Welcome to the first in a series of interviews with women writers. Here, we dance chick-to-chick with gutsy Brooklyn writer, mother, wife and homeowner Paula Bomer, 42. The acclaimed author doesn’t swaddle the truth when discussing her debut fiction collection Baby & Other Stories, praised as “raw and angry” by Publisher’s Weekly.
Thelma Adams: How old were you when you came out of the closet as a writer?
Paula Bomer: I started writing fiction in high school. After I graduated from college with a degree in psychology, I began writing fiction more regularly, knowing it was what I wanted to do. By 22, I began taking workshops. I applied to graduate writing programs at 24.
TA: What did you like to read as a kid?
PB: I read everything. As a young girl I read all the Beverly Clearly and Judy Blume books. I loved Madeline Lengle.
TA: And what did you read as a young adult?
PB: By the age of twelve, I had run out of children’s books and began reading things that went above my head. I read everything by Toni Morrison. And with great delight and horror, I read Wifey by Judy Blume. How shocking that the Blume of my grade school years could write so explicitly about sex! It was a very exciting time, moving toward books for grown ups, even if I didn’t understand everything.
TA: What was the first dirty passage you read in a book?
PB: Well, that might have been Wifey. I loved Chaucer in high school. In college, I went through a stage of reading Anais Nin, Henry Miller, Charles Bukowski: all sorts of dirty stuff but it was “literature,” too. Later, Philip Roth, Mary Gaitskill and Alicia Erian, to name a few, also showed me how writing explicitly about sexual matters doesn’t belittle the work.
TA: What did you wish when you were first starting out as a writer?
PB: I wished to be published and read and, quite frankly, to cause a certain amount of trouble, the trouble that Henry Miller caused, the trouble that Philip Roth caused with Portnoy’s Complaint. I’m over that, for the most part. I’m not ashamed of wanting to cause trouble – you can’t tell me Roth didn’t have the same childish desire – but it’s fine to be over it, too. [Read more…]