Of course it's always fascinating to me to get to talk to writers after they've finished their novels and the books are published and out in the world, but what about during the writing process itself? Here Claudia Zuluaga offered to talk to me about just that--both the book that is out and published, and the one she's working on now, A Body is a Haunted House.
Claudia Zuluaga has published in iNarrative Magazine, Lost Magazine, JMWW, and Linnaean Street, Dzanc Books' Best of the Web series and is forthcoming in Jellyfish Review. Her novel, Fort Starlight, reviewed by the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist, was shortlisted for the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award.She has an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best American Short Stories. Claudia teaches writing at John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY) in New York City.
Thank you a billion times, Claudia!
I believe every writer is haunted into writing their novels. What was haunting you?
The place we moved to was much further along in development than the fictional town of my novel, but still, I was stunned by how different it was from where I’d grown up. It wasn’t close enough to the ocean for it to even matter. There were enormous alligators in the canals behind the boxy houses, rumors of panthers stalking the sparse woods. And no sidewalks, though even if there had been, there was no place close enough to walk to. I didn’t have access to a car, so spent a lot of time sitting on the screened in porch, looking out the window at the thick grass and small trees that never changed color. We’d hear of newly-built homes being swallowed by sinkholes. There were lots of churches, but no other culture I was able to discern. I tried to like it, because I was stuck there, but even once I’d made some friends, I couldn’t figure out how do that.
Meanwhile, in the green hills of Northern Spain, lives Iker, a depressed architect whose recent car accident cost him a limb. One night, Iker is visited by the apparition of woman whose unexplained presence in his kitchen gives him a new sense of purpose. Hannah’s and Iker’s narratives are interwoven, but the effect they have on each other’s lives is something only the reader truly understands. The book is about both grief and the invisible connections between us all.
When I started this book, I was fascinated with people who look for ghosts. Whether they’re dealing with unresolved grief or just need to believe there is life after death, there is something so pure and beautiful about this quest.
Writing A Body is a Haunted House was a similar experience to Fort Starlight in that it started with unrelated images that absolutely didn’t make sense to me at first. This time around, I completely trusted that those images would connect and create the meaning that was hiding deep in my subconscious. The more unrelated the images, the wider the net is cast, and the story has the freedom to be wild, something to understand. The long period of the discovery of the connective tissue is my favorite part of writing a novel.
What's obsessing you now and why?