> Elle Nash on alchemising the beautiful brutal. Formative books, body horror, and the darker side of human experience. - SNACK: Music, film, arts and culture magazine for Scotland

Elle Nash on alchemising the beautiful brutal. Formative books, body horror, and the darker side of human experience.

Since the publication of her critically acclaimed 2018 novella, Animals Eat Each Other, Elle Nash has gone to establish herself as one of the most arresting, exciting and thought-provoking writers to emerge in recent years, with subsequent publications only strengthening that status. Latest novel Deliver Me is as powerful and provocative as anything you’ll read this year, probably in many a year, and SNACK spoke to Elle Nash to find out more.

How do you describe Deliver Me to people? 

I would describe it at its core as a novel that explores how grief moves through the body, what it means to want something, and what can happen when someone falls through the cracks of a society with very little safety net for those who need it most.

What was the inspiration to write it? 

In 2015, a fringe crime happened in the city I was living at the time, and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I moved back to the American south a year later and ended up starting a family. I began to research that particular crime more out of curiosity, which led me to the case of Lisa Montgomery.

Something about the stories of these women and how they were treated compelled me to explore what it would be like to inhabit their minds and try to understand their experience.

Could it be described as ‘body horror’ but where humans and animals are in many ways equal, or at least treated equally? If so, are there other writers in that genre who you admire?

Yes, I’d say some of my favourite body horror authors right now are B. R. Yeager, Charlene Elsby, and Eric LaRocca. I’m really excited to read Jane Fleet’s debut novel Freakslaw, too.

The effects of religion are important to the story. What did you want to examine with this strand?

I have a longstanding belief that puritanism lives in the minds of many Americans even when they think they’re secular. Something about this particular flavour of Christianity blinds people to its cultural and psychological effects, I think. Mostly, for me, I want to rid my mind of any lingering Christian psychological structures, like shame and selfdoubt, so I’m just constantly examining what it looks like from every angle.

The central character of Dee-Dee is defined by her relationships, particularly with her partner, her mother, and her friend Sloane. How do you approach writing an ensemble such as this? Do you have to understand each individual, or is it all through Dee-Dee’s eyes and thoughts?

I write not really thinking about how the reader should or would feel about something, or about what they take away. I really want people to just see that the story here is something that, while it seems like a piece of fiction, is still very much a representation of possibility, of what lingers in the darker side of the human experience.

I didn’t see the end coming (although, with hindsight, I feel I should have). Without giving anything away, were you surprised with how Dee-Dee’s story unfolds? Is the process of telling a story revelatory for you, in a similar way as for a reader?

I always knew how the story would end. The image was one that had stayed with me for years and years before I even thought about writing this book. But the how, and trying to understand Dee-Dee and her experience, deepened for me in the writing of it.

For Dee-Dee, reading Of Mice and Men was formative – the first time she encounters death. Did you have a book which was similarly, or differently, life-changing?

So hard to pick just one. Honestly, I remember reading 1984 in high school and feeling torn and upset by the weight of Winston’s final acceptance of his re-education back into society. It made me realise that perhaps the human spirit does have its limits — that hegemonic power structures really do flatten joy and beauty and creativity, and that terrified me.

Deliver Me has a strong sense of place – it’s American South to its core. You now live in Glasgow, and I would love to read an Elle Nash novel set there. Is that something you can see yourself doing?

Yes, I love this city so deeply. It feels like my home. I’m very affected by my surroundings, I sometimes feel very porous, like a sea sponge. I can’t see how it wouldn’t bleed into a project in the future, especially because this city is so rich with character and history.

Can you tell us about Goth Book Club, and how people can get involved?

We meet once a month on Zoom, focusing on a mix of dark classics (such as Mary Shelley and Mary MacLane), contemporary indie authors (such as Juliet Escoria, Anna Dorn, and Charlene Elsby), and other works that alchemize the beautiful brutal.

We’re planning to read The House of Psychotic Women by Kier-La Janisse through June, and later in the year we’ll even be reading the letters of Aileen Wuornos written while she was incarcerated. I also bring in the authors to speak with us when they’re available – both Anna Dorn and Juliet Escoria will talk with us this year, which I’m very excited about. You can sign up through my Substack, femalerage.substack.com, and we archive the audio recordings of our chats which remain available forever, so if you can’t make it to one, you’ll never miss out. The Substack is also the home of Witch Craft Magazine, which is free to read, so there’s lots to explore there.

Deliver Me is published by VERVE Books. Available here.

All photos courtesy of Elle Nash

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