You can view 2 more articles. Unlock unlimited articles with the TANK Digital Subscription. Subscribe here.



Stacy Skolnik and Hannah Regel first met when Skolnik edited Regel’s poetry chapbook When I Was Alive for Montez Press in 2016; this year, their debut novels will come out a few months apart. Skolnik’s novel The Ginny Suite was published by Montez Press in May and Regel’s novel, The Last Sane Woman, will be published by Verso this July. Set in a dystopian present, The Ginny Suite is about a mysterious global syndrome affecting women, causing symptoms of submissiveness and aphasia. While the number of sufferers grows, so does the protagonist’s paranoia; of the media, her doctors, and her husband. A Künstlerroman in reverse, The Last Sane Woman follows a woman called Nicola, in her late twenties and undergoing a crisis of desire. In an ailing and underfunded archive she comes across a late artist’s letters, written some 30 years ago, and begins to read with increasingly morbid fascination as the letter writer loses her nerve. Skolnik and Regel spoke for over an hour across Zoom, as they often do (Skolnik lives in New York, Regel in London), and, perhaps because they are so used to the format, forgot to press record.

Portraits by Sophie Davidson and Alec Castillo

HANNAH REGEL We meet again. 

STACY SKOLNIK Should we start the conversation by confessing that we lost the whole conversation we first had? We talked for an hour and half and then we realised that Zoom wasn’t recording. We tried to recreate it, but obviously couldn’t. 

HR Which is either incredibly charming or incredibly dumb. 

SS Ironically, it’s relevant to both of our books. Yours, in that The Last Sane Woman is a novel circulating around an epistolary correspondence that’s only half there, and mine, in that The Ginny Suite is a book about women losing their minds, memories and capacity for thought as a result of technological influence. They’re both also concerned with self-perception – both our protagonists struggle to see themselves, to understand and know themselves, or maybe to understand how they are seen by the world, and to reconcile those perceptions from inside and out. The fact that we now, for the first time in history, conduct conversations on Zoom and FaceTime while looking at ourselves has to be impacting our ability to connect with others in some sort of way. Both our novels have a certain refractive quality too – a book within a book. My protagonist is a writer, and the nestled narrative can be read in her poems and stories, and in the metanarrative that’s expressed through her life as a poet and writer of fiction. Your protagonist is a reader, and the nestled narrative is in the letters she’s reading. The ephemera or sub-texts within the novels become mediating forces and an interface for how they view themselves. In your book, what’s interesting about Nicola and her relationship to the letters she’s reading, is that part of what seems to compel her is that they’re only one-sided. They’re incomplete.

HR Exactly, and because there’s no respondent she’s able to jump straight in and project herself into the information in different ways. She’s undergoing a crisis of desire. She doesn’t know what she wants from life or how to get it and reading becomes a way of avoiding those questions. It takes the pressure off having to think for herself. 

SS The challenge for both our protagonists is fighting that urge in some way and finding a way to cope with the sea of information that gets cycled through them, but also trying to discern what is true of the struggle for personhood, when there are so many ways to live being offered or dictated to them.


She doesn’t know what she wants from life or how to get it and reading becomes a way of avoiding those questions. It takes the pressure off having to think for herself


HR The protagonist of The Ginny Suite is preoccupied with her parents and she speaks about them often. There’s a great chapter when, at a dinner party, a friend asks if anyone has ever seen their parents naked, and it spirals out into a meditation on what it means to see your parents as separate from you. 

SS A major theme of the book is what you inherit, and whether or not you can ever transcend it. The protagonist’s mother is a big question. What does it mean to be a failed mother, a non-mother, a bad wife, a daughter with no mother, or a single father? There’s an ambiguity to the dynamics of mother, father, daughter and wife in the book that leaves room for possibility. In some ways, the impossibility of fulfilling any of these roles in the “right” way cracks them open – which can be read through a nihilistic lens, or through one that’s more liberatory. Your book also has an interesting relationship to parenthood, in that one of the characters, Susan – who can be read as both protagonist and antagonist – becomes a mother and it drives this wedge between her and her best friend, our antihero, Donna. In Susan, we see the way motherhood offers one possible way to live, but every choice we make forecloses other possibilities, other ways of living and being.

HR Parents, and arguably friendships, always function in that way. They offer us a view of all these alternative paths, which sometimes works like an abradant. You think that you’re pushing against something or transcending something, but there’s always a moment where you catch a certain tic and think, God, I’m my dad. Speaking of influences, what have you been reading lately? 

SS I’m currently reading Darryl (2021) by Jackie Ess. It’s a book about a cuck, the titular Darryl, told from his perspective. There was a moment about 50 pages in where I was like, okay, this can go anywhere, and I thought that there was going to be an alien invasion or some sort of speculative element, but it’s veered more in the direction of Darryl exploring his “sissy” side, trying to understand his desires, figure out whether or not he’s gay or trans or a crossdresser or something else entirely. He’s also gently trying to get to the bottom of a murder that happened in the BDSM scene in his town years prior. I guess the transformation of Darryl’s identity or the questions that he’s asking of himself are speculative – the machine of the body and the things that we can make it do. The book takes place in 2017 so he has friends on the internet and has a life online. We all are now both in and of our bodies and disembodied. You don’t really need an alien invasion in 2024 or 2017, you can just disappear into the black hole of a Zoom conversation that apparently never happened. What are you reading?

HR I’m on a bit of a John Bowen kick at the minute. I first read his book Squeak (1983) – Bowen and his husband reared pigeons in real life, and the story is told from the point of view of one of the birds. It’s very sweet, totally odd. I just finished reading another of his called The Girls (1986). It’s a sort of village murder caper which is so sly and camp, everyone’s running about getting themselves in a pickle. I wish I’d read it when I was writing my book so I could have pinched from it! It’s all set around the Arts and Crafts scene in England, so everyone’s making clogs and weaving little caftans.

SS There’s this time hopping that happens in Oliver Reed and The Last Sane Woman, where it takes place in contemporaneity and then switches back and forth in or through a moment in history, or through the lens of a person in another place in time. Has this recurrence been a natural product of your interests? 

HR I think I’m slowly figuring out what I care about, and each time I do it the through lines shimmer more brightly and I can go straight to it. The time thing is true, but it’s more like collaging or finding a way to put different images and scenes together. It’s the inference that tells the story. I like placing images and incidents beside each other that mirror, refract and illuminate one another for the reader, without having to spell it out. Patterns emerge, like voice and humour.

SS Both of our writing has a certain humour, which may be surprising considering the dark themes at play. I think another thing that ties both our work together is a malleable “her”. In your novel it’s often unclear who is speaking or narrating – Donna or Nicola or Susan – and because they all share a worry of being underestimated or overlooked, it almost becomes a sort of parody. 

HR The assumption that because two people are women they’ll share the same concerns is pretty tiring, especially when that’s used to market contemporary fiction. Both our books point to the absurdity of that. There’s a healthy dose of cynicism.

SS It’s not a compliment to be called a cynic. But there’s power in cynicism; it prevents you from being tricked. There’s a suspension of reality that happens in both our work too, an element of fantasy or speculation.

HR Totally. There are these constant glitches in how the main characters perceive themselves and how they believe they’re being perceived by others. This is what social media has burdened us with, or what we blame it for, but I think it’s always been the case. So much of my book takes place pre-internet and they’re still getting their wires crossed in the same ways, still looking at each other’s lives from afar and seeing things that aren’t there. I guess the difference is that now we invite it.

SS This state of being constantly seen, constantly watched, which is also something we’ve been taught to desire. I don’t know if it’s an illness or a symptom. ◉