Interviews / Novelists

Interview with Samantha Hunt: “How fast can I run away from tech?”

Samantha Hunt is the author of The Dark Dark: Stories, and three novels. Mr. Splitfoot is a ghost story. The Invention of Everything Else is about the life of inventor Nikola Tesla. The Seas, Hunt’s first novel, was republished by Tin House Books in 2018. 

Hunt is the recipient of a 2017 Guggenheim Fellowship, the Bard Fiction Prize, the National Book Foundation’s S Under 35 Prize, the St. Francis College Literary Prize and she was a finalist for the Orange Prize and the PEN/Faulkner. 

She has been published by the New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, the New York Times, the Guardian and a number of other fine publications. She teaches at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Her latest book, The Unwritten Book, was published by FSG in 2022.

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Hi Samantha, welcome to Famous Writing Routines, we’re so glad to have you here with us today! Your work often tackles themes of motherhood and childhood. How has your own upbringing influenced your writing?

I grew up in a large, close family in a very wild, chaotic, old house. Objects would appear. Objects would disappear, as if by magic. That gave me a sense of the possible and a deep practice of watching, noticing the world and how it changes. 

Your collection of short stories, The Dark Dark, was praised for its imaginative and haunting depictions of everyday life. How do you approach the craft of writing short fiction versus longer works like novels?

I don’t think the process is different for the form. I most often have three or four ideas (events, objects, questions or images) I’m curious about and then I like to force these ideas to be in relation with each other. A way of revealing that things that might seem unrelated, are related. 

You’ve won several awards, including the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 award and a Guggenheim Fellowship for fiction. How does recognition like this impact your writing and creative process?

Institutions that support artists are doing some of our most important work. It is not easy to be an artist or an arts educator under capitalism and yet it is essential. Everyone needs to make art. All of America’s problems with rage and violence would be solved if we had better arts education.  

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As a professor of writing at the Pratt Institute, what do you believe are the most important skills for aspiring writers to develop and how do you help your students achieve these goals?

Studying writing at an art school means my students are secure with the idea that writers need to make something, that we have a craft and skills we need to practice, just like a painter or architect. I teach students to write in a most old fashioned way – we read together, figure out how a piece was constructed and then try to do the same. 

What does a typical writing day look like for you? 

I write in the morning quite early, when it feels like the world is still asleep. It helps keep other voices and distractions at bay.

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

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to converse with a cave person poet? Their ideas about language—ideas formed without a written alphabet—would be highly instructive. 

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

I love Ali Smith and am often reading her. Recently I’ve loved Dark Testament by Crystal Simone Smith (a blackout poem collection drawn from George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo), Kate Zambreno’s forthcoming The Light Room and Rita Bullwinkel’s forthcoming, Headshot and Emerson Whitney’s forthcoming, Daddy Boy

Your writing often touches on themes of technology and the changing nature of society. How do you think the role of technology will continue to influence literature in the future?

Lately, for me, the biggest influence tech is having on my writing is, how fast can I run away from tech? I am glad to see that humans are reaching a point where we realize growth and progress are ideas we can step away from, that tech can be damaging and detrimental to the beautiful minds and bodies that made it, that use it, that can stop using it. 

What does your current writing workspace look like?

I write in a small room in a barn out back of my house. I like a small space for writing. I sometimes sit at a bright orange table I painted after seeing artist Helen Marden’s bright and colorful living spaces. I definitely believe in rainbow therapy. Color is a cure! 

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