(205) 870-1117 Mon - Sat : 6am - 10pm / Sun : 7am - 10pm Get Directions

Author Interview: Kristen Iskandrian

July 28, 2017 | Charlotte Donlon

I got to spend some time with local author Kristen Iskandrian yesterday. We talked about books, writing, and her first novel Motherest which I definitely recommend. This coming-of-age story explores the dynamics of complex relationships with detailed scenes, fantastic prose, and a cast of vivid characters that leave you wanting more.

In its starred review, Publishers Weekly names Iskandrian as a “writer to watch” and calls Motherest a “stellar first novel” that is a “delightful and satisfying reading experience.” Kirkus calls Motherest “a powerfully perceptive story written with love, realism, and humor” that is “heartbreaking, hilarious, and poignant—often at the same time.” Booklist says it’s simply “a brilliant debut.”

Church Street will be at Desert Island Supply Co. on Tuesday, August 1 from 6-9 p.m. for the Motherest Launch Party. All are invited to attend!

You can learn more about Kristen, her book (including a fabulous playlist!), and read more of her work at www.kristeniskandrian.com.

Charlotte Donlon: When did you start writing?

Kristen Iskandrian: I kept a diary as a kid, as many people do. I kept it up for a long time, and they were super boring—just records of my day—but I was very superstitious about having to write these entries every night. There was some compulsion within me that made me sit down at the end of each day and write stuff like the weather and what I ate. As soon as I was old enough to write letters, I wrote them to everybody. It’s a form that’s very near and dear to my heart, which is probably one reason why I incorporated letters in my book. You can reveal characters in such an intimate way. On one level, Motherest is an homage to letter writing.

CD: Which writers did you admire when you were a child?

KI: I loved Madeleine L’Engle’s books. I kept going with her when a lot of people stopped, say, after A Wrinkle in Time. I loved The Austin Family books. She also had two YA books, one is called The Small Rain and one is called Camilla and they were really big for me in my early teen years. I still think about those books.

CD: What are some of your favorite children’s books?

KI: I have so many, and I love talking about books for kids. Goodnight Moon is an amazing book. I also love The Velveteen Rabbit and The Frog and Toad books. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble is another favorite. We have a CD of James Earl Jones reading that book and he totally does it justice, as you can imagine.

CD: What books are on your to-read list?

KI: Made for Love by Alissa Nutting, Eat Only When You’re Hungry by Lindsay Hunter, Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing. Can Xue’s The Last Lover. And poetry, so much good new(ish) poetry: Solmaz Sharif’s Look and Morgan Parker’s There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé.

CD: What is your favorite under appreciated novel?

KI: A year or so ago a friend loaned me The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck. It definitely got attention, but whenever I mention it to people no one seems to have read it. It’s a beautiful book. I also adore The Summer Book by Tove Jansson.

CD: How has your writing changed since you wrote your first published story?

KI: My first story was published in 2005 or 2006. I was in graduate school and submitting really widely and getting rejected all the time. I still get plenty of rejections, but I think I’ve learned a lot in ten years, about how to be more direct, how to better avoid clichés of both emotion and expression. I used to be more flowery, more interested in clever ways of saying the thing. Eventually I learned how to be direct and (hopefully) interesting in the same moment.

CD: What surprised you most about Motherest once it was complete?

KI: I think just that it was complete! I felt this total astonishment that it was finished.

CD: It’s such a perfect ending.

KI: It’s really the only ending that made sense to me.

CD: I love the details in your scenes. Were there any scenes that were hard for you to write or any that kind of wrote themselves?

KI: It’s a very character-driven novel, and once I inhabited the characters, and made certain decisions about their fates, the scenes felt pretty organic. I mean it’s always hard to find the words that do the mood or the moment justice. That’s every writer’s struggle—how do you get the scene to match what’s in your head? But I don’t think there were any scenes that were harder to write than others. To me, it was sort of uniformly difficult, with these bursts of grace and clarity.

CD: I love how you write about sex in the book. Do you have any thoughts on your approach or advice to other writers about how to write about sex?

KI: In three words—keep it awkward! That’s what I prefer, anyway, when I read sex scenes. As a reader, when you know it’s coming, your bullshit detector is on high alert because there are so many terrible ways to write about sex. In a book like this, I think you have to make it kind of gritty and tactile and fraught—the way that it often is in real life.

CD: What does literary success look like to you?

KI: I just cherish the work so much. I have a day job and children, so it feels luxurious to me to carve out time to write, even though it takes a lot of strategizing and keeping weird hours. But I think as long as I can keep doing the work, I will feel successful. I don’t mean to be cheesy about it, but that’s truly how I feel.

CD: How will you celebrate on August 1st?

KI: I’m happy that we’re having the DISCO launch on the same day as publication, and I hope it feels like a kind of birthday party! Mostly I’m just excited and ready to send the book off into the world, to let it go.

Charlotte lives in Homewood with her husband and their two children. She’s earning an MFA in creative writing from Seattle Pacific University, and she does freelance writing and copywriting. You can find her online at www.charlottedonlon.com and on Twitter at @charlottedonlon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Brené Brown's Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

September 12, 2017 | Charlotte Donlon

  During an appointment with the first therapist I ever met with, I asked him if there's something wrong with me because I've never had a best friend who lasted more than a couple of... read full article

John Ronald's Dragons: The Story of J.R.R. Tolkien

September 05, 2017 | Charlotte Donlon

I must confess I've never read any of Tolkien's books. But after reading the children's book John Ronald's Dragons: The Story of J.R.R. Tolkien written by Caroline McAlister and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler, I'm now convinced... read full article

Grief, Resilience, and Option B

September 01, 2017 | Charlotte Donlon

Since I married my husband almost twenty years ago, one of my greatest fears has been losing him to some kind of tragic early death. After I became a mama, this fear expanded to include losing... read full article

Author Interview: Gin Phillips on Fierce Kingdom, Writing, and Motherhood

August 14, 2017 | Charlotte Donlon

Gin Phillips and I hung out on her back porch recently and talked about her new book, writing, and motherhood. Here’s some of what we discussed:   When did you start writing? I’ve always written... read full article

Making a Mark: She Persisted and Radiant Child

August 10, 2017 | Charlotte Donlon

I grabbed two children's books from Church Street a couple of weeks ago for my kids (ages 12 and 14) and me to read. We believe you're never too old for children's books and have been enjoying... read full article

A Review: Becoming Ms. Burton

August 03, 2017 | Charlotte Donlon

Many conversations I hear about social justice issues are taking place among people who aren’t necessarily suffering from oppression. There are a lot of well-meaning people who talk about the effects of racism. They advocate... read full article

Author Interview: Kristen Iskandrian

July 28, 2017 | Charlotte Donlon

I got to spend some time with local author Kristen Iskandrian yesterday. We talked about books, writing, and her first novel Motherest which I definitely recommend. This coming-of-age story explores the dynamics of complex relationships... read full article

It's a Marvel and a Wonder I Liked It

November 25, 2015 | The Crew

  My wife and I just spent the weekend going through all of our books, getting rid of the ones we’ll never read again, the grad-school textbooks we never read in the first place, the... read full article

Hollow Fruits and Spiritual Totems: A Review of Gold Fame Citrus by Clair Vaye Watkins

October 04, 2015 | The Crew

  Disregarding weather reports of temperatures reaching 102º, I strapped on my pack and started out on the Tuxachanie Trail in Stone County, Mississippi, for a night in the woods with a flask of rum... read full article

Haiku Review: 100 Years of Solitude

July 28, 2015 | The Crew

Our haiku reviewer, Anonymous, treats us to a poetic appraisal of the Gabriel Garcia Marquez classic.     I must disclose: This Is my very favorite Book. Ever. La verdad.   Generations of Buendias fall... read full article

Armada: Sci-Fi, but Accessible

July 21, 2015 | The Crew

  I had a conversation with a friend the other night about his wife’s laundry list of problems with America—rampant consumer culture, disconnection from the land, inability to live harmoniously in diverse communities, Walmart, etc.... read full article

Ready Player One: An Adventure in New Antiques

July 14, 2015 | The Crew

[Ready Player One has been reviewed here before, but I thought I’d give it another look since Ernest Cline’s new book, Armada, comes out today. I’ll be reviewing it within the week, but until then... read full article

Throwback Review: Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye

June 17, 2015 | The Crew | 1 Comment

Anthony Vacca takes us back to 1953 and the hard-boiled world of dames and detectives. The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler When it comes to Raymond Chandler’s novels starring the smart-ass, misanthropic PI Phillip Marlowe,... read full article

Haiku Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

June 02, 2015 | The Crew

It's an oldie but a goodie, and here's your Anonymous Haiku Review of Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.     Wellington has a Garden fork in his left side. Pretty... read full article

Walking to Hollywood by Will Self

May 19, 2015 | The Crew

This week's review of Will Self's Walking to Hollywood comes from Anthony Vacca: author, librarian, and director of Write Club at Hoover Library.     Will Self is a little known novelist this side of the... read full article

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman

May 11, 2015 | The Crew

This weeks review of Neil Gaiman's Trigger Warning comes to us from Cassia Kesler, mother of two boys and a freelance writer. She and her husband Scott live in Birmingham. Her favorite activities include lying on the... read full article

Haiku Review: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

May 04, 2015 | The Crew

This week our Haiku Reviewer, Anonymous, tackles Americanah.     Ifemelu is Letting her hair go nat'ral. Americanah.   It's race, not color That limits us, separates Us. We made it up.   Black, White,... read full article

An Anti-Review of an Anti-Memoir: A Field Guide to Tom Robbins' Tibetan Peach Pie

April 27, 2015 | The Crew

  It’s impossible for me to write about Tom Robbins without getting personal. I’ll get to Tibetan Peach Pie, but bear with me briefly.   Throughout my childhood Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Jitterbug Perfume,... read full article

Haiku Review: The Painter by Peter Heller

April 21, 2015 | The Crew | 1 Comment

This Tuesday’s review in haiku comes to us from Anonymous—a pot-making, songwriting, card-sharking, chicken-raising doula and mother of two.   Peter Heller’s The Painter   Currents and canvas Churning desert sky above Jim, whatcha thinking?... read full article

Return of the Blog

April 19, 2015 | The Crew

Hello Church Street Community,   Because such a wonderful shop as Church Street is worthy of website content lively as Cal and wise as Heather, we’re dusting off this old blog to provide a (somewhat)... read full article
View More Posts

Login

Lost your password?