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Writer Highlight: Antonia Angress, Sirens & Muses


Aug 14, 2022
Writer Highlight: Antonia Angress, Sirens & Muses

Faculty by itself is annoying, however debut writer Antonia Angress needed to take it up a notch — an elite artwork faculty, the place pretentiousness and unflappability run amok in its college students. Louisa, Karina, and Preston are all enrolled in Wrynn Faculty of Artwork, however with vastly completely different personalities and dynamics — Preston desires to interrupt freed from his class upbringing, and Louisa and Karina, roommates, are entwined in lust and competitors inside their artwork. A 3rd perspective comes with professor and semi-retired artist Robert Berger, who’s unsettled by and accustomed to Preston’s ambition.

On this debut, the lives of all 4 collide, break aside, and discover one another after lengthy stretches of time and locations, giving the reader a journey by way of artwork, capitalism, and discovering your self out at such a younger age.

We sat down with Angress to debate her debut, her writing course of, and the messiness that comes with faculty that nobody prepares you for.

Congratulations in your debut novel! How does it really feel for it to lastly be out?

Sort of surreal. I labored on it for such a very long time with out figuring out it’d really be printed, so listening to from individuals who learn it and related with it has completely been a spotlight.

What I used to be most impressed with was how well-crafted it was: each chapter appeared purposeful and in the appropriate place to advance the story. I think about really placing it collectively was loads more durable than you made it appear.

[Laughs] Sure, it was loads more durable! I imply, I’m at all times fascinated about at any time when I learn a ebook I’m impressed by, the place it simply appeared prefer it appeared out of skinny air, I at all times have to inform myself, if it feels extremely pure, prefer it poured out of somebody, it most likely took quite a lot of work and frustration to get it proper.

I wrote this ebook over the course of seven years, so there was quite a lot of throwing drafts away, making an attempt once more, making Excel spreadsheets, mapping out the ebook beat by beat, chapter by chapter and character by character. So it wasn’t a simple feat, however I additionally didn’t make it simple for myself by deciding to jot down a four-POV novel for my first ebook. My subsequent ebook is one-POV. It took a lot out of me to make it work.

The novel is concerning the artwork world in faculty, but additionally the surface world, with a number of the characters dropping out. What made you wish to mix the 2?

Quite a lot of that got here from my very own expertise leaving faculty, and going out into the actual world. I started scripting this ebook after I was simply out of school, 22 or 23, and I used to be instructing elementary faculty on the time. That was a really jarring transition, to go from a school setting, a very intellectually vibrant faculty setting, to being round little children all day and never having any grownup conversations till I went residence on the finish of the day.

I went by way of this era of mourning, I believe, the place I actually missed being an undergrad, though in some ways it had been actually onerous for me. I definitely don’t suppose again to varsity as the perfect years of my life; I believe I used to be a multitude again then. However I started scripting this ebook virtually as a technique to will myself again into this setting.

The very first seed that emerged was a brief story a couple of younger painter who has simply dropped out of college, who offers with the aftermath of that call. And that was a really actual reflection of the form of loss I felt — not solely the lack of this setting and all the buddies I had made there, but additionally of the particular person I had been and not was. Through the years I labored on this ebook, and I acquired older, and the hole between my age and the age of lots of the characters I used to be writing about widened, I turned enthusiastic about exploring that transition from an insular bubble of college — artwork faculty, specifically — into the actual world. And particularly when you’ve got a really idealized or romanticized concept of what your life is gonna appear to be after faculty and the way that collides with actuality.

Completely. I simply graduated from faculty —


Thanks! However I’m at my mother and father’ place, ready to maneuver. So I used to be studying the ebook, noticing our similarities. However that transitioned into one thing I needed to ask — I respect the way you didn’t body the faculty expertise as this good factor, that typically individuals drop out for a mess of causes. It actually enhanced the story.

Yeah, and I believe a part of that got here from my very own expertise. It definitely was not good, and I wasn’t glad on a regular basis. Sure elements of that have have been categorized by quite a lot of despair and self-doubt and feeling like I didn’t slot in, and actually struggling. I believe that’s true specifically of actually elite schools. You’re informed that you simply’re actually fortunate to be there, and also you’re particular since you’re there, and also you’re human, proper, so that you’re gonna get unhealthy grades and have battle with your folks and shit at house is gonna drag you again to the particular person you was. So I used to be enthusiastic about exploring how soul-crushing and lonely these actually elite environments will be typically.

There’s all this stress to be glad, however you’re not totally fashioned but. You’re nonetheless figuring your self out. That entails quite a lot of rising pains and being filled with self-doubt. All this to say, good years are forward. 

I really like all how all of the characters are so completely different in character and their method to artwork. Particularly with the youngsters, Preston is pretentious and disruptive, Karina is somewhat impolite, and Louisa is insecure with being from a smaller place. How did the concepts for them begin to take form?

So I began with Louisa. She was the primary character that I wrote. She’s from Louisiana, which isn’t a spot that I’m from, however it’s a spot the place I’ve lived. My companion’s from there, I’ve spent quite a lot of time there, and I’ve quite a lot of love for Louisiana. It’s a very distinctive area in America.

I form of started with a personality who was in some ways, fairly passive. And I believe that continues to be true even within the ultimate draft. Louisa isn’t a very energetic character — she has quite a lot of worry, self-doubt. She’s very inward-facing and introverted. You realize, you possibly can have a passive character driving a narrative, however it’s actually tough. A number of the recommendation I acquired from early drafts stated that, you’ve got this passive character, however all these actually intriguing characters surrounding her, like Preston and Karina and Robert. One reader specifically stated, ‘What for those who gave these characters factors of view? What for those who acquired of their heads?’ As a result of they’re actually attention-grabbing, however there’s a restrict to how a lot the reader can entry after they’re being perceived from the angle of a passive character. So I wrote some exploratory chapters from their factors of view, and I actually favored them. It actually labored. It unlocked this a part of the novel I hadn’t been capable of entry earlier than. So I made a decision to have 4 factors of view, to not write them in first particular person, however persist with a detailed third POV. Despite the fact that I used to be writing in third particular person, which permits me some narrative distance, it was nonetheless necessary that their voices and interiorities be distinctive, in order to not learn as the identical consciousness filtered by way of barely completely different shades of glass.

I really like that Louisa is related to her Southern upbringing and makes use of it in her artwork, which I really feel was a chance so that you can have some enjoyable. What impressed the fowl girls sequence of work?

That was impressed by a Louisiana artist named Cayla Zeek, who I really know personally. My companion can also be a painter, they usually grew up collectively in Lafayette, Louisiana. So after I was dwelling in New Orleans proper out of school, she was somebody form of in my social circle, however I didn’t know her very properly. I used to be engaged on the novel, at this level for a few years, and I had this character, Louisa, who I had largely discovered, however there was this big piece lacking, and it was what her artwork appeared like. I simply couldn’t determine it out. One night time, I went to White Linen Evening, an arts competition in New Orleans, and Cayla had a solo present. I walked in, and I had this very instant response to her work, which I cherished. It’s very a lot impressed by the wildlife of Southern Louisiana, and in addition mythology. I had this very visceral response, which was ‘That is what Louisa’s artwork seems like. I discovered it.’ Once more, this was form of a second that unlocked a bunch of stuff for me within the ebook. In some ways, it straight impressed storylines within the novel. For instance, [Louisa’s] fowl lady portray within the novel was primarily based on an actual portray by Cayla Zeek referred to as She Sits, She Waits, and that portray impressed a complete storyline that’s fairly pivotal to the novel.

So I felt actually grateful to Cayla, and after I offered the ebook, I wrote her an extended letter about how a lot her work meant to me. She ended up collaborating with a publicity marketing campaign, which was actually cool, getting an actual artist concerned with the promotion of the ebook.

That’s so cool! Did she design the quilt artwork?

No, she didn’t, that was anyone else. However we did a preorder marketing campaign that concerned gifting away a print of that portray.

I cherished the rivalry between Preston and Robert, old-fashioned and new faculty clashing. Why do you suppose Preston acquired on Robert’s nerves a lot, leading to a battle of the thinkpieces?

I believe in some ways, they’re the identical particular person, however a number of many years aside. Clearly not the identical actual particular person, however I believe Preston is in some ways, who Robert would have been had he come of age within the Obama years, slightly than the 60s. For Robert, that recognition is de facto disturbing. His animosity is marbled with admiration, which is disturbing to him, too. He has this begrudging admiration in the direction of this particular person he can’t stand, however he sees glimmers of himself in. He can’t fairly admit it to himself, however his feeling of being drawn to Preston is, in some ways, animated by that recognition, and I believe the identical is true of Preston. His have to antagonize this older man is pushed by a way of grudging admiration, but additionally deep frustration with the choices that Robert has made in his life and profession. I believe on a unconscious stage, Preston is perhaps afraid that he’s seeing a future model of himself.

Karina and Louisa’s relationship was annoying as a result of quite a lot of it was primarily based on misunderstandings, however the reader has the advantage of figuring out everybody’s mindset. Do you suppose that all the things was made infinitely extra annoying simply by the very fact of being in school, and abruptly transferring to New York?

Yeah, that’s a part of it. I believe what they really feel in the direction of one another is difficult. Clearly, they’re attracted to one another they usually really feel admiration in the direction of one another, however on the similar time, every feels envious of and threatened by the opposite in numerous methods. That may be a significantly fraught dynamic, that I believe typically, in my very own expertise as a queer girls, between queer girls who wish to be collectively, however in some sense, wish to be one another. I believe there’s quite a lot of that occurring between Louisa and Karina, the place they’re drawn to one another, however there’s a way during which one desires to be the opposite, which makes issues actually difficult for them.

I did some snooping and noticed you have been detailing the timelines of your second novel, which appears way more difficult. How is that going, and is that this the principle undertaking you’re engaged on proper now?

Yeah, I’m. I’m engaged on a second novel about an elementary faculty Spanish trainer in New Orleans. It’s nonetheless form of in flux, it’s nonetheless very early levels, however it’s a love story about language and untranslatability. 

Sirens & Muses is offered now.

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