Creative Writing at The New School

Alexandra Kleeman is the author of the novel You Too Can Have A Body Like Mine (Harper, 2015) and Intimations (Harper, 2016), a short story collection. Her fiction has been published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Zoetrope: All-Story, Conjunctions, and Guernica, among others. Nonfiction has appeared in Harper's, Tin House, n+1, VOGUE and the New York Times Magazine. Her work has received scholarships and grants from Bread Loaf, VCCA, the Santa Fe Art Institute, Djerassi, and the Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts. She is the winner of the 2016 Bard Fiction Prize, and lives on Staten Island with her husband, the novelist Alex Gilvarry.

1. Who is your favorite villain, and who is your favorite protagonist in literature?

I've always liked villains like Patricia Highsmith's Tom Ripley whose "evil" is a sort of radical, grotesque version of the American can-do spirit.  At Ripley's core is the notion that anything is possible, that anyone can become whatever they want--a notion he shares with many beloved literary heroes.  I find it exciting when a character takes an admirable logic to its extreme, reprehensible conclusion.

As for protagonists, I like Beckett's because I know so little about them but feel their suffering so directly!

2. When did you know you were a writer?

Quite early on--I was a shy child with a lot of feelings, a lot of books, and no public speaking skills.  That's a recipe that will turn up a writer every time, I think.

3. What are you currently working on?

I'm working on my second novel, a book about celebrity, self-delusion, and fake water, set in near-future LA.  It deals with a writer and a starlet on the set of a film that may well be a money laundering front, as a grave ecological crisis begins to rear its head in the background.

4. How has your writing process changed over the years?

I used to distrust planning a story too far in advance, but have more recently discovered how fun it can be to outline a novel--if you don't think of an outline as a fixed structure that you have to follow (like sheet music or GPS directions), but instead as a type of brainstorming, it can become a fun way to try out portions of plot in miniature, or debate your own preconceived ideas of what the story was going to be about.

5. Describe your writing style in one sentence.

"People are strange, when you're a stranger."

Five Questions, by Nicole L. Drayton. Nicole is a writer, screenwriter and independent filmmaker based in Brooklyn, NY.  She holds a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts from The New School, and currently works for the university in the MFA in Creative Writing Program office.  

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