Interviews / Novelists

Interview with Ashley Hutson: “Good reading hygiene helps keep the fire going.”

Ashley Hutson is a writer living in rural Maryland. Her debut novel, One’s Company, was published by W.W. Norton & Company in 2022, and her shorter work has appeared in Granta, Electric Literature, XRAY, and Wigleaf. She is a 2022 recipient of the MSAC Independent Artist Award. 

Hi Ashley, welcome to Famous Writing Routines, great to have you here with us today! As a writer living in rural Maryland, do you find that your environment and surroundings influence your work? How do you balance the solitude of rural life with the need to connect with other writers and readers?

I think it’s hard to judge how one’s environment influences one’s work. I tend to write things that are interesting to me, and let me tell you, sometimes my surroundings do not interest me. But I’m sure they’re working their way in somehow.As for balancing solitude and writing community—there’s really no balance. It’s just me here. Since my book was published I’ve received a few messages from readers and other writers, which has been nice. Other than that, though, I don’t belong to any kind of writing community. I used to be on Twitter, but I’m not cut out for it. I deleted everything.  

Your writing has been recognized with several Pushcart Prize nominations. How does it feel to have your work acknowledged in this way, and what impact do you think these types of honors can have on a writer’s career?

Oh, the Pushcart nominations. They are nice, but let’s face it, who cares? They sound good in bios and things like that, I suppose. But nominated isn’t winning. I have learned over the years that the awards and things are mostly just trimmings that other people care about, and they can definitely help a writer. However, I’ve found myself caring less and less about achievements.

It’s been such a relief, honestly. I used to care a lot about awards and recognition when I started out, and that’s okay because it motivated me to persist. But the thrill of victory lasts for about five minutes. Now I appreciate the wins and honors when they happen, and use them strategically if I can, but I don’t expect them to make me happy or a better writer. 

Can you tell us about your writing routine? What does a typical day look like for you?

Well, I haven’t been writing much of anything lately. I’ve allowed some big life changes to disrupt my mental focus over the past couple years, unfortunately. I want to get back to writing every day again, though. I worry about brain shrinkage. I worry I have lost it all. 

When you’re writing, do you have any specific routines or habits that you follow to help you get into the creative zone?

I sit down at my computer. That’s pretty much it. Good reading hygiene helps keep the fire going, too. When I go through long periods of not reading, my writing life languishes. I think the brain needs some stimulation and a friendly challenge. 

If you could have a conversation with any author throughout history about their writing routine and creative process, who would that person be?

I would talk to all the alcoholics. I want to know how they wrote such coherent things while blitzed on gin. Seems like a superpower. 

I’d love to know about the books you’re reading at the moment. What have been some of your favorite recent reads?

Right now I’m in the middle of Silver by Hilma Wolitzer. It’s one of those books I’m purposely taking forever to finish because I don’t want it to end. Before that, I read Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith, which was superb. And I also read Sum, by neuroscientist David Eagleman, which I would recommend to anyone feeling a little melancholy about life and death. It won’t help, but you’ll have read a great book. 

I also recently read Roald Dahl’s Matilda for the first time as an adult. It was one of my favorite books as a child. I enjoyed it this time around, too, but damn, Matilda is kind of a psychopath. I mean, how could she not be with parents like that? Still. Makes me wonder about my 9-year-old self and what exactly I absorbed from it. All that petty revenge, my God. I reread that book a hundred times when I was young.

If you had to choose, what’s your favorite piece of writing that you’ve ever written and why?

I would choose my journal. It’s the only record of my life that exists, so of course it feels crucial to me.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers who are just starting out in their careers? Are there any lessons that you’ve learned along the way that you would like to share?

I guess I would say: No one will do it for you. I say that to myself quite a bit, actually. Like most advice, it doesn’t help. 

What does your current writing workspace look like?

It’s my kitchen table, which is (still) an old card table from Walmart. On it sits my laptop, several pens I use for crosswords and grocery lists, and a fine layer of dust. I can look out my kitchen window anytime I want. It’s a cozy spot.

Affiliate disclaimer: Some links on this website are affiliate links. We may earn a small commission if you make a purchase through these links, but only promote products we truly believe in. We disclose affiliate links and give honest reviews.

No Comments

    Leave a Reply