Lauren Groff: 'We write fiction from the dark places in the heart'

Lauren Groff: 'We write fiction from the dark places in the heart'

c. Kristin Kozelsky

Ahead of her appearance at the Edinburgh Book Festival we catch up with Groff to chat about her new short story collection

Lauren Groff's precise and visceral new collection of short stories, Florida, takes the reader to some dark and stormy places in both body and mind. Ahead of her appearance at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, we took the opportunity to ask the award-winning American writer a few questions about place, equality and grit.

Dangerous creatures stalk the pages of Florida - snakes, panthers, alligators - did you feel them creeping in as a theme or as an un-ignorable part of the landscape you're writing about?
Florida is rich with dangerous creatures--they help to inspire both the dread and majesty of the place--they're deeply un-ignorable. If they surface as themes in my work, it's only because I was interested in the larger implications of dread and anxiety, and the idea of wildness as a feared and simultaneously longed-for thing.

Did you feel at all beholden or obligated to write about your adopted state in any particular way?
Obligated? I'm a fiction writer. I can write about what I want to write about.

The people in Florida are often wounded physically or physiologically and the question of survival is close to the surface, is endurance a character trait you admire?
If you look at the people of most literary fiction, they're wounded physically or physiologically: we write fiction from the dark places in the heart. I'm not sure I care about endurance, but I do admire grit.

Threats come from the natural world (storms and sinkholes) and the human one (betrayal and abandonment), which scares or interests you more as a writer?
Humans are animals, part of the natural world even though we pretend to be apart from it. This sense of being apart is what is driving the death of our planet with climate change. Humans are far and away the most frightening element on Earth.

The collection begins with 'I have somehow become a woman who yells'. Do you think of yourself as a woman who yells, on paper if not in person?
No. My writing is very deliberate. I rewrite and edit every word dozens of times. That said, if a woman publicly opens her mouth to stand up for herself and insists on her own equality, even when she's speaking in a calm and moderated voice, people will accuse her of yelling. If it appears that I'm yelling in my work, the yelling is being projected onto the page by the reader's expectations.

Charlotte Square Gardens, Sun 26 Aug Edinburgh, 10.15am, £12 (£10).

Lauren Groff

A short story collection arrives with much fanfare from Lauren Groff. In Florida, her follow-up to Fates and Furies (Barack Obama’s favourite book from 2015), Groff brings her electric storytelling and intelligence to a world in which storms, snakes and sinkholes lurk at the edge of everyday life, but the greater threats…

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