I recently had the opportunity to interview Alex Poppe. She has written and published many fiction and nonfiction works in a variety of literary journals and magazines. Please enjoy this interview about her newest book, Girl, World.
1. Tell me a little bit about yourself? How long have you been writing?
First, I was first a business analyst, and then I started acting in all kinds of things such as film, TV, stage, voice-overs, improv, and daytime television. After my time in acting, I started writing at the Writer’s Studio in New York in October 2010. The Writer’s Studio was founded by Philip Schultz, who is a Pulitzer Prize winning poet, and Junot Diaz and Jennifer Egan have taken classes there as well.
2. What inspired you to write Girl, World?
I get inspired from real world events, research them a lot, and then fictionalize them. For me, I start with an emotional reality and then turn it into a work of fiction. Also, sometimes a social justice issue grabs my attention, so I will research it and fictionalize it.
3. What do you hope readers will get from Girl, World?
I hope that if readers have dealt with these issues personally, they will get comfort. Also, I hope Girl, World raises awareness of these issues and encourages people to research them on their own in more detail and be more motivated to change these problems. For example, rape in the military should be taken out of the chain of command, and there is a story about rape in the military in this book which is based on a true story.
4. Could you describe the type of reader that Girl, World would appeal to and why?
I think it will appeal to everyone. I’m surprised a lot of men are reading the book and enjoying it. It’s not a young adult book; it’s literary fiction although I do have some teenage narrators. For example, two of the narrators are teenage girls who are American Kurds. One of the stories explores why girls in the West are drawn to jihad, and the other story is about girl who has been repatriated to her homeland.
5. You’ve traveled extensively and lived in many different places. How much did those experiences shape the development of you as a writer and the development of Girl, World?
The trafficking story focuses on the trafficking of women from Slavic countries, and in Ukraine, women are highly sexualized to the detriment of these young girls. Living and working in the West Bank and seeing how the Palestinians are oppressed in the occupied territories inspired the story “Ras Al-Mud.” Also, “Moxie” is my love letter to New York City because I miss it. I also became really interested in mythology and topography, and that inspired “The Crystal Fairies,” which takes place around the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
The collection is themed around loss and identity, and who we are when our lives get steamrolled, but the political is always in the background, yet it doesn’t overshadow the personal human story. Also, social justice issues, such as trafficking, rape in the military, the Black Lives Matter movement, the reason why girls are drawn to jihad, the Israel-Palestine conflict, and the politics of the Kurdish Iraqi region all inspired the different stories.
6. Where can readers get Girl, World?
People can go to Amazon or Laughing Fire Press for the book.
7. Now time for a fun question. Have you ever gone on a literary pilgrimage? If not, which one would you do and why?
I haven’t done a literary pilgrimage, but I’ve done a pilgrimage for the filmmaker, Fatih Akin. He focuses a lot of his films in Hamburg, Germany, so I had to go to all these places to see them in real life.
8. Do you think someone could be a writer if they couldn’t empathize with their characters?
I think you have to empathize with humanity to be a good writer. It’s essential to have empathy for people in general because empathy is how you make an emotional connection, and that emotional connection to the material makes the writing rich.
9. Are you working on any other projects?
Even though I am mostly a short story writer, I’ve written a novel that I’m shopping now, and I’m also currently shopping a recently finished short story. I’m also thinking of turning my short story about rape in the military into a novella. In addition, I’m taking notes on the theme of family for a future story.
10. Last question. Where can fans connect and find you?
People can go on my Facebook page, Linkedin, and Twitter @sapoppe