Joyce Carol Oates has written over forty novels, a number of plays and novellas, and many volumes of short stories, poetry, and nonfiction.

In her latest book, Oates delves into the world of memoir with The Lost Landscape: A Writer’s Coming of Age.

Oates joined Jim Braude and Margery Eagan on Boston Public Radio to discuss the creation of her latest work, and her childhood that inspired everything from her sense of imagination to her work ethic.

You’ve mostly written novels, and there’s a lot of tough stuff in your novels, a lot of violence… but when you talk about your childhood, you talk about how your immediate family was very nurturing, yet there was violence all around you.

Yes, absolutely. I think that’s the case probably for many people who become writers. They are kind of in an oasis of protection, in nurturing families, and from that position, to know that one is loved and nurtured, then we have strength to kind of look outward and do our work.

Why did you write this?

I’m not sure I ever made any particular decision. I had written a number of memoir pieces over the years… I would be invited by the New Yorker, or New York Magazine, or some other place to write about a childhood memory, or a teacher in my school, or college, or something. One by one, these various disparate pieces began to assemble, so I just gathered a manuscript over 15 or 20 years, and gradually that became the manuscript. I never made a decision, per se, to write a memoir, it more or less wrote itself.

There seemed to be a lot of violence around you, even in that one-room schoolhouse you talk about spending your elementary school years in.

That’s true, but I think it was probably true across the country, especially in rural communities. Words like ‘domestic violence,’ ‘sexual molestation,’ and ‘harassment’—Those words did not exist.  The real things existed, but there wasn’t a real vocabulary. But those things go on and I think probably there’s hardly a woman or girl alive who doesn’t have some memory of being sexually intimidated or threatened or even molested… it would be a rare person who managed to escape that.

Joyce Carol Oates will be at the First Parish Church on Mass Ave tonight at 7 pm at an event sponsored by the Harvard Bookstore. To hear more of her interview, click on the audio link above.