the dust jacket.