An Interview with Alissa Nutting

Alissa Nutting, another of our featured readers for this year’s Blue Light Reading (3/29), shared some really interesting opinions and insight on media, women, and fiction research. Check it out:

IR: Was your first story collection, Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls, inspired by an “unclean” job that you had at one point?

AN: More generally it was inspired by being a girl in our society, and then a woman–two very unclean jobs, in my opinion.


IR: What initially got you hooked on writing about a teacher-student relationship (for lack of a better word) in your novel Tampa?

AN: It’s an act that seems to be happening so often currently, really proliferating–once I started paying attention to cases of female teacher/male student relations, I literally had a hard time keeping up with them all. What interested me were the ways the scenario is glamorized and in many ways accepted and championed in the media and society. Given the cultural factors, it doesn’t seem odd to me that it keeps happening.


IR: How did you prepare/research for Tampa? Did you talk with a female predator(s)?

AN: No, I felt the last thing this topic needed was the novelistic equivalent of a Barbara Walters interview with a female teacher who slept with her male student. All that stuff is already out there, being talked about and listened to. What I did research was how the cases were treated in the media, and how the cases were ultimately prosecuted. I wanted to write about how they essentially become national fetishes, and really engage the gendered aspects of how we view statutory rape when it’s an adult female committing the crime.


IR: Your approach to writing about women is unconventional—how would you describe your process of characterizing your female characters?

AN: I suppose I begin with an awareness of what the gendered cultural expectation for them is, and then begin to flesh out the ways that they align with it and the ways that they subvert it.


Thanks to Alissa for taking time for us! Come see her at our Blue Light Reading this Saturday (3/29)!

Alissa Nutting
is an assistant professor of creative writing at John Carroll University. She is the author of the best-selling novel Tampa (Ecco 2013) and the award-winning collection of stories Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls. Her work has appeared in the New York Times; O, The Oprah Magazine; Tin House; Fence; and Bomb, among other venues. Her story “Conversation with Thorax” appeared in Indiana Review, Winter 2012.