Claire Vaye Watkins is the author of a story collection, Battleborn (2012), and a novel, Gold Fame Citrus (2015). She has won the Story Prize, the Dylan Thomas Prize, and the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award, and was named a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree. Her new novel, I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness (Riverhead, Oct. 5), is one of Kirkus’ Best Books of 2021 and was recently selected the December pick for the Belletrist Book Club.
From the starred Kirkus review of I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness: “The narrator, named Claire Vaye Watkins, starts off in a garden of ‘mostly rock and dirt,’ addressing four naked dolls. Awash in postpartum depression, she has bolted the Midwest for Nevada, leaving an infant daughter and a husband in her wake. She might be directing the title to her daughter, but it works equally well as a signoff from her own handsome, notorious father, Paul Watkins, ‘Charles Manson’s number one procurer of young girls.’ Or from her mother, Martha, ‘an artist, a naturalist, a writer’ who died alone, addicted to OxyContin.…Incandescent writing illuminates one woman’s life in flames.”
In this video interview, conducted over Zoom, Watkins explains the origins of the novel’s striking title; reveals that she and the narrator (also named Claire) “have a lot in common but are very different people”; talks about her decision to intersperse throughout the novel letters that her mother wrote to her cousin as a girl; and considers the audience’s feelings toward so-called “unlikeable” women characters.