10 Questions for Gloria L. Huang
- By Edward Clifford
The glass under her forearms was smudged with cloudy fingerprints. An ant wandered aimlessly across the counter, island-hopping from one oily smear to another. She watched as it shuffled, the quick movements of its legs and constant swivels of its antennae creating the impression of a creature lost and blind. Is it thinking? she wondered. Does it know I'm here?
—from "Scattered Islands," Volume 62, Issue 1 (Spring 2021)
Tell us about one of the first pieces you wrote.
“First” first? I’ve been writing stories since I was a child, but I assume you don’t want to hear about my third-grade story “Mr. Tabblesworth The Cat Drives to the City”. (Or do you?) One of the first stories I had published in a lit mag (she says, deftly parrying the question) was “Anonymous Code”, published in The Threepenny Review. It was about a woman suffering from infertility who discovers she has a tumor in her ovary, and they build a relationship when the tumor starts to text her. (You read that right.) I remember my husband was concerned about this story because I was also struggling with infertility at that time and he thought perhaps I was revealing too much, but I was pretty confident the texting tumor would throw people off.
What writer(s) or works have influenced the way you write now?
I don’t know if I would dare to claim they influenced me because they will always be literary giants in my mind, but Jhumpa Lahiri (The Namesake) and David Mitchell (number9dream) have been two of my very favorite writers since I first discovered them. Pretty much every word they’ve written has haunted me, in the best possible way.
What other professions have you worked in?
I have worked as a lawyer and a diversity & inclusion consultant, which are actually much more related than you might imagine. I have also worked as an editor, and one time, when I was sixteen, as a cashier at a cinnamon roll bakery at the mall. I still crave the smell of cinnamon.
What did you want to be when you were young?
Will you believe me if I say a writer? I would show you the diaries to prove it, but I threw those out in a fit of mortification years ago.
What inspired you to write this piece?
A couple of things—it was partially inspired by the pandemic and how it isolates us, both in our houses or pods or whatever boundaries we’ve been forced to draw, but also as individuals. It feels like we’ve separated into little islands that can’t be connected anymore, for each other’s safety. That phenomenon made me think about the Hawaiian Islands, which were closed down early for their own safety, and how they operated as an incredibly accurate metaphor for these emotional islands we’ve become. It made me wonder what life was like now on these tropical islands that depended so much on tourism and people literally bridging the gap, and how it must feel to be closed off and left behind.
The second “inspiration”—the word choice seems wrong, because I associate inspiration with hope and positivity, not fear and anger—the second inspiration was the rise of anti-Asian sentiment that was fueled by some of the people in power over the past year. In my story, that anti-Asian feeling splits a mixed-race family, and it's witnessed by the mixed-race daughter who can’t just detach from the problem because she is connected to both sides of it. That helplessness and fear very much mirrored what I felt (and continue to feel) every time my heart sinks at another anti-Asian attack.
Is there a city or place, real or imagined, that influences your writing?
That’s a great question, and I feel bad that my answer is “no.” I do have a particular interest in setting stories by large bodies of water—there’s something about the power of the ocean that inspires and intrigues me. The idea of water in general and how it can change forms so drastically, become a source of comfort, joy, danger—all that gets magnified when you’re standing by the ocean. Huh. I’ve never thought this out before. This explains why water shows up as a supporting character in a lot of my stories.
Do you have any rituals or traditions that you do in order to write?
I don’t know if I would call it a ritual or tradition, but I do have a process. First, I sketch out my ideas in my notebook—I always intend for it to be an outline, but sometimes it looks more like a word cloud. Then I start writing the story on my computer, but I write out the outline under the story so that when I complete a scene, I can delete it from my outline. It’s very satisfying.
Who typically gets the first read of your work?
This is a loaded question! Honestly, I try to tap my beta readers sparingly, for fear of wearing them out. I have some writer friends who I will sometimes ask to take a look at my work. My dad is a great reader; he’s always enthusiastic and supportive. I have occasionally wrangled my husband into becoming a reader, but it’s not his favorite pastime (if you can sense a little bitterness here, you’re not imagining it). My daughter sweetly declares herself to be my biggest fan (cue the awws), and I sometimes will read passages to her, but not entire pieces because, you know, texting tumors.
What are you working on currently?
A novel—it’s in the editing and revision stage, otherwise known as the “promise and excitement” stage. I’m enjoying that stage immensely.
What are you reading right now?
I just finished Anxious People by Fredrik Backman, and I loved it. Also The Power by Naomi Alderman and The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, both of which are great. I’m not happy unless I’m constantly reading, which often results in multiple books being read at the same time. It might be becoming a compulsion. Then again, in a pandemic, maybe it’s just a survival skill.
GLORIA L. HUANG is a freelance writer. Her fiction has been accepted for publication in literary journals including Michigan Quarterly Review, The Threepenny Review, Southern Humanities Review, Fiction Magazine, North American Review, Arts & Letters, Washington Square Review, The Chattahoochee Review, Gargoyle Magazine, Sycamore Review, and The Antigonish Review. She received her B.A. in English Literature from Stanford University. Currently, she is working on her first novel.