Smile Politely

Five Good Questions with Lindsay Hunter

Lindsay Hunter is a Chicago writer and Champaign-Urbana is lucky enough to have her appearing this weekend as part of the Pygmalion Literature festival. Hunter’s first short story collection, Daddy’s and her most recent work, Don’t Kiss Me, will place you in the minds of many strange souls. Her characters are memorable, sometimes unlikable, and the immediacy of their voices makes you want to read quickly to discover Hunter’s endgame. However quickly you read them, however, her stories linger in your head like good poetry and make you want to go back and reexamine your first impressions. Hunter has given each narrator a distinctive voice and several of her stories practically beg to be read aloud. I’ve never read a collection quite like it.  

Hunter’s work is electric on the page, but she has also built a reputation for her incredible live readings. I was able to ask Hunter a few questions about her work and her upcoming appearance in C-U.


SP: Your latest short story collection, Don’t Kiss Me, plunges the reader into the minds and voices of many characters. How were these distinct and sometimes bizarre people and situations influenced by your work with live readings?

Hunter: I think these people and situations were always in me, were inevitable, but being able to get such an immediate reaction to their stories made me hungry to keep going. I always say live readings allow me to let my freak flag fly, for better or for worse. Being in the moment at a reading, interacting with the audience, those things make each story whole in a way. It’s like how a large part of writing is reading. Or, to put it another way, a large part of being a writer is being a reader. Reading your own words out loud, even if it’s to yourself, forces you to consider each choice you made. It makes you better, more precise, and oddly more wild and adventurous at the same time.

SP: How do you maintain a connection with your audience, both in person and through the use of the internet and social media?  

Hunter: It’s become so easy now! People can reach out to authors they like on Facebook or Twitter (I do this a lot) and actually hear back from them. I try to respond to people’s tweets and emails, because I truly am amazed that I have an “audience.” I try to keep my social media stuff up to date, and I try to keep thecontent fresh at each place. Like I don’t tweet my Instagrams, and I don’t Facebook my tweets, and I don’t (usually) put the same photos on Facebook that I do on Instagram. That way people don’t feel deluged; or at least I hope they don’t.

In person, connecting with an audience is everything. I connect via my reading. I want people to feel the story, and I hope the way I read helps them to get there. An audience at a reading, and the experience that audience has, is 99% of the point. The writer and her work is like .5%, more if there isn’t any free wine.  

SP: I’ve heard that your live shows are intense. Do you have anything special planned for the Pygmalion Festival in Champaign?

Hunter: Ha! I never plan anything special. In fact I usually tremble with fear until I’m halfway through the story I’m reading. I think that helps, though, because my heart pounds me through. Maybe that’s why it’s intense sometimes, because people can hear my heart thudding like a dehydrated Clydesdale. I just plan on being true to the story and hopefully letting the words take over. And having a neat Makers right before I go up to read.

SP: What other writers/musicians are you looking forward to seeing at the Pygmalion Festival?

Hunter: Dan Chaon for sure. I have been such a big fan of his for so long, and I’ve never seen him read. He’s reading with Amelia Gray, around whom, even though she is a friend of mine, I always feel starstruck. And Roxane Gay! Seeing her is like seeing a beautiful, wry unicorn. I’m also excited to see Nat Baldwin play his solo stuff. Such a talented and wonderful human.

SP: If someone wanted to read a piece of your work in preparation to see you at the Pygmalion Festival, is there a story in particular that you think is essential to have read?

Hunter: “Three Things You Should Know About Peggy Paula” is probably my “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”


Hunter will appear at Memphis on Main, on Saturday, September 28 from 8:30-10 p.m. with a block of writers for a live reading.  

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