An Interview with Aubrey Asleson
Mara Rosen met up with Trouble Child’s managing editor and fiction editor Aubrey Asleson to discuss reading, writing, and performative behavior.
Mara Rosen: What are you reading right now?
Aubrey Asleson: I’m currently reading Abandon Me by Melissa Febos. It’s great because three of my friends read it before me, and I’m the last one to get the book, so everyone’s notes and underlined sections are there and I get to read their thoughts as I read the book. It wasn’t even exactly planned; we just sort of all borrowed one copy, but it’s this really beautiful thing to be close to both the work and these people that I love.
MR: What is it about short fiction, or fiction in general, that appeals to you more than other genres of literature?
AA: That’s a good question, and I don’t really have just one answer. I write fiction because I love writing about people, and short fiction in particular allows me the space to dive into a character or two and then pull myself back out and move on.
I also write fiction because I like the freedom it gives me to find something I want to write about—a feeling, an experience, a person—and then manipulate the components of the story to get that thing across. I don’t have to abide by facts as I do with nonfiction, but I can still write about things that are real and honest. After all, the best fiction is tangible—it makes you forget it’s not real and makes you care, and I think that’s a really difficult and rewarding balance to find.
MR: Has your approach to writing and creative projects in general changed since graduating and losing the formal structure of college?
AA: I think graduating was something that was really hard on my creativity. For a while I sort of lost it, and it took me a while to find a groove again. It’s kind of an obvious thing, but not being in school means that everything has to be self-motivated. No TA is telling me to write one thousand words by Monday, and no one is asking me to write a proposal on what kind of art and literary magazine I would start if I had the chance. Being out of school for me is realizing that all creative energy starts with you and that projects like this magazine have to be done between shifts at my job, that it’s going to be cool and exciting but also a lot of hard work, and no one is going to hold me accountable except for myself.
MR: A lot of our discussions center around the belief that we're often "performing" our personalities, or the fear that we aren't being genuinely ourselves, even among close friends. Do you think this conflict shows itself in your writing? Or is that a place where you feel able to drop "the performance?" A "safe space," if you will.
AA: I think my writing is a space for me to pick apart performance, whether it’s my own or someone else’s. It’s a space to drop the image, pick it back up, and put it on with all of its guts out for everyone to see.
For example, the only piece of nonfiction I’ve ever written is a piece about my last semester of college, which I wrote while I was still finishing up school. In it, I look at myself in those last few months and I admit to myself and the reader that I couldn’t discern what parts of me were real and what had come from a hyper-awareness of what people saw in me—or whether there was even a difference between the two. It felt like putting my real self out there on the page to an extent, but even then I wrote the piece in second person to keep up some façade of removal. Just by the nature of writing a piece and choosing what to write about, I was editing my own experience and making myself into a character, and I think I do a similar thing with fiction—it’s a place to look at a story and know that some of it comes from a genuine place and some of it is made up. There’s a certain self-awareness in choosing what to let people see and read.
So, I guess to answer your question, my writing is not necessarily a place to be without a performance but to admit to having one.