kirk-farber-author-picfullKirk Farber is the author of the debut novel Postcards from a Dead Girl (Harper Perennial 2010). Postcards is a March 2010 “Indie Next” selection, and was previously a semi-finalist in the first Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. Kirk’s short fiction appears in Wisconsin People & Ideas and Hobart literary journal. He recently contributed an essay about living in Wisconsin to The Great Lakes Reader (Delphinium Books, 2009).

Q (Meg Pokrass): What story or book do you feel closest to?

I’ve always been drawn to books that are a bit dark. I loved Tim O’ Brien’s In the Lake of the Woods and Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides. I also feel closest to books that handle sad/dark themes with humor, so I enjoyed Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club and Lullaby, and I’m a big fan of almost anything by Kurt Vonnegut or Douglas Coupland.

Do you have a mentor?

I don’t have an individual mentor, but I did have a mentoring group while writing Postcards from a Dead Girl. I was a member of Redbird Studio when I lived in Milwaukee, and their bi-weekly round tables provided me with regular feedback, encouragement, and networking opportunities. All of these things helped me immensely. Every other week I’d bring a scene in, read it out loud, and immediately get ten or twelve opinions and some written criticism. I would also critique others’ manuscripts, which helped me become a sharper reader. Now that I live in Colorado, I’m part of Pikes Peak Writers, which is a similar kind of group that offers classes, social events, and a huge conference annually. These are nice things to have after spending so much time alone writing.

How do you stay creative? What are your tricks to get “unstuck?”

My best trick to get “unstuck” is to tell myself that I’m only going to write one or two sentences for the day. It will just be a slow day, I tell myself, but at least write one paragraph, man. I usually end up writing much more then. But if I declare that it’s going to be a 10-page day because I have the whole day to write, I will get zilch.

What are your favorite websites?

Well, Fictionaut is pretty dang cool. I think it’s a great format.  Other sites I’ve enjoyed are Hobart (who published my first short story, Forever Girl) and Monkeybicycle is fun.  I also like to check in on Bookslut, as well as The Nervous Breakdown.  But mostly I surf news web sites and spend too much time on Facebook.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on another novel. This one has multiple viewpoints, which is different than Postcards from a Dead Girl. It’s been fun to hop around in other characters heads so far, instead of writing in just one voice.  We’ll see. I’m telling myself it will only be 10 pages long in hopes that I’ll write 300.

How did Postcards from a Dead Girl come about? How did this novel get born?

The novel was inspired by the song “Letters from the Dead” by a band formerly called The Bees, now known as The Silver Seas. The lyrics are about a guy who is contemplating some postcards from a dead relationship, and that got my “what if” question going. I thought: what if someone were actually having postcards sent to them from someone who they weren’t sure was alive or dead? How would that play out? And I wrote the first scenes very quickly.

But then I spent two more years finishing the first draft, and another year revising it. I eventually met my agent, Sandra Bond, at a writer’s group event, and after sending her my query, she asked for the full manuscript, but I didn’t hear from her for four months. When I finally followed up, she actually thought she had read it and passed, when in fact she hadn’t read it at all. Luckily, she read it and loved it.

Sandra ended up sending it to Carl Lennertz at HarperCollins first, and he started faxing edits back that same day. Working with Carl was great because besides being wicked smart and a generous guy, he is also an author and understands how tough the editing process can be, so even though it was intense he made it fun.

Can you share insight into creating characters that feel authentic?

I think characters are most authentic or alive when they are flawed, and struggle a lot to overcome their defects. I would rather read about someone who is imperfect than someone who has got it all together. Most people don’t have it all together. In Postcards from a Dead Girl, Sid is pretty screwed up, but he’s also trying to improve his life, albeit in a roundabout way, and I think that makes him more relatable.

The Fictionaut Five is our ongoing series of interviews with Fictionaut authors. Every Wednesday, Meg Pokrass asks a writer five (or more) questions. Meg is an editor at Smokelong Quarterly, and her stories and poems have been published widely. She blogs at

  1. Gina Frangello

    Hi Kirk–Always good to see a shout out for The Nervous Breakdown. Your novel sounds great–I look forward to checking it out!

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