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Interview: Marolyn Krasner talks about The Radicals

Marolyn Krasner talks to NZ Booklovers about The Radicals.

Tell us a little about The Radicals:

The Radicals is about D, a former feminist extremist activist who is adjusting to life on probation. She is living with her girlfriend and her girlfriend’s newborn daughter. She is working the night shift and she is struggling. When she discovers her estranged father is making the rounds on conservative cable TV shows as a white power wannabe, she connects with her old activist comrades to silence him. It sounds heavy, but it’s a funny book.


What inspired you to write this book?

The 2016 election. I am from the US. I was fascinated that a lot of Bernie Sanders supporters switched to Trump. I get their need for change. They wanted Bernie because they were tired of the status quo, whatever that means. The anger expressed by these former Bernie Bros and people calling themselves “deplorables” (after Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” comment) felt like extremism. It still does. I wanted to understand how someone could maintain hate for a long period of time with such focus and how does someone hold so much hate that they commit extreme acts of violence?


I wanted to explore that mentality, but I wanted to use a character I identified with. A queer white woman. She was a safe person for me to project extremist thinking onto. Her activism was extreme, but it was also ridiculous, childish and funny. I’m not good with dark stuff. This book is not violent. I’m not going to create fiction that is violent because we have enough of that in our news feeds.


What research was involved?

I read about reformed extremists and what I took away from this was that people fall into violent extremism as a response to loneliness and isolation as well as a complete lack of empathy which could also be described as narcissism.


I also studied smart and creative activism created by groups like the Guerilla Girls and Lavender Menace. I would sometimes feel uneasy about poking fun at feminist activism bcause women are criticised all of the time for everything.


Another area that I read up on was transgender-exclusionary radical feminists. I was hesitant to use the title The Radicals because I didn’t want to be associated with transgender-exclusionary radical feminists. The truth is these people are not feminists at all. They are dog whistling and they have strong links to conservative and white supremacist groups.


I support transgender, nonbinary and genderqueer people 100 per cent.


What was your routine or process when writing this book?

I have two young children and work full time, so I woke up early to write. Most of this book was written between 4:30 to 6:30am. I also spent a week at New Zealand Pacific Studios in Mt Bruce, which was very productive. This is my biggest piece of writing by far and I found I got lost sometimes in the story. I reached out to beta readers online, which was helpful. Having readers willing to go through the whole book and care about the story and give honest feedback is essential.


What did you enjoy the most about writing this book?

I enjoyed creating the strange, funny and rude disruptions D and Pussy Power took part in. I do not like confrontation, but D thrives on it, so it was fun to write a strong woman who was a pain in the ass.


Any particular challenges?

This could be a long neurotic list. Mostly just time. There was that thing about feeling bad about making fun of feminists. I chose to write the book in first person present tense because D is a bit of a narcissist and I wanted the reader to be in her and see the world through her. A lot of people don’t like first person present tense.


What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

This is something I’m working on. I’m a bit low key about these things. I will try to make a bigger deal about it when I finish my next book.


What is your favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

I really liked Life of David Hockney: A Novel by Catherine Cusset. David Hockney is a creative genius. It was fun to look up the paintings online while I was reading about them.


I also enjoyed In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado. She took a lot of chances personally and creatively in this book.


What’s next on the agenda for you?

I’m just trying to get through each day of the lockdown and be nice to myself and the three very cool people that I live with.

The Radicals by Marolyn Krasner is out now in ebook and podcast

The paperback will now be available from 1 June 2020.

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