Nicola Griffith is a native of Yorkshire, England, where she earned her beer money teaching women’s self-defence, fronting a band, and arm-wrestling in bars, before discovering writing and moving to the US. Her immigration case was a fight and ended up making new law: the State Department declared it to be “in the National Interest” for her to live and work in this country. This didn’t thrill the more conservative power-brokers, and she ended up on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, where her case was used as an example of the country’s declining moral standards.
In 1993 a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis slowed her down a bit, and she concentrated on writing. Her novels are Ammonite (1993), Slow River (1995), The Blue Place (1998), Stay (2002), Always (2007), Hild (2013), So Lucky (2018), Spear (April 2022) and Menewood (tbd). She is the co-editor of the BENDING THE LANDSCAPE series of original short fiction. Her multi-media memoir, And Now We Are Going to Have a Party: Liner Notes to a Writer’s Early Life, is a limited collector’s edition. Her essays, opinion pieces, reviews, and short fiction have appeared in an assortment of academic texts and a variety of journals, including the New York Times, Nature, New Scientist, Los Angeles Review of Books and Out. She’s won the Washington State Book Award (twice), the Otherwise/Tiptree, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards, the Premio Italia, the Lambda Literary Award (six times), and others.
In 2015 Nicola founded the Literary Prize Data working group whose purpose initially was to assemble data on literary prizes in order to get a picture of how gender bias operates within the trade publishing ecosystem. (The $50,000 Half the World Global Literati Prize was established as a direct result.) The group’s interests have now grown to encompass other aspects of publishing and bias, though it is currently on hiatus. In 2016 she began #CripLit, an online community for writers with disabilities for which, with Alice Wong, she co-hosts a regular Twitter chat.
Nicola, now a dual US/UK citizen, holds a PhD by Published Work from Anglia Ruskin University, is married to writer Kelley Eskridge, and lives in Seattle. Most of the time she is happily lost in the seventh century (researching her ongoing series about Hild), emerging occasionally to enjoy a fercoious bout of wheelchair boxing, drink just the right amount of beer, and take enormous delight in everything.
When I write, dear reader, I don’t want to build a careful tale for you to discuss with a smile in a sunny place, I want to own you. I don’t want to be The New TV Series, I want to be pornography: to thrill you so hard you’re ashamed but can’t help yourself crawling back for more.
I want to write a whole novel that invades you. I want to control what you think and feel, to put you right there, right then, killing and being killed, fucking and being fucked, cooking and starving, drinking and thinking, barely surviving and absolutely thriving. I want to give you a life you’ve never had and change the one you live.
How? I will take control of your mirror neurons. I will give you tastes and textures, torments and terrain you might never find in your real life. I will take you, sweep you off your feet, own you. For a while. For a while when you’re lost in my book you will be somewhere else, somewhen else, someone else.
I control the horizontal, I control the vertical. Sit back, relax, enjoy. When you’re done, take a breath, smoke a cigarette, figure out who you are now, and come back for more.
Signed, Personalised Books
Here’s how to get signed, personalised copies of my books from Phinney Books, our local Seattle independent.
Paris Review Daily
“Hild is an intricately plotted historical epic, set in a landscape that seems familiar and a culture that is anything but. Hild, the young protagonist, acts as an adviser to the king, Edwin, and the novel abounds with plotting, misdirection, and the use of mysticism toward decidedly realpolitik ends. Griffith’s ability to evoke a different time and place has manifested itself in very different ways over the years; her first two novels, Ammonite and Slow River, were both science fiction, though of very different types. Ammonite begins as anthropological science fiction and gradually becomes more epic in scale; Slow River involves conspiracies, industry, and a marvelously intricate plot. The series of three novels featuring Aud Torvingen—The Blue Place, Stay, and Always—are set in the modern world, with a fiercely analytical (and sometimes critically violent) protagonist. And in 2007, her memoir, And Now We Are Going to Have a Party: Liner Notes to a Writer’s Early Life, was released.”
Moss: In conversation with Alexis M Smith
“[It Books] make me impatient because they don’t engage in anything meaningful in a wider context. The big wide world and the people in it matters. Really, who apart from you gives a shit about the ethics of you having an adulterous affair? Or your inner conflict over whether or not you should feel bad about not having a baby? Or whether your dinner party will turn out well enough to be discussed positively in your social circle? No one will die one way or another. The world won’t change. You probably won’t even lose your job or home. It feels pointless. That kind of insipidity makes me want to reach into the book to, say, the privileged, self-absorbed drugged-up deliberately somnambulistic protagonist, pour cold water on her as she wallows in her own high-thread-count existential misery, and yell, Grow the fuck up!”
PBS (tv): Well Read
A great PBS show in which I chat back and forth with host Terry Tazzioli about Hild for about 15 minutes, and then Terry and critic Mary Ann Gwinn talk about the book, suggesting similar novels to read, and more.
WG: With respect to So Lucky, what kinds of things do you think you were able to do in that book that as a novelist that you would not have been able to do as a memoirist?
NG: With So Lucky I wanted to explore how chronic illness and disability affects us—our decisions, our friends, our place in the world—without confusing that exploration with my specific personal experiences. I needed the clarity of fiction. Fiction allowed me to compress time and so intensify the experience for protagonist and reader. To build a narrative structure that helps the reader experience ableism, its internalisation, and eventual deconstruction. And, importantly, to make metaphor concrete.
So Lucky takes place over the course of a single year. In that time, Mara learns about ableism what took me twenty years to learn. I make that possible by accelerating the course of Mara’s MS in order to lead her and the reader through an equally accelerated series of realisations. When we meet her, she is a woman on top of her world, who’s never met a challenge she couldn’t deal with—until, in the space of a single week, she’s diagnosed with MS, divorced by her wife, and loses her job. She then goes on to create a nonprofit, fall in love, and fight monsters, human and otherwise. So Lucky is a story about a woman with MS written by a woman with MS. The first word of the book is It, and It is a monster. But the monster is not MS, the monster is ableism…
I’ve started a portfolio at Muckrack which I’ll add to gradually.
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