For example, J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan opens with a discussion about children realizing by the age of two that they will have to eventually grow up (and therefore, grow old). “You always know after you are two,” Barrie tells us. “Two is the beginning of the end.” Those are the opening lines of the book! Likewise, Baum’s Wizard of Oz talks about Dorothy being made of meat. Because The Lost Daughter Collective is concerned both with gender politics as well as how we gain or lose agency over our stories, these texts became important touchstones for me. They are books about missing girls and lost boys but they are also stories that have been sanitized, and I wanted to expose that fact. Shelf Unbound: Who are some authors who have influenced you and how? Drager: I’m deeply indebted to the experimental women writers who came before me, writers who laid the groundwork for strange books that use less to say more, that embrace lyricism, and that play with text as a visual medium. These are writers I try to pay credence to in The Lost Daughter Collective by offering them cameo appearances (“Virginia,” “Mary,” and “Charlotte”), but there are also more recent writers who are working in this
vein: Rikki Ducornet, Carole Maso, Selah Saterstrom, Kathryn Davis, Kate Bernheimer, Thalia Field, Diane Williams. Aside from these writers, I find myself consistently consulting three others whenever I run into a narrative problem: Donald Barthelme, Michael Ondaatje, and Herman Melville. Each of these very different writers are invested in the fiction of ideas, and I tend to read their work as both fiction and philosophy. And, of course, there are the bedtime stories I was told as a child, stories crafted spontaneously, improvised, and not meant to last. I’m sure they still loiter in the dusty, latent corners of my mind, shaping what happens on the page without my permission.