How My Dark Vanessa Author Kate Elizabeth Russell Treats her Writing Like “It’s the Most Important Thing in Your Life”

How My Dark Vanessa Author Kate Elizabeth Russell Treats her Writing Like “It’s the Most Important Thing in Your Life”

Briefly tell us about your book.

My Dark Vanessa opens in fall 2017, when 32-year-old Vanessa Wye learns that her high school English teacher, Jacob Strane, has been accused of sexual abuse by another former student. For Vanessa, this accusation is devastating because she also had a relationship with this teacher, beginning when she was 15. But in her eyes, it wasn’t abuse. She believes very strongly that it was love. The novel then moves back and forth in time between 2017 and the early aughts, showing the reader how this relationship started–and how it went on for many years–as well as the present day fallout of the accusation.

What was the research process like for the book?

I worked on My Dark Vanessa for a very long time, and a lot of the writing process took place in academic creative writing programs. So I was always taking workshops and literature courses, researching the craft of fiction writing, and trying to figure out the ongoing conversation my work could contribute to. As a PhD student, I was especially focused on research, studying critical trauma theory and narratives of sexual violence and adolescent girlhood to help support my argument that the novel I was writing fit into a larger cultural context. But sometimes the research process was really organic. I’d be watching a TV show or listening to a song and something would strike me, whether it be a turn of phrase, a relationship dynamic, or a lyric I’d never paid attention to before–and Vanessa would suddenly take over my brain and I’d get a new insight into her.

How does it feel to hold your book in your hands?

It’s of course thrilling and surreal to hold the book as an actual, physical object. It’s the culmination of so many years of work and uncertainty. I also find it weirdly reassuring to pick it up and reread a scene or two, especially in the lead-up to publication because this is the point where the book is starting to do its own thing separate from me. And that’s good! That’s what should happen. But it’s comforting to be able to revisit certain scenes and remember it’s the same book I wrote, that it’s still mine.

What’s some great advice you’ve received that has helped you as a writer?

As a writer, the best piece of advice I’ve ever gotten is to treat your writing like it’s the most important thing in your life. This approach isn’t right for everyone, and it’s definitely easier said than done–finding time and energy to write is always an issue, especially if you’re working full-time, or are struggling financially, or have dependents to care for–but for me, prioritizing my writing above everything else gave me so much confidence. It gave me ambition. It allowed me to feel like an artist, even if I was unknown and unsure if my writing would ever find an audience.

What’s your daily writing routine like and what are you working on at the moment?

When I’m deep into a project, I’ll spend the whole day writing, usually four hours in the morning, then a mid-day break, and then another four or five hours in the evening. That was the schedule I kept for the last couple years I worked on My Dark Vanessa, and the intensity of it was exhilarating. I can’t wait to get back to that point with my next book, which I am working on now but in bits and pieces. I’m just trying to get down every idea I have, even if I’m not yet sure how they’re all going to fit together.

Reviews

Read a Sample Chapter of Kate Elizabeth Russell's Brilliant Novel, My Dark Vanessa

Review | Extract

20 March 2020

Read a Sample Chapter of Kate Elizabeth Russell's Brilliant Novel, My Dark Vanessa

    My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell: Your Preview Verdict

    Review | Preview

    16 March 2020

    My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell: Your Preview Verdict

      Preview Reviews: My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

      Review | Preview

      12 March 2020

      Preview Reviews: My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

        Uncomfortable, Bold and Powerful: A Review of My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

        Review | Our Review

        9 March 2020

        Uncomfortable, Bold and Powerful: A Review of My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

          Related Articles

          Podcast: Kate Elizabeth Russell on the Sometimes Fine Line Between Coercion and Seduction

          Podcast

          27 January 2021

          Podcast: Kate Elizabeth Russell on the Sometimes Fine Line Between Coercion and Seduction

            Publisher details

            My Dark Vanessa
            Author
            Kate Elizabeth Russell
            Genre
            Fiction
            Released
            01 February, 2020
            ISBN
            9780008342241

            Synopsis

            An era-defining novel about the relationship between a fifteen-year-old girl and her teacherVanessa Wye was fifteen-years-old when she first had sex with her English teacher.She is now thirty-two and the teacher, Jacob Strane, has just been accused of sexual abuse by another former student of his. Vanessa is horrified by this news, because she is quite certain that the relationship she had with Strane wasn't abuse. It was love. She's sure of that. But now, in 2017, in the midst of allegations against powerful men, she is being asked to redefine the great love story of her life – her great sexual awakening – as rape.Nuanced, uncomfortable, bold and powerful, and as riveting as it is disturbing, My Dark Vanessa goes straight to the heart of some of the most complex issues our age is grappling with.
             
             
            Kate Elizabeth Russell
            About the author

            Kate Elizabeth Russell

            Kate Elizabeth Russell is originally from eastern Maine. She holds a PhD in creative writing from the University of Kansas and an MFA from Indiana University. Her work has appeared in Hayden's Ferry Review, Mid-American Review, and Quarterly West, among other journals, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin. This is her first novel.

            Books by Kate Elizabeth Russell

            COMMENTS

            Leave a Reply

            Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *