Christina Hoag is the author of novels Girl on the Brink and Skin of Tattoos, and winner of prizes for her essays and fiction from the International Human Rights Arts Festival and Soul-Making Keats Writing. Her piece, ‘Finding a Piece of My Past in Lagos’, can be found in EPOCH Issue 03: Roots, available to purchase here.
Why do you write CNF, and do you explore other genres in your work?
I write CNF because writing about things that happen to me is a way of processing them. It’s both cathartic and therapeutic. It also stretches a different muscle than writing straight nonfiction (ie. journalism, which I’ve written all my life) and it’s also a welcome break from writing fiction, which is my main focus these days –and the hardest type of writing to get right, I’ve found.
Did you have a piece already written when you learned about Epoch’s theme, or did you write a new piece? If so, how did you approach the theme of Roots in the creation of your work?
The piece I submitted to ‘Roots’ is actually an excerpt from a much longer piece about my multi-continent trip to find my early roots.
What is the biggest challenge when writing CNF?
The biggest challenge for me is to describe emotion in the piece in an evocative, lyrical way but without sounding schmaltzy or overdone. In the piece I just referred to, there are several bits that perhaps sound overboard but are true to me. It’s hard for me to judge how they seem to other people. Of course, when I read emotional bits by other authors, they always sound great!
What’s your favourite piece of art in your home?
I have a lot of artwork in my house. Both my mother and my son are artists, so I’ve always been surrounded by a lot of art. I also bring back art and crafty type things from my travels. One of my favourite things is buying handcrafts at markets wherever I go, which means each piece has a story behind it! One of my all-time favourites is a painting that I bought in Cuba for 20 USD, a small fortune over there, but I just love it. It has two sets of eyes peeking through the louvres in window shutters and represents neighbours spying on others to report any dissenters to the government-the the Neighbourhood Brigades, I think they were called. It’s beautifully done in a very modern style and has a lot of political meaning to it.