Meet Hanna Reynditskiy, Woodfin Fellow in Fiction

Tanner Crunelle interviewed Hanna Reynditskiy, our new Woodfin Fellow in Fiction. Read on to learn about Hanna’s inspirations, writing rituals, and favorite color.

When you explain your fiction to other people, how do you explain it to people who don’t read that much and to people who do like to read?

It’s pretty difficult for me to explain my fiction. I don’t usually talk too much about it, so explaining it is a difficult task for me in general. I usually say I write literary fiction. People who don’t read literary fiction will then ask me what literary fiction is and I’ll fumble and say, “Well actually I don’t really know what literary fiction is.” But I’ll try to give names to it. You know, like William Faulkner, Flannery O’Conner, writers that I find myself gravitating toward, or more contemporary authors like Carmen Maria Machado, Joyce Carol Oates, and Haruki Murakami. Most people, even non-readers, know who the older giants are. So eventually, you get to a name that someone recognizes and you say, “That kind of fiction.” And if they want a further explanation, I’ll then attempt to talk about what fiction does. Which, for me, is trying to capture a reality, or truth, about life.

What truths do you think fiction is particularly disposed to? Or that you feel your writing of fiction is especially well positioned to elucidate?

 It depends on the author. It also depends on the type of fiction. But I would say most fiction is geared toward subjective realities. How someone goes through life, how someone feels about life. Things that are very personal and subjective to us. Things that put us into the shoes of the narrator or the character so we can feel their truth for ourselves. For me personally, I try to investigate the multifaceted nature of truth, how things are often different than they appear.

Have you found that moving to Charleston is influencing your fiction writing and if so, how?

 There’s the program itself, which is influential. You have a deadline and only a limited amount of time to get your story done. That’s not necessarily related to Charleston, the place, but I feel like deadlines are important for me. I have a hard time getting things done in a specific amount of time. But thinking in terms of place now: I’ve never been in a place so flat. That sounds kind of weird, but when you can see everything on the horizon, there’s something kind of strange about it. It’s as if things should be clear because it’s literally visible, but instead there’s something mysterious and opaque about it, especially within the swamps and woods that exist here. You also have this split of what Charleston is in the present (a beautiful city with well preserved structures) and what it was in the past (a site of historical horror) that creates a strange paradoxical duplexity. It is at once beautiful and horrifying.

Do you draw inspiration from any artists who are working in non-linguistic mediums? Or who work outside of fiction?

It depends. I think there’s something to visual art that relates to fiction. I did a lot of visual art when I was a kid, but I found it kind of limiting. That’s because, in visual art, you’re capturing a moment in time and that moment is solidified within a frame. There’s an element to that in fiction as well with each scene being fixed after it’s been written. But there’s more space for the imagination in fiction. But I suppose I’m starting to look at paintings nowadays and ask what the story is outside of the frame. Then there’s cinematography. Another thing I dabbled in. I’ll look to Hayao Miyazaki, Akira Kurosawa, and Wes Anderson for inspiration. Specifically, I’ll look at how they block scenes, how they linger on certain moments. But for the most part when I write a story I look to other fiction for inspiration.

Describe a typical occasion for your writing: where are you, what time of day is it. Do you have a ritual? How do you piece together a story?

 I used to have a ritual of waking up before the sun rises and writing in partial darkness. But now with the program, I have to find time to write whenever, wherever, which is very difficult. But it’s productive because I’m forced to get something on the page and not rely on my ritual of waking up before the sunrise. Piecing together a story is always difficult. For me, it’s usually the idea that comes first, a sort of daydream. Something I read or saw or heard sparks my interest and I start to investigate it by dreaming about it. Then I have to keep having that dream while I write. I have to let it fall into the background while I focus on getting one sentence done and then another.

Are there any people who have left an especially pronounced mark on your writing and how?

I have a lot of inspirations when it comes to writing, but I would have to say Joyce Carol Oates is a big inspiration of mine. I’m currently thinking about her right now as I write. Kind of like what you were saying about having dialogues with philosophers, I like having that with other writers. I try to engage in the conversations they are having and move them toward more modern, or different, ways of thinking. So her. My dad comes to mind, too. He’s always helped me through the writing process and has sometimes acted as my editor. Since a young age, he’s tried to guide me in my writings. He also introduced me to my first love of cinematography.

Last question: have you always had a favorite color? Has it changed over time?

 I loved the color blue as a kid. Any shade of turquoise or teal. Now it’s more of a light blue, and even a light pink. There’s something about those colors, light blue and light pink, that I always associated with my husband, Dennis. They’re such lovely, soft, vibrant colors. It’s hard for me to not think of him when I see those colors. He even wore those colors on our wedding day. His suit was light blue, the tie light pink.