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"To Talk, Even If No One Talked Back": An Interview with Gabrielle Lucille Fuentes

Gabrielle Lucille Fuentes's work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Coffin Factory, NANO Fiction, Pank, The Yoke, SpringGun, Echo Ink Review, Mary, Ghost Ocean, and elsewhere. She is an MFA candidate and graduate teacher at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Her essay, "Important terms for walking on water," appeared in Issue of The Collagist.

Here, Gabrielle Lucille Fuentes talks to interviewer William Hoffacker about making lists, the grieving process, and creating our own hauntings.

How did you begin to write this essay? What inspired you to construct it in the form of titled paragraphs and lists over a more narrative format?

I think that loss wrecks narrative. It’s not just a plot twist, the entire idea that our lives follow a comprehensible narrative is shown to be false. So writing a narrative about grief seemed very false. But I am a list maker, mostly of what needs to be done. I wanted to explore that—how narrative is replaced by lists, by strings of moments and the need to remember them, how memory, which is nonlinear, but creates its own time, replaces narrative.

This piece comprises a series of concise sections, some no more than a few sentences long (e.g., "What I will not write about" and "What I keep writing about"). Did it require a lot of editing or restraint to keep them so brief, or were they this concise from the outset?

I knew that I wanted some sections to be shorter than others to create a varied rhythm and to allow pause into the piece. But the sections that ended up being shorter happened that way organically because they were the most difficult to write. That is another thing I’m interested in: what are the limits, when writing about something so personal? Where do I stop? I’ve sectioned some parts off—moments I won’t write about. I am both glad I’ve done that and I wonder why. It’s as if some moments are sacred, but that seems to go against why I write about any of it. Because I do believe the process itself is sacred. It’s a form of prayer, the only kind I do.

In the section "What I keep writing about," you include "A desire to be haunted." Do you see this desire appearing in other works of your own writing? (Does it drive your writing to some extent?)

Yes. The novel I’m finishing now is largely driven by haunting, in fact, all of the fiction I’m writing now is. I think writing is a form of haunting, because it brings our ghosts out and makes them slightly more tangible. So my desire has become real in a sense. I’m haunted by my desire, and I create my own haunts.

What advice can you offer to anyone struggling to write about a lost loved one?

Strangely, this work was not a struggle. Much of my writing is—I have to force myself to do it and it’s painful. But with this essay and others that I’ve written about my brother, it absolutely had to happen, I think so everything else could. It was the grieving process for me. But I think it was also about opening a conversation, to not letting everything be closed, to talk, even if no one talked back.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m finishing my novel, Las Moscas, which is about four young people in post-Franco Spain who leave home on a whim and get dragged bit by bit to the edges of existence. I’m also working on what I hope will be a novel that is set in a religious enclave in Depression Era Northern Wisconsin, as well as several essays.

What have you read recently that you want to tell people about?

I recently finished Arcadia by Lauren Groff. A friend pointed me to The Log of the SS Mrs. Unguentine by Stanley Crawford, which is amazing. The Beginners, by Rebecca Wolff, Man’s Companions, by Joanna Ruocco. Not recently, but I think of it constantly, Maggie Nelson’s Bluets and Kristin Prevallet’s I, Afterlife. I’ve also been reading older works looking for narrative structures—Zola especially. I just finished The Most Human Human by Brian Christian and The Worst Hard Time by Tim Egan. I like to read a lot of varied material and then I feel I’m able to write varied material. During the semester break, I read some popular novels. I think that’s important too. But my list of what I want to read is much, much longer.

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