This interview between Krystal Languell and Rachel Levitsky took place June 2014. It references an interview with Nelson Algren, conducted by Alston Anderson and Terry Southern, first published in The Art of Fiction, No. 11. Winter 1955.
KL: Did you have any trouble getting your novel published?
RL: (Laughing) Yes, in that it was very hard to finish. No. But I should say it was (it would have been) very hard to get anyone who publishes fiction to publish my novel. Every single person that was a fiction editor who solicited parts rejected me (other than Evan Lavender-Smith at Puerto del Sol) and every single time I applied to residencies in prose I was rejected.
Sweetly, it’s published by Futurepoem, who never had any doubts about it and solicited it from me. They wanted it much sooner than it was done, so my problem in publishing the novel was finishing the novel.
This interview borrows its questions from William Fifield interviewing Jean Cocteau for The Paris Review in 1964. That interview is “The Art of Fiction No. 34,” from Issue No. 32. Krystal Languell was an editor of R. Erica Doyle’s first book, proxy, published by the Belladonna* Collaborative in April 2013.
Krystal Languell: It takes us rather far to think you are victimized by intelligence, especially since for a half century you have been thought of as one of the keenest critical and critical-poetical intelligences in France; but doesn’t this bear on something you told me about yourself and Proust—that you both got started wrong?
Erica Doyle: [laughs] I don’t think there’s such a thing as starting wrong, there’s only progression. It’s kind of like Yoda.
In late 2011, I began a series of interviews that resituate the questions asked of male writers by interviewers at The Paris Review. Some question sets are archival and some are recent, but each interview I conducted is an inquiry into the gender dynamics of the literary interview. The setup is conceptual, but as the conversation progresses it can shed new light on the interview form or uncover surprising information about the subject—like in this interview, when I learn about Khadijah Queen’s experience dropping out of art school quite by accident.
I should note that I was an editor for Noemi Press at the time that Khadijah’s book Black Peculiar was published.
This interview borrows questions asked by Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah of Samuel R. Delany in The Art of Fiction No. 210 from the Summer 2011 issue of The Paris Review, Issue No. 197.
Krystal Languell as Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah: Was being a prodigy important to you?
Khadijah Queen: I think it was more important to my parents. I learned to read when I was 3 years old. I was supposed to have been skipped from the 1st to the 3rd grade but I didn’t want to, for a lot of reasons, and I think they had to let me develop at my own pace.