Peyton Marshall

Peyton Marshall

Photo by Michael Palmieri


Peyton Marshall is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and a recipient of the Richard Yates Award for Short Fiction. Her first novel, Goodhouse, came out from Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2014. Goodhouse was a finalist for the International Association of Crime Writers’ 2014 Dashiell Hammett Prize. Marshall’s writing has appeared in the New York Times, Tin House, A Public Space, Blackbird, and Best New American Voices.

When I started this novel, I was living in Marrakech, Morocco—and parenting my four-year-old twin children. Every day, I would walk them to their French-Arabic preschool and bolt to a café to write for an hour. But often my other responsibilities intervened. The hour became 30 minutes or 15 minutes or nothing at all.

Still, I threw myself into researching and writing this book. So much so that my kids had trouble figuring out who was real and who wasn’t. One night at dinner, I declared that Justina had finally killed her wicked uncle—who so richly deserved it.

“Is Justina going to be our babysitter?” my daughter asked me.

“No,” I said. “She’s just a character.”

“But you talk to her.”

 “Not exactly.” But that didn’t sound quite right. “She talks to me,” I said—which actually sounded worse.

It’s hard to sustain the kind of concentration that a novel demands. There isn’t always a lot of time to work. And then you wonder—is anyone ever going to read this? Am I just stepping into a dark forest of my own creation when I am—in fact—needed here in the present moment?

Getting the call from the National Endowment for the Arts was so utterly astonishing, so unambiguously wonderful, that I’ve spent the last two weeks thinking: The government has asked me to finish my book. When I stand in line at the grocery store I think: These nice tax payers have invested in me. The NEA has bought me time, for which I am grateful—but it’s the vote of confidence in my work that’s truly invaluable. Suddenly, I’m less afraid to open a door into that dark fictional forest, to step inside and find a world waiting for me.