In “Site Fidelity”, Claire Boyles examines the power of place

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Claire Boyles is a writer, teacher and former sustainable farmer. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Colorado State University. His fiction appeared in Boulevard and the Kenyon Review. She lives in Loveland, Colorado.


Tell us the story of this book. What inspired you to write it? Where does the story / theme come from?

I discovered the concept of site loyalty, which is the tendency of some species to return to the same places over and over again over the course of their lives, while researching the Gunnison Sage Grouse for “Ledgers”, the collection’s first story. Personally, I feel deeply connected to the different places I have lived – it is a memory that seems to live in my senses more than my rational self, which is more like instinct than intention, and it is This is certainly how I understand site loyalty in the animal world.

I’m not sure if all humans have such a visceral and perhaps somewhat romanticized connection to the places where they lived, but once I realized that site loyalty was a central idea of ​​the collection in its together it took shape in my head as a sort of comprehensive metaphor for life during climate catastrophe. The places in my book are places that I know and love deeply, but no matter what places readers may or may not feel similarly connected with, we cannot live without land, water, and water. other resources that we destroy, that we knowingly, deliberately destroy. for years now.

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You can’t just avoid the destruction of the environment by moving or walking away – I think I either sent my characters home or kept them integrated into their own communities in part because that was a way of doing it. ‘explore family relationships over time and in part because the modern American West, which I love deeply, is so imperfect and complicated.

Tell us about the creation of this book. What influences and / or experiences influenced the project before you sat down to write the book?

In 2008, my husband and I purchased 20 acres near Gill, Colorado, and started a small, sustainable farm. I started writing a blog as a marketing tool, a way to tell the story of the farm to our customers. But over the years, I felt more and more compelled to write about the political and philosophical reasons why we farmed the way we did, and the forces of the global and national economy that seemed impossible to navigate in as a small farmer, and on the costs and fragility of the water infrastructure on which most western agriculture relies, that’s when the blog went beyond marketing and became a kind of editorial staff of memories sought.

I started to think more about food justice issues as a whole, and once I started reading, learning and working to try to solve them on our farm, it became a bigger story in my head on how extractive industries and mindsets relate to power, and how that power has historically been rooted in land theft and patriarchy and contempt for living things – humans and others – in the environment , and how impossible it was to reconcile with what I thought was an ethical way of living.

I felt limited by my own blogging experience, so I wanted to start writing fiction as a way to tell stories that weren’t limited by my own experiences. I went through five years of anthology of the best American short stories in the public library and read them all, then wrote a version of “Man Camp,” which appears in my collection. I was accepted into the Master of Fine Arts program at Colorado State University a few years later, in my 40s.e birthday, which helped me further develop my writing voice – which I think is still developing, which I hope will never stop developing.

Put this excerpt in context. How does it fit into the whole book? Why did you choose it?

This excerpt, from “The Best Answer to Fear,” is a bit out of place in the book in that it has a male protagonist, Bobby, who, along with his wife, Amy, lost his job and home in the Grand Recession. This cascade of losses has led to a crisis of confidence, in which Bobby, for the first time in his life, begins to see everything in his life as fragile, as a potential loss – his marriage, his sense of belonging to society. , his confidence.

I wrote it as a way to explore my own experience of the Great Recession. We bought our farm in early 2008, and when the market collapsed in October of that year, we immediately found ourselves underwater, making it difficult to get credit and manage the farm. ‘business. In 2013, we sold the farm, narrowly avoiding what seemed like inevitable bankruptcy and possible foreclosure.

We’re grateful that we had a smoother landing than expected, especially since so many others have done so much worse. Yet this failure and these losses were difficult to deal with for a long time. It was a lesson for me in how we are often asked to feel personally responsible for the systemic failures that affect us, how we define ourselves in the context of capitalism, and the effort it takes to believe in who we are. are regardless of these failures. – and rebuild a life in the face of it all. This story is not autobiographical, but it explores some of those feelings.

Once you start writing, has history taken you in unexpected directions? If so, how would you describe handling a story that seems to have its own mind?

Really, I was writing story by story for a long time, working to improve my art and letting my imagination run wild. It wasn’t until I completed six or seven stories that I started to see enough theme resonance and continuity for a potential collection.

Once I saw that potential, it was a new challenge (and often, a struggle) to make sure the stories were in conversation with each other and built a cohesive overall effect. I didn’t discover the idea of ​​site loyalty as a title and general theme until I reviewed the whole book three to four times.

It was almost like I was writing in that direction before I knew it. himself.

What were the biggest challenges you encountered or surprises you encountered while completing this book?

There were certainly challenges and surprises, but I want to say that the process of writing this book has been overall a delight. I was 36 when I wrote my first serious short story – finding that I had the courage inside me to create these characters and these worlds, and that it was fun, wonderful and invigorating – it was as if I ‘had found a whole new part of myself. The pursuit of MFA has also brought a lot more art, poetry and beauty into our family life – we have taken the kids to readings and events, a new part of our lives that we now appreciate very deeply.

Four of the stories in the collection revolve around three sisters – Ruth, Mano and Sister Agnes Mary – who are loosely based on my own grandmother and great aunts. It was fun both recalling them and making them up on the page, a way of thanking them for who they were to me, even though they aren’t entirely themselves in my book.

Explain to us your writing process: where and how do you write?

I worked on Site Fidelity for eight years, during which time I raised two children, taught full time in public middle and high schools, and attended graduate classes two evenings a week. So I wrote these stories in the shade of trees during athletics competitions, in the snack bar of a laser tag shopping center, sometimes in the car while waiting for the band’s rehearsals to end.

For a while, I would get up at 5 a.m. and write before work, and I would often come home and write during the hours after school when my husband was still working and the kids were at extracurricular activities. It was difficult, but it was easier than during COVID, when the two children were here in the house with me all the time. Now I’m back in a daily routine, but I think being forced to write in weird, uncomfortable places was good workout. If you want to be a writer, you have to figure out how you are going to write, no matter how much effort it takes.

Tell us about your next project.

I’m working on a novel about a family with a small farm, it’s both autobiographical and not at all. I also co-wrote two films that are part of Hallmark Channel’s Christmas lineup this year: “Sister Swap: Christmas in the City” and “Sister Swap: A Hometown Holiday”. I am also delighted to see these stories in the world!


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