MH: If you could change one thing about publishing, what would it be?
CB: That's easy. The percentages. Instead of 88% straight, upper middle class, Judeo-Christian white women—65% straight white women and the rest a complete and shifting mix of gay men, men of color, gay men of color, queer and trans men and women of all colors, straight women of color, people with disabilities. Muslim women and men, Buddhists, others, just for starters. Give us 35%. Do even that and we'll start getting somewhere.
The dynamic between light and dark is also important in how I edit the texts, in terms of what’s going to follow. I put a lot of weight on getting the balance right. I’ve always been fascinated by a passage from To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, when the artist Lily Briscoe talks about composing her pictures. She says that shadow here needs light there, and she realizes in a sudden insight that she has to put the tree in the painting further to the middle. And that’s been my guideline, really, for how to compose: I have to put the masses in the correct balance, and there has to be a center.
I am excited by writing that functions at once as art and philosophy, and that works carefully and in an unexpected way at the level of the sentence. I am excited by writing that jokes compassionately and writing that I am on the very edge of understanding, that oscillates in and out of clarity, and that can’t be exhausted in a single reading or even multiple readings, and that takes formal chances.
I’m always working on a few projects at once so I never get bored. Lately I’ve been switching between novels and screenwriting. I have a series of Sci-Fi-ish books I’ve been writing for years about a cult in the Ozarks, along with a YA time travel book and a YA novel set in the grunge 90s. I’m also collaborating on a Sci-Fi script based on the Malaysian flight that disappeared and a TV pilot that reimagines Norman Mailer as a P.I. I also just finished a draft of a script set a hundred years in the future about a Trump-like villain as our President. Wait, did I say the future? I meant now.
What are you working on now? Christine Sneed: I finished a novel manuscript at the end of the summer and currently I’m only working on short fiction, which is a relief, I have to say. A novel is a marathon, and a short story is more like a 5K.
I remember with great clarity the moment I realized I was a translator. It wasn’t even a realization, exactly; I didn’t think, “Hmm, I’d like to be a translator.” It was more like an irresistible force.