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Donnelle McGee Exit Strategy A LOCAL NOVELIST ON THE FINER POINTS OF COMPLETE DISAPPEARANCE Interview by david Perez Photography by Daniel Garcia

A good story is like an addiction. It separates you from yourself, steeps you in a world different from the one buoyed by your immediate surroundings. But, according to McGee, only one brings you back whole.

Your work does more than experiment with form. It is in conversation with real issues in the real world. Is there something external to the writing that you're working toward? A change you would like to help realize? Addiction runs amuck in my books. I’ve spent many years in rooms with women and men telling and hearing stories about addiction. Stories of how addiction will erode the self, break the family and can kill you. When I left those rooms I knew there were books in me to be written and shared. Addiction, in whatever form, and when it threatens to erase you, brings you to face the self. So writing Ghost Man, Shine, and Naked (memoir in verse) was brewing in me for years, and their narratives remind me of the stark realities of being out of control and not confronting your demons. I hope my work continues to open up the discussion about family and personal addictions that are often only spoken about in secret.

A good novel can make you feel like you are temporarily living another person's life. Why do you think this is such a compelling experience? We are all looking for an escape. The chance to leave our bodies temporarily is exhilarating. Once the novel is done, we return to ourselves more whole if the novel is worthy. Readers want this experience, and as writers, it is important to write narratives that move people. I want to write with an urgency and with a beat that is authentic and lets the reader engage with the characters. I want to share narratives that move people because we all want to spend some time in another realm. And we all want glimpses into what we do not know. A good novel can do this and more.

Ursula K. LeGuin said, "The novelist says in words what cannot be said in words." I know this is a curveball, but does this make sense to you? What are your thoughts? Beautiful words and question. The novelist gives voice to what many of us are afraid to utter. The novelist saves us and moves forward boldly to put on the page our deepest fears and ambitions. And in the end, the writing keeps us alive and moving onward.

Why is reading new fiction important? Fiction guides what it means to be human. Stories are created every moment and new fiction takes these narratives and shapes them for us to experience. And in doing so, we live on and continue to figure out what it means to be alive. What is the best book you have ever read? I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb

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