Smoke & Mirrors: An Interview with Taryn Tilton

by Matthew Dexter Read the Story December 17, 2018

Where did the idea for this story come from? Is there any semblance of creative nonfiction blended into this piece? Did anybody drape a snake across your shoulders without saying a word? Have you ever been in a tornado?

I have consented to every snake across my shoulders, and I have never been in a tornado, but I have been in tornado weather, and I have been in a relationship like this one. So the idea came from capturing how that feels.

Personification of vegetation seems integral to the visceral beauty and profundity of the piece. The rhubarb, poplar, and bulrushes are almost characters in and of themselves.

I don’t see the plants as personified; they are portents.

The specific relationship between the women is never mentioned. I imagine they’re sisters or stepsisters—but might be totally wrong. The ambiguity and mysteries leave me intrigued, curious, and contemplative after reading the last line. I suppose not knowing makes it more fascinating, as each reader can interpret things differently?

These dynamics are possible in any long-term relationship—whether that be between friends, sisters, lovers, or even business partners. The nature of the relationship did not strike me as central to understanding.

Do you have any writing routines, and do you think they’re conducive to creating art, or do you believe being able to improvise is beneficial to art? You have lived in Buenos Aires and Shanghai. Would you recommend living abroad as an expatriate?

I don’t have a set schedule, but I do ritualize my work, getting some boring things in order first (hair off my neck, two things to drink). I don’t recommend living abroad to anyone except those who want to do it.

About the Author:

Taryn Tilton writes and translates. Her novella, Cherry Cherry, won the 2017 Plaza Literary Prize.

About the Interviewer:

Matthew Dexter is the author of The Ritalin Orgy (Perpetual Motion Machine). His second novel, Hero Custodian, will be published in 2019. A third novel and memoir are forthcoming. His fiction can be found in hundreds of literary journals and dozens of anthologies. He lives in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.