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April Wilder’s Book, This is Not an Accident, Focuses on Absurd Americana – 2014

This Is Not An Accident by April Wilder

April Wilder’s Book, This is Not an Accident, Focuses on Absurd Americana

March 2014 — An Exclusive Authorlink Interview with April Wilder

By Columnist Doreen Akiyo Yomoah

This is Not an Accident
by April Wilder

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AUTHORLINK: What was your inspiration for writing This is Not an Accident?

WILDER: Well, I didn’t set out to write a book of short stories. It started with me writing short stories when I started my MFA. It’s a great form for learning writing prose. You can try a lot of things in stories, whereas in a novel you’re stuck in a set of parameters for a long time at a crucial time in your writing life.

“My inspiration in writing these stories had to do with American absurdity . . .”
—WILDER

I wanted to try a couple of things. My inspiration in writing these stories had to do with American absurdity and writing about that, since I was doing my doctoral studies on narratives of the absurd. It was a combination of reading philosophers like [Albert] Camus and [Thomas] Nagel.

I started thinking about a kind of absurdity that is peculiarly American, and contemporarily American. The first story, about the mermaid bar is interesting to think about phenomenologically. It’s weird that someone is paying you to swim around and pretend to be a mermaid. What does it mean to be in a world where that’s your job? These are situations I wanted to examine. Some of them are more mundane, like divorce. Is divorce in America different than in other countries? That’s what I was after. Maybe there is an American pain. I consider myself, for better or worse, to be extremely American. I picture myself as the world-traveler type, but after a week I always want to come back home and hear American jokes. That’s kind of a theme of the book.

AUTHORLINK: Do these stories all take something from things that you’ve experienced?

WILDER: It’s all in the blender- if you look at any one character or one situation, that probably came from nothing, but the pieces all come from somewhere. In the first story, for example, I had this friend whose brother come home one night. He spent the whole night driving back and forth home to the bike shop, thinking that he had hit someone, and was driving looking for a body. That was 25 years ago. I haven’t been walking around thinking about him for 25 years, but it all comes back sooner or later. I’ll make up some things, but it’s always the things from life that people find the most outlandish. The fun thing about being a fiction writer is your job is not to ask too many questions about people, but to just observe and make things up.

“I always thought I would be a novelist eventually but I had it in my head I wouldn’t be a poor struggling artist . . .”
—WILDER

AUTHORLINK: Have you always been a writer?

WILDER: I always thought I would be a novelist eventually but I had it in my head I wouldn’t be a poor struggling artist; I would get a degree, have a career, and write on the side. I did consulting for many years- designing pension plans. It was kind of fun, I would write fiction in the morning and do math in the afternoon.

I ended up having to get a MA in fiction to have the confidence to write. I had this chip on my shoulder, thinking “Can I really be sitting here writing fiction when my degree is in math?” I didn’t know any writers or artists at all, so that was all a mystery to me. Now I miss the math a bit, and for a while it upset me that I had gone down that track and thrown it all away, but math is all over my fiction. Higher level math is extremely creative. Somewhere, Einstein defines what makes a proof “elegant”, and what defines elegance in a proof is exactly what defines elegance in any kind of writing also.

Higher level prose has a mathematical element to it. Elegant writing is puzzle work. A successful piece of art will be both left-brained and right-brained. Kate Coles [former Utah poet laureate] told me that she was sitting at the beach one day with her dad reading The Iliad and he asked her “How do you know that’s a good book?” She asked him “How do you know when a proof is true?’ and he said “Because it’s beautiful”.

“You can’t just write or you’ll go nuts! It’s too isolating. You need a job where you go talk to other people.”
—WILDER

AUTHORLINK: What do you have coming up next?

WILDER: I just finished my PhD at the University of Utah. I decided to take a year to raise my baby and work on my upcoming novel. At one point it was such a whirlwind— working on my book, preparing for exams, and raising an infant. It’s so relaxed now.

I do love teaching, but I don’t know if I want to go back immediately. I wanted to stay away for a year or two.

You can’t just write or you’ll go nuts! It’s too isolating. You need a job where you go talk to other people for a few hours. I’m leaving it up in the air until we go back to California [where I’m from originally]. I have a lot of trust in signals that come to you.

About the Author:

April Wilder grew up mainly in California. She holds a BS in math from UCLA, an MFA in fiction from U-Montana, a PhD in literature/creative writing from U-Utah, and is a former fiction fellow from U-Wisconsin’s Institute for Creative Writing. She lives with her daughter in Northern California.

About Doreen Akiyo Yomoah:

Doreen Akiyo Yomoah is a nomadic freelance writer, currently living in Dakar, Senegal. www.doreenakiyomoah.co.uk