“When I’m struggling with writing fiction, I turn to reading other forms: poetry or, most often, nonfiction that intensely investigates a topic unfamiliar to me. Research can be a way to take breaks while also feeling productive and enriched. This was how I came to find a book about the prehistory of aviation as well as the adventures of lighter-than-air balloonists. I also delved into several anthologies of ghost stories while on a respite from my prose, along with the lore of hauntings and spiritualism, which partly inspired me to write a nontraditional ghost story of my own set during our current technological age.
Lately, I’ve greatly enjoyed perusing the diaries of famous authors. The intimacy of that form is so comforting, hearing about their routines and random observations. I like the reminder of their physicality in the descriptions of meals, as when Sontag writes, ‘Sometimes one wants steak, sometimes oysters.’ I feel less alone knowing that they struggled with self-doubt, as when Kafka states, ‘I am now reading The Metamorphosis at home and find it bad.’ David Wojnarowicz exquisitely opining that, ‘The landscape of memory is as affected by time and personal structure as is landscape affected by light and darkness,’ allowed me to stare out a window with new appreciation for the relationship between interior and exterior spaces for a while. After spending time with these authors, I return to my own fiction inspired by the knowledge that I’m in good company in this solitary pursuit.”
—Mary South, author of You Will Never Be Forgotten (FSG Originals, 2020)