Henry Hoke Interview

Five questions for the author of this lyrical novella.

Open Throat by Henry Hoke. MCD. pp. 176. $25

Konstantin Rega: What drew you to tell this tale about a mountain lion in “ellay,” California?

Henry Hoke: My real-world inspiration was the cougar P-22, which crossed the 405 freeway and roamed L.A.’s Griffith Park during the same span of years I lived in a neighborhood nearby. I felt a kinship with my big cat’s isolation, outsider status, and struggle to make sense of the sprawling personalities, the natural disaster, and the inequality roiling in Los Angeles. Choosing this POV helped me connect a million messy dots from my decade in California, to capture an ongoing apocalyptic moment.

What do you want readers to get out of Open Throat?

It seems like they’re falling in love with this character, connecting to the frustration, the wildness. I want us all to access our feral side, and recognize how symbiotic we are with the natural world, the harm we cause and can perhaps heal. I also want us all to be fed, housed, and worshipped for our genderqueerness. 

This isnt straightforward prose like a typical dimestore novel, what informed the style?

I’ve been carving out my own hybrid poetic style since grad school at CalArts, and this unpunctuated monologue in an animal voice was a great way to distill my craft. The present tense kept me riveted. I broke lines instead of dead-stopping them, leaving white space between, like claw marks scratched across carpet. 

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I’m still not sure I want to be a writer, but I always knew I was one. My first memories of reading are coupled with my first memories of concocting my own stories. It’s how I process a haunted world.

Is there anything else in the works that you can talk about?

Touring Open Throat all summer has been a joy—sharing this voice with readers in person—but I’m feeling the urge to get back into my private writing cave. Another novel is emerging. A Southern Gothic middle school saga. 100% despair and 100% hope.  

Get a copy at The Bookshop. See our full review of the book: Here.

Konstantin Rega
A graduate of East Anglia’s renowned Creative Writing MA, Konstantin’s been published by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Poetry Salzburg Review, www.jonimitchell.com, the Republic of Consciousness Prize (etc.). He contributes to Publisher Weekly and Treblezine.
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