Interviewed by Amelia Loulli
Read Melanie Donnahee’s fiction piece, An Exclusive Club
Amelia: Can you share with us some of your motivations and intentions behind writing “An Exclusive Club”?
Melanie: My initial motivation to write this piece was to process the emotions behind my own seven-year battle with infertility. I was fortunate to have a strong support network, but it was still an isolating experience. As the story evolved, it became my intention to find my “takeaway” from riding the rollercoaster of fertility treatments. It was easy to take inventory of the damage, but it was harder to find the silver lining. Ultimately, it was the bond I formed with women going through the same challenges that really lifted me. I cherish these friendships.
As a writer, do you find it comes naturally to use your craft in order to overcome difficult experiences?
Writing has been a great tool to sort out difficult experiences, but it isn’t always my first instinct. Often, I’ll use writing as a form of escape and write about topics completely unrelated to my personal life.
How important do you think time and distance from such experiences are, in order to write an effective story or piece about them?
In my experience, time and distance are crucial. Sometimes, it will be years before I’m ready to write about an event even though it’s not writing I usually plan to share. Some experiences that initially seem important fade quickly, and others, even if I don’t realize it at the time, become pivotal or formative moments. The memories I keep returning to and mulling over in my mind are the ones that inspire me to write.
Which books are you reading at the moment?
I just finished Roxane Gay’s memoir, Hunger. I loved this story precisely because it doesn’t try to be tidy. As she reflects on how trauma has manifested itself in her body, she is candid about not having all the answers. It’s refreshingly messy and real. I am currently rereading Aravind Adiga’s, The White Tiger. It’s suspenseful and told through the eyes of an intriguing narrator, but it shines in its depiction of India in all its complexity. The setting becomes another multifaceted character.
Do you have any writerly inspirations?
Even though “An Exclusive Club” is fiction, I wrote it memoir style. Some of my favorite novels are memoirs because the successful reconstruction of one’s interior life requires an amazing clarity of prose. I’m inspired whenever I read Roxane Gay, Cheryl Strayed, Elizabeth Gilbert, Anne Lamott, or Jeannette Walls.