I’ve Got Questions for Chella Courington

Editor’s Note: This exchange is part of a series of brief interviews with emerging writers of recent or forthcoming books. If you enjoyed it, please visit other interviews in the I’ve Got Questions feature.

Adele and Tom: The Portrait of a Marriage by Chella Courington
  • What’s the title of your book? Fiction? Nonfiction? Poetry? Who is the publisher and what’s the publication date?

Adele and Tom: The Portrait of a Marriage. Auto-fiction. Breaking Rules Publishing (February 1, 2020).

  • In a couple of sentences, what’s the book about?

A life in flashes, the novella tells of a writing couple in Santa Barbara, California, struggling to keep their relationship together. While their love for each other is apparent, so are their difficulties.

  • What’s the book’s genre (for fiction and nonfiction) or primary style (for poetry)?

Literary fiction. Auto-fiction.

  • What’s the nicest thing anyone has said about the book so far?

“I adored this piece of writing which could be picked up and read over an extended time frame, or like I did in one sitting. No this story doesn’t take you away to a fantasy world where romance is clearly the stuff of fiction, but it is a reminder that life isn’t always easy; it’s hard and relationships need to be a balance of give and take to work.” Kirsti at Bedside Review

  • What book or books is yours comparable to or a cross between? [Is your book like Moby Dick or maybe it’s more like Frankenstein meets Peter Pan?]

Evan S. Connell’s Mrs. Bridge (1959) is a life told in flashes. Ben Lerner’s Leaving the Atocha Station (2011) and Rachel Cusk’s Outline (2014) are books called auto-fiction where the authors take fictive freedom with the details of their own lives.

  • Why this book? Why now?

In her essay “Modern Fiction” Virginia Woolf says that a novelist should look within and write about the complexities and subtleties of being a human being. Indeed, an engaging novel or shorter novella can focus on the often unrecorded, smaller events like dinner at home or discussing a novel. In light of my respect and love for Woolf’s novels Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse, I began to think my day-to-day existence with my husband deserved closer examination. I decided to tell a story of two married writers navigating their journey together, loosely based on our lives yet with much narrative license.

  • Other than writing this book, what’s the best job you’ve ever had?

Teaching literature and writing at a range of institutions from Illinois State University and Huntingdon College to Santa Barbara City College and the South Carolina Maximum Security Prison for Men.

  • What do you want readers to take away from the book?

There are several things I’d like readers to take away. First, I hope the novella resonates in such a way that they think about what’s been said after the last page and want to reread sections, if not the entire work. The novella raises the questions of purpose, identity, loss and love that continue to touch us deeply as we grow older. Second, I hope the everyday details are relatable. Yes, we all ponder the big issues; but, we also attempt to enjoy what we experience in the moment. Whether making a pizza or visiting a pet store, we take pleasure in being alive. Ideally, I’d like the language as well as the flashes of a relationship to transport the readers. Yet above all, I want them to find delight in Adele and Tom.

  • What food and/or music do you associate with the book?

I associate pizza, fish, and avocados with Adele and Tom and hear Joni Mitchell’s Blue and Neil Young’s Harvest Moon in the background.

  • What book(s) are you reading currently?

Having just finished Kate Zambreno’s Screen Tests, I’m reading her O Fallen Angel along with Lucia Berlin’s A Manual for Cleaning Women and Clarice Lispector’s A Breath of Life.

Chella Courington

Learn more about Chella at her website.

Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Buy the book from the publisher (Breaking Rules Publishing), Bookshop.org, or Amazon.com.

About the author


  1. I was struck by Adele’s struggle with feminist issues, like being always in her husband’s shadow and her own self doubt of the value of her art. How do you see the books treatment of these issues and how Adele moves toward resolving them?

  2. Adele appears to lose her shadow as Tom becomes popular in his writing, shadowing Adele. Her insecurity results in her retreating inward, waiting for the waves to wash her back to the beginning.

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