Lindsay Hunter is the author of the story collections Don’t Kiss Me and Daddy’s. Ugly Girls is her first novel.
Throughout the novel, as the focus alternates on the different protagonists, the voice telling the story is always a close third-person narrator, which often feels protective of the characters, sometimes surprisingly so. But it also builds a sort of distance with them. Was it important for you to keep this distance between the narrator and the characters, to not allow the reader to be fully in their heads?
Originally, the book started out in first-person from Perry’s point of view only. As I kept writing, I realized I wanted to show other parts of the story from the other characters’ perspectives, and I needed to be able to kind of show the various ironies as well. Like, I wanted to show what Baby Girl was thinking while also showing what reality was showing. That ironic space is kind of the sad tale I really wanted to tell. The whole novel is kind of about perception and identity, and how a character’s perception of him or herself as well as the perception that character has of other characters, within that there is so much misunderstanding and assumption and sadness and richness. So, I wanted to be close in, but I also needed a way to get distance. It’s interesting that you say the narrator feels protective of the characters! I think maybe that was my way of trying to show the wholeness of each character. Like, trying not to write them off as all one thing or another.
You already published two short story collections and you regularly publish short stories online, but Ugly Girls is your first novel. What does this format allow?
Well, it allows me to stay with characters and in their world for longer. I was afraid that’d mean I’d get bored, or I wouldn’t have anything to say, or the story would flame out. I wanted it to move, baby. I wanted it to crackle. So it was a challenge I gave myself as I wrote, to try to write something that didn’t bore ME first, and that hopefully wouldn’t then bore a reader. And boredom for me goes beyond plot. I want to have a good time reading the words that make the sentences that make the pages that make the story. So I wanted to really pay attention to the language and phrasing and word choice as I went, too.
The voice at work in the novel feels very fierce and shameless. Is it the driving force in every one of your writings?
It seems to be! I tend to use all caps a lot in life, and I’m starting to realize that my inner monologue, my emotions, are all in all caps. And that definitely comes through in my writing. Shameless…I guess that is true in that I try very hard not to censor the writing, but I do often wonder if there’s something wrong with me personally. So many people ask me about how/why I write such sad, gross, horrible things that it’s hard not to wonder. So there is shame, but there is also the ignoring of shame.
The characters’ lives feel like open wounds which never fully heal and which the characters keep scratching over and over. Does this scratching also apply to your work as a writer?
Yes. Everything I write is about loneliness. But who can heal or solve (salve) loneliness? No one. So I write on.