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10 Questions for Danley Romero

My mother taught me that music can mean different things each time it is listened to. Sometimes a piece means all the same things it has meant before, but not always. It changes, she told me, depending on where you are in life. “Music is a journey,” she said. “There is a beginning. There’s a middle. There’s an end.” But music never really ends. She said that contradictions don’t always matter in music, that a piece can end and not end because it lingers in your soul and it solidifies into a part of the core of you even if the air you’re breathing gives up all of its vibrations.
from “Fin, or A Thing Like Music,” Volume 60, Issue 4 (Winter 2019)

Tell us about one of the first pieces you wrote
The first long piece I wrote is a novella about a boy, Emery, who wants to train to become a magician. He goes on an adventure to help save these creatures from across the sea and learns to talk to clay and bring things to life, and the whole time Emery and his new teacher travel inside a giant stone elephant that can walk and has rooms inside of its hollow body. I had a lot of fun writing that story. I wrote it to see if I liked writing enough to pursue it and really practice at it, and while I tend to use them much more sparingly now, magical elements still show up in my work from time to time.

What writer(s) or works have influenced the way you write now?
André Aciman’s Call Me by Your Name, Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Jo Ann Beard’s In Zanesville, J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, and Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep all influence the way I write now, in different ways. Karen Russell’s story collection, Vampires in the Lemon Grove, and Kelly Link’s collection, Magic for Beginners, are also hugely inspirational and influential for me. I just read two of Yoko Ogawa’s novellas, The Diving Pool and Dormitory, and those have also been influencing my writing. I love the way Ogawa uses and develops images. I am in awe of each of these authors and love their work.

What other professions have you worked in?
I just finished undergrad and went straight into my master’s, but my bachelor’s degree was in music. I’ve worked as a cellist since my teens, mainly as a performer, and more recently as an instructor. I briefly had a job with a catering company, but so far, it’s been cello work and school and writing for me.

What did you want to be when you were young?
I used to want to be an inventor. I’ve also bounced among wanting to be a psychiatrist, a yoga instructor, and a flight attendant. The desire to write was there the whole time, though.

What inspired you to write this piece?
Insecurity, in large part. I think this story is part exploration of insecurity and part in defiance of it. The main character gets a lot of his heart from me, but he’s his own person, too. I love that fiction can do that: take something (an experience, an emotion, a combination of things) very real and heavy, or someone, even, and bend it/them into a new shape.

Music also. I listened to each of the pieces mentioned in the story while I wrote, and those pieces definitely found their way into the story and my telling of it. In “Fin”, I had specific pieces in mind that encapsulate something very important about each stage in the narrator’s emotional journey, so I plopped them into the story. They felt very essential to me.

Is there a city or place, real or imagined, that influences your writing?
I’m from Louisiana, and until I moved to New Hampshire for UNH’s MFA program, I had never lived anywhere but my hometown and New Orleans, where I had completed my undergrad. These places have impacted who I am, in both good and bad ways. A piece I’m currently working on is very much inspired by my experiences with religion and homophobia in Louisiana. I’m sure I’m influenced by my home in ways I’m not aware of, too.

Is there any specific music that aids you through the writing or editing process?
I mostly listen to instrumental music while I write. If I listen to music with lyrics while I’m writing or reading, I get all jumbled up. Music and images, in stories, do a similar kind of work conveying emotions without explicitly naming them, and both music and writing rely on phrasing and tone. There’s so much overlap, and I’m sure studying music has made me a stronger writer.

If you could work in another art form what would it be?
I think it would be so cool to learn how to sculpt or build marionettes, but I'm pretty happy with writing and playing the cello right now!

What are you working on currently?
I've been working on many poems and short stories in the MFA program at the University of New Hampshire. I just finished my first semester there, and I'm trying to decide what I'll turn in for my thesis. I'm looking for it to be either a hybrid collection of stories and poems, or a novel. Either way I'll be writing lots of poetry and short prose. I'm revising a story for the New Orleans Review's upcoming Queer Issue. I'm super excited and honored to have been asked to be a part of that.

What are you reading right now?
I'm on break right now visiting family in Louisiana, so most of my books are far away and very inaccessible at the moment. I brought Peter Orner's Am I Alone Here? with me and Neil Gaiman's Fragile Things and American Gods as well. I have a whole stack of stuff to read when I get back. Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, André Aciman's Harvard Square, Ken Liu's The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, and Peter Orner's Maggie Brown & Others: Stories are some of the books I, excited to read soon.

DANLEY ROMERO is a recent graduate of Loyola University in New Orleans, where he studied cello performance and English. He has interned with the New Orleans Review and is beginning his MFA in fiction writing at the University of New Hampshire.

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