It’s not often I come across a flawlessly executed debut novel. Then again, debut novelists don’t usually have extensive experience editing some of the most renowned and respected contemporary authors. These dual talents of editing and writing meet in Amy Grace Loyd, who was the fiction editor of Playboy for nearly seven years before becoming an executive editor at the e-shorts publication Byliner. Then, in 2013 she published The Affairs of Others, a novel about a young widow who refuses to move on.
It was a sticky spring afternoon when I met Loyd at a bar near her home in Brooklyn Heights, where we got tipsy and talked about the importance of language, the value of editors, and the evolution of publishing. The full interview is available in print, in issue #2 of Tweed’s.
—Laura Mae Isaacman
Tweed’s: One thing I love about The Affairs of Others is its quietness, how it slows the mind and brings a feeling of solitude. It’s an especially valuable thing when you live in such a noisy, crowded, and busy city.
Amy Grace Loyd: That’s partly why I wrote the novel: how do you find that solitude and how to claim it? In some ways this city is very good for us—its rhythms dictate to you, it’s testing you, it causes you to adapt, improvise, stretch. But in other ways, especially if you’re interested in reading and writing, it can be a challenge and a little deranging. Despite the yoga and the meditation that we all hope we’re doing, I don’t know if we’re bigger than it, the great tidal wave of energy. I feel like half of my battle in New York is figuring out how to be here in a way that I can tolerate and that provides room and time to be creative.
Also, in the publishing industry, there’s this constant, driving sense of our being menaced—that print is being menaced, that as an editor you’re being menaced, not only your livelihood but the value of what you do. It’s a little tiring. You’re often going on hope that people still care about thoughtful work or that you can still sneak strong literary material into the magazine for which you work or onto your list of publications. Both at Playboy and at Byliner, I found that the mandate when I first arrived was to find as much literary work as possible, to reach for more than celebrity culture, to associate ourselves with thoughtful, engaged, innovative writers. But then the demands of commerce and fear crowd in, and suddenly my bosses want as commercial a name as I can get them. It’s suddenly about bottom lines and eyeballs and traffic and traffic and traffic. I understand the realities, but it doesn’t mean there’s not a loss.
Tweed’s: You’ve been respected as an editor for some time. When did you start writing?
Amy Grace Loyd: I’ve written a long time, I guess since I arrived in New York after college—I just didn’t tell many people. As my editorial career took on more importance, in terms of what I felt like I owed the writers with whom I was working, I didn’t think anyone needed to hear about my writing. But I knew, and I knew I’d come home to Brooklyn at night or on weekends to write. So, a little bit like my narrator Celia, I had to force a lot of solitude on myself—solitude I wanted and sometimes didn’t want. Also—and I’ve said this in other interviews so forgive me for repeating myself—when you’re an editor at Playboy, and you’re out there trying to persuade people that it was, and still can be, a worthy literary place and a magazine capable of intelligent work, you’re flinging yourself out there all the time—phone calls, emails, meals and drinks, meetings; you’re suffering all the jokes and clichés and questions about how a woman like me ended up there. And so I think when I started to write Celia, her desire not to be in the world the way I was in the world—the way I had to be in the world—was appealing. It was even a form of wishful thinking. I took real solace in her rebelliousness about wanting and needing to be separate, in her throwing off workaday ambition, and all the ways in which I think we’re infected with pop psychology: let go of the past, be in the moment, keep moving. Bullshit. We’re all living the past in one way or another. We are all haunted by certain moments in our lives, by versions of ourselves lost to us—or maybe, because of humiliations or embarrassing moments or missed opportunities, by versions that are too present to us. We are haunted by lost loves and loved ones, living and dead.