Tell us a little about yourself – how long have you been writing? Any publications?
My first novel into the silence: the fishing story was published by Red Hen Press in 2014, and I have published in literary magazines as well as academic journals in the area of African studies.
I have been writing since I was small.
However, it was not a straight line for me to become a published author. I played piano from the time I was seven years old, and swam competitively from the age of eleven until I was eighteen. As a piano performance major, I practiced eight hours a day. In my twenties, I was devoted to piano, writing, dance, and running, and I read widely as well.
into the silence is about a girl who grows up to become a music composer, inspired by my immersion in music from childhood. My short stories including ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ are inspired by my background in music as well.
My current novel Waiting in the Rain: The Blood Notebook is an intergenerational tale of a mixed-race family living on a plantation in the US South. It draws on my studies in African history and literatures, as well as my travels to Africa.
Specifically, tell us a bit more about your longlisted story – the inspiration behind it, the writing of it…
The short, staccato sentences I think come from being a pianist and from my background in music, and listening to artists like Nat King Cole, Nina Simone, and John Coltrane.
I am drawn to music and writing that is simple, for example the stories of William Gass and Ernest Hemingway. I read The Old Man and the Sea for a book group as a child. Even though I may not have understood the story’s full meaning, it was one of the first things I read that made me realise how moving writing can be.
This story also came from reading biographies about the lives of writers and artists in the 1920s and earlier. Black and white movies and photographs, writers whose hand-written manuscripts were typed on typewriters that are now antique, editors like Max Perkins, James Laughlin, and the like, are all of interest and inspiration to me.
Name three short story writers you especially admire – why?
I keep coming back to the stories of Dambudzo Marechera, Toni Cade Bambara, and William Gass.
Dambudzo Marechera’s story of growing up in a Zimbabwe township is captured in House of Hunger. He has an incredible gift for language, and his writing defies form and genre.
Toni Cade Bambara’s 'The Lesson' is especially striking, about children who take a day trip from the Bronx with their ‘teacher’ Miss Moore. Everything from the language of the children (written just as they would sound), to the way Bambara captures the city, to the ‘lesson’ the children learn at the end, is beautifully crafted and unique.
An especially moving and melancholy story to me is William Gass’s 'In the Heart of the Heart of the Country'. He writes with so much depth and yet such simplicity. The repetition of words and phrases, the musicality, and the sense of place are all qualities I admire.
All three authors write with simplicity but also depth, and each of them takes the ‘ordinary’ and makes it extraordinary.
- America Hart’s 2017/18 GBP Short Story Prize longlisted story, ‘Pictures at an exhibition’, is available to read here.