VWOM: Would you tell us a little bit about the novel you're working on?
COURTNEY: My novel, Incendia, explores the psychological battle between a brother and sister. As a teenager the brother commits a devastating crime, and the sister is left to deal with her confusion and guilt. Twenty years later, when he is released from prison, the sister takes the brother into her home. As she struggles to keep him on a straight path, she finds herself veering off, questioning her life and giving in to long suppressed desires. It's a suspenseful book about family bonds, the intensity of love, and the realization of your truest self.
VWOM: Why are you vegan?
COURTNEY: I became vegan because I believe a vegan lifestyle is a more compassionate and environmentally friendly way to live. I find factory farming practices horrendous, and I have no desire to cause pain and suffering to another living creature. Since becoming vegan, I feel more attuned, to the life around me and to my own physical and emotional health.
VWOM: What are you reading right now? Are there any authors that you would name as influences?
COURTNEY: I've just started The Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay. Prior to that I was reading Rock Springs by Richard Ford. I frequent the Brooklyn Public Library and enjoy going in with no specific book in mind and just choosing randomly from their shelves. I've discovered some amazing books that way.
Among the writers who have influenced me the most are Mary Gaitskill, Lydia Davis, Ian McEwan, and J.M. Coetzee. As a writer and a reader, I like books that are brave, with clear, precise detail and carefully considered characters.
VWOM: A while ago on your blog you mentioned that you found writing a blog intimidating. You stated "I worried about sounding intelligent and important." It surprised me to read this. Somehow I've always thought that people with a talent for writing never feel this way. Do you still feel intimidated at all?
COURTNEY: Oh, good question! I think as writers, we're always aware of the audience. There's a concern that what you have to say won't be important enough or interesting enough to hold the audience's attention. When I write a story or an essay for publication, I spend a lot of time rewriting and revising. With the novel, the process is even more involved. But a blog is much more immediate. When I make a blog entry, I don't have the time to go over it again and again, which, given my perfectionist tendencies, is scary. Also I have to update frequently, meaning I have to have interesting things to say frequently. That was very intimidating at first. As time has gone on, however, I've relaxed. I've learned to trust myself and my ideas, and now I have a lot of fun with the blog. My more confident, at peace mindset has translated over to my other writing as well. I find myself taking more chances, which leads to better work.
VWOM: Where can readers find copies of your short stories?
COURTNEY: You can find my stories online at wordriot.org and pankmagazine.com. You also can order copies of Forge Journal and The Literary Review featuring my work from their websites, forgejournal.com and theliteraryreview.org. And Gravity Fiction, an anthology including one of my stories, is available on Amazon.
VWOM: If you were a non-human animal, what animal would you be?
COURTNEY: I think I would be a bird of some sort. The idea of natural flight and changing perspectives fascinates me.
courtney elizabeth mauk was born in 1981 in Rolla, Missouri, and grew up in Copley, Ohio. After graduating from Oberlin College, she spent a year writing art reviews in Washington, DC, before moving to New York City. In 2006 she received an MFA in Fiction from Columbia University.
She lives in Brooklyn and teaches writing at College of Staten Island.