At Bookslut, Angela Stubbs interviews Danielle Dutton, author of Attempts at a Life, from Tarpaulin Sky Press (2007).
AS: You have stories that are as short as a page and others that vary more in length. I think when things are so compressed, like they are here, every detail counts. The stories are important. Everything down to word choice and punctuation matters. After this collection was accepted at TSP, did Christian Peet, the publisher, ask you to make revisions or did you go back and do them on your own, if at all?
DD: Christian didn’t make any major edits, but even after he accepted it, I continued to go back and mess with it. I’m a pretty obsessive editor. I enjoy that process — fiddling with the language, picking up the rhythms. So I guess I took it upon myself to continue editing, which hopefully wasn’t too annoying to him. He and a few people at TSP did proofread the manuscript, of course, and in proofreading there were a few questions people had for me about clarity, unclear syntax. Some of the time, I kept my original wording, and maybe half of the time I took their notes and made a change. If it doesn’t make sense for someone or if it irks the reader somehow… I’m not wedded to everything. Well, I’m wedded to some things. Oh, and I seem to always misspell the word grey. I spell it the British way for some reason and with total regularity. I don’t even know which is which right now. Another odd thing that Christian noticed is that I tend to hyphenate words that don’t need to be hyphenated because they are just two separate words that a normal person wouldn’t hyphenate or they’re actually one word that doesn’t need a hyphen. Christian had an interesting theory about it, that maybe it has to do with how close I am to texts that are a century (or more) old. There’s a lot of rabid hyphenating going on in those books.
AS: It’s probably happening on a completely subconscious level for you.
DD: Yeah! Now I see it! Now I see that I do it all the time. I’m constantly asking myself, “Does this need a hyphen? What am I doing?” It’s like a sickness.