Behind the Words: Audrey Lentz

Posted by on Mar 30, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Audrey Lentz

Audrey Lentz is a fiction writer, poet, and marketing content writer. Her flash fiction piece “How to Be a Good Member of Group Therapy” appeared in Spry issue 9. She is currently seeking representation for her novel Meek Madness.

Aaron Coder: You mention on your website that psychology and mental health are common themes in your writing, and “How to Be a Good Member of Group Therapy”? certainly explores such territory. What was the impulse behind writing it?

Audrey Lentz: One thing they tell you about group therapy is that the group dynamics work to showcase the impulses and roles its members fall into in their life outside of group. I wanted to show this, as well as the shortcomings of this type of therapy, in a humorous way. The narrator experiences this phenomenon—her passive, accommodating nature comes out in group, without her realizing it, which prevents her from benefiting from the therapy that seeks to help her with this exact issue. Conversely, I also wanted to show that group therapy is not ideal for everyone, as some find it difficult to operate under such contrived social conditions.

One of the things that really interests me about this piece is how the narrator seems ambivalent toward group therapy but ultimately decides to come back for more. We get a sense that the narrator doesn’t want to draw attention and is reluctant to engage, but at the same time is possibly trying to justify their place in the group. There’s a certain competitiveness there, a certain evasiveness, and maybe even something akin to impostor syndrome. It’s a strange dynamic. Why does the narrator decide to return at the end?

Yes, exactly. She’s suffering from a case of “going through the motions” for the purpose of recovery, but not doing the actual work necessary. She thinks “if I just keep going, I’ll get better,” but that’s not entirely true. It’s tempting for people experiencing mental health issues to think if they go through the right steps, they “should” feel better, but it’s not always that simple. The narrator waits for Group Leader to force the things out of her that need to come out rather than truly sharing and working through what she needs to, internally blaming the group dynamic for her lack of progress instead of her reservedness. There is definitely a competitive aspect as well—the narrator doesn’t want to think she’s as “screwed up” as the others, but also worries the others won’t think she’s damaged enough to belong, which she would then internalize and minimize her own pain.

I was also intrigued by the formal choices in “Group Therapy.” I think the use of 2nd person works well in this setting. It lends the narrative a reflective and claustrophobic quality, like standing in a hall of mirrors. Why did you choose to write this in 2nd person?

Thank you! The format was inspired by the short story, “How To Be A Grown Ass Lady,” by Helen Ellis. She uses the commanding 2nd person to show the absurdity of the rules southern women live by, which I thought was perfect for showing the silly social rules we impose on ourselves, especially in the format of group therapy—which showcases social rules we self-impose on an even further microscopic and clinical level.

Your website also boasts an impressive portfolio of freelance work. Does your interest in psychology influence your approach as a marketing content writer?

Psychology and marketing definitely have some overlap—the key difference being that marketing uses psychology in order to sell something. With marketing, you have to understand the end users’ fears and desires to make the product seem most attractive, presenting it as a solution to all manner of woes. I myself am a hard sell—I feel a product has to change my life before I give up money for it. If I can convince myself to buy something, I know I’ve hit on a key piece of sell-ability for any given service or product.

What can you tell us about your novel Meek Madness?

My goal in Meek Madness is to explore the unfortunate dynamics that form between young women and men based on both nature and nurture—their inherent instincts and also toxic messages received from society, especially regarding mental illness and sexual violence. I try to explore why these situations happen and how they could have been avoided. The novel is of a literary structure with hints of magical realism, told from the point of view of two major characters: Lyssa, and secondarily, Checker. The magical realism aspect externalizes in a physical way the emotional and psychological conflict that happens largely within the minds of the major characters. Both these early-twenties lost adults suffer from the hoodwinking social messages that exploit young adults’ fears and vulnerabilities today, as well as their own unique history and damage. The love affair that develops between them exacerbates their individual damage, resulting in an unavoidable confronting of these issues and presenting an opportunity for either communication and healing or villainization and bitterness.

Any other creative projects you’re working on currently?

I have some short stories and poems searching for homes at the moment, as well as working on queries for my novel. The short story I’m most excited about is from the point of view a therapist. They’re human, too, and suffer from many of the same psychological ailments as their patients. In my short story “Value Math,” Blake’s usual coping skills start failing him just when a patient needs him the most.

What fictional character—from literature, film, or television—would you most like to see in group therapy, and why?

What a great question! I’d have to say Voldemort from the Harry Potter series. We do get quite a bit of his backstory to explain his need for power/security/etc, but what would he be like forced to interact with a group on equal terms? How would his narcissism show itself when faced with the need to acknowledge the pain of others? What would he learn about himself when confronted with the reality that others with his same unfortunate history have processed and reacted quite differently to a similar damage? Any villain with the archetypal “orphaned and rejected as a child” backstory would be fascinating to listen to in Group.

Aaron Coder is a writer from the Midwest, though waylaid in the South for the past twenty-five years. He is currently at work on two projects: a book of mycology, and a translation of his dog’s poetry into English. Neither he nor the dog condone driving under the influence.