Ask the Author: Melanie Conroy-Goldman
What would you like readers to know about you?
I’ve been teaching creative writing to college students for most of my career, but recently, I volunteered to teach college courses in a maximum-security men’s prison. My students in the class there had all contended deeply with their own past mistakes. Few of us ever are really forced to acknowledge our errors in that way, but the manner in which people make bad decisions–myself included!–has always fascinated me. So often, we can see we’re doing wrong even at the time, but somehow we cannot stop ourselves. I think I’m always in some way writing about this paradox in human behavior, and to what extent it’s possible to learn from past mistakes.
What is your book about for those who haven’t read it?
My novel is about a single mother who is recovering from addiction to a designer drug called cloud. The drug resolves regret by wiping users’ short-term memories, but has long term consequences for cognitive function. For the sake of her toddler daughter, and with the help of a tough-minded sponsor, my narrator, Mellie, is thirty days sober. Then a man she almost recognizes appears in her driveway and threatens to draw her back into the life she thought she’d forgotten.
What has been your inspiration for writing it?
I wrote the very first lines of the novel on a construction paper drawing by my daughter while actually driving. I just started to hear this young mother’s voice. Over time, I realized that I was contending with the experience of having had a very sick, very young kid–who is thankfully just fine now–while I was a single mom. I’ve also had my own struggles with addiction, and these two experiences coalesced in the book
What was your favorite scene or part of your book to write?
There’s a secondary character in the book named Nancy who is complicated but a real force for good in the end. She is mystically-minded but at the same time knows how to fix her own carburetor and is always the first on the dance floor. Every time I got to write a scene with her, it was a blast because she’s fearless and unpredictable.
What books or authors inspired you to become a writer?
My dad was an avid sci fi reader when I was growing up, and my mom was an English major who wrote her senior thesis on Chaucer, and I think these two veins basically defined my relationship with reading and shaped my voice as a writer. I love a good yarn with a fantastic or futuristic element, and I love great sentences. I devoured Toni Morrison’s work as a teen, because her novels are so gorgeous and my favorites among them are inflected with magical realist elements. I also read a lot of golden age sci fi like Piers Anthony and Philip K. Dick. At the same time, I was reading morally challenging literary fiction like Mary Gaitskill, who continues to be an inspiration to me.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to write a book?
Every writer needs different things in order to stay sane and productive. Figure out what those things are for you, cultivate them, and protect them fiercely. If you need to write in the morning, protect your mornings. If you need to get out and walk every day, walk every day.
When in doubt, read. My most creative times have been steeped in great novels and short stories by other people.
A book is a long game. There are inevitable crises of faith along the way. That’s part of the process, too.
A lifetime’s addiction to the memory drug cloud has allowed Mellie to glimpse other, possibly better, lives, but for the sake of her toddler daughter, she is trying to live in the likely world. When a stranger appears who may be her daughter’s father, the pull of her seductive, dangerous memories may put at risk…
Link to book at Book Shop https://bookshop.org/books/the-likely-world/9781597098083
The Likely World<https://bookshop.org/books/the-likely-world/9781597098083>