US author examines celebrity from various fictional vantage points in her debut novel Little Known Facts
Celebrity is a topic that’s undeniably fascinating. In her debut novel-in-stories, 41-year-old American writer and university professor Christine Sneed delves into the social phenomenon of fame from the inside: Little Known Facts focuses on the bumpy life of a 22-year-old Hollywood actor from many complicated angles, including family, exes and admirers.
Why did you want to explore the world of celebrity? I wrote the first chapter, ‘Relations’, as a short story. I’d been thinking about what it would be like to be the son of someone famous and be an adult. You’d be meeting people who suddenly discover your dad’s this famous guy. What if you were competitive with your father? I finished the story, then a few months later decided to keep writing about this family. Ego, jealousy – they’re a big part of the human experience, but no one wants to talk about it.
The book’s chapters focus on different characters. The chapters from the mother’s perspective, Renn’s first wife, are our favourite. She’s not a martyr. I loved writing from her point of view. You have to have one character in a book that has a conscience, to counterbalance the ego and appetites that the other people are ruled by.
Her chapter is the first one written in first person. Writing in first person can be hard because I think it’s really easy to alienate your reader if you’re not writing a nice or interesting or engaging voice. Author Jonathan Franzen says, ‘If you don’t have to write in first person, don’t do it.’ You have to get the interiority right.
Did that take a while to achieve? Yes. In fact, I tell my students to try to write from a more detached third person. Beginner or intermediate writers often use first person and don’t know that their characters are coming across like an unpleasant person.
You got your degree in poetry, but have you always been interested in fiction? Yes. I wrote some fiction before grad school, but it was so bad… I had a huge crush on Ralph Fiennes, and I kept trying to write a story about a woman and man in love but they couldn’t be together. I wanted to write this really lyrical and beautiful fiction, but it’s not how I write.
Have you always had a strong work ethic? I don’t necessarily write every day, but I write often. It took me 15 years of intense writing before I wrote a novel that a New York publisher wanted to buy. You have to be dogged. Little Known Facts, Dhs50 at www.amazon.com.