A Brief Interview with Tracy O'Neill

Tracy O'Neill will be reading at the  Difficult to Name Reading Series  on May 14.

Tracy O'Neill will be reading at the Difficult to Name Reading Series on May 14.

Your novel The Hopeful received some incredible reviews and Electric Lit named it one of the best novels of 2015. How has the experience been for you from writing the book through having it released?

Thanks! I am pretty much just astounded that anyone has read the book. I started writing it in 2010 when I was working at a nightclub and slept on a mattress on the floor. I think it took me a year to write the first forty pages, and then I sulked for a while because I didn't see how I was possibly going to continue the narrative. Then, I got and lost a bunch of jobs for a while, which kind of throws the whole "writing is hard" thing into perspective. I mean, yes, writing is hard. But no one is asking you to write a novel. Lots of people are asking you to pay your bills--that's hard. So once I got settled down again, I was able to recognize that working on a novel was a privilege. I committed to writing on the regs and stopped moping like a bougey moron all the time. So yeah, I feel very GD lucky when I find out anyone's read The Hopeful.

You are currently pursuing a PhD at Columbia University. Do you ever say to yourself, "Whatever, I write awesome novels, forget this"?

Only every day or so. But no, I appreciate the depth of inquiry in academia, the deranged attentiveness and tides of qualification. I like the willingness of some scholars to venture radical theories. A lot of literary fiction could use more of that. At the same time, narrative bears a power that doesn't demand the same training and therefore has more life beyond spheres of privilege. Academics, particularly those concerned with social justice, need to reconcile their theoretical investments with reality of the way their work moves-- or stalls-- in the world. I guess bottom line, I have more primal love for stories than peer-reviewed articles. 

What can people expect from your reading Saturday? 

I don't know. I'm short. Expect that.