Dog in the Machine, fiction, Issue 17, December 1, 2011
Birthdate? November 19, 1974
When did you start writing? I started my first screenplay when I was 11, and my first novel when I was 12. I never finished the screenplay, but I did finish that novel when I was 29.
When and what and where did you first get published? The very first thing I ever published in a national forum was a book review in the Antioch Review in 1996. The book was about cannibalism, and the the book review editor asked me to review it, as I was writing my senior thesis on the subject. My first piece of fiction, "Spin Free," appeared in Bards and Sages in January 2011.
What themes do you like to write about? You'll see recurring motifs like social isolation and unexpected transformation in a lot of my stories, but I really think more about creating compelling characters and situations than I do about themes. I like to cross genres and combine unexpected qualities in my characters and my plots. That said, "The Dog in the Machine" is actually the second of what I think of as my 3-story cycle about really old, mad scientists.
What books and/or stories have most resonated with you as an author? Fairy tales have been one constant throughout my life. Different books and stories have influenced me at different points in my development as a writer, but fairy tales always seem to me the most pure form of storytelling, and I always come back to them.
Why? How do these stories and their characters find expression in your work? I feel that all stories can be read as maps to the soul of their authors, but fairy tales are more universal maps to the collective human psyche and experience. Fairy tale themes and characters are accessible and customizable tropes: you can paint anything you like on top, and the reader will identify the resonant archetype, and host of meaning, beneath it. Little Red Riding Hood, for instance, the girl who goes into the forest and meets the wolf, is recognizable to people of every age and in every culture, and every generation rewrites these ancient stories and recasts them in modern molds to support its own message and belief system. In my own work, sometimes I like to play directly with the fairy tales, writing my own mythology to inspire a world or retell old stories using modern devices. The structure of the fairy tale is the basis for any journey to transcendence (cf Joseph Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces), which is what any story, in any genre, should strive to be.
Monica Friedman's only aspiration in life is to publish novels. She spends 90% of her waking hours in a fantasy world of her own devising. The other 10% of the time, she is likely to be cooking, gardening, skinny dipping, hurting herself at Crossfit, abusing the ILL system at the public library, forcing literacy upon other people's children, and trying to hide her crippling inability to remember names and faces. She lives in Tucson, Arizona, with her partner, his children, and their respective cats. In 2004, she completed an MFA in creative writing at Western Michigan University and she's being trying to remember how to enjoy literature ever since. On Sundays, she teaches yoga. Also, she is a dragon.