Monday Chat is a new bi-weekly series in which Susan Tepper has a conversation with a Fictionaut writer about one of his or her stories. For this first installment, Susan talked to Kathy Fish about her story Snow.” Susan is Assistant Editor of Istanbul Literary Review and hosts FIZZ, a reading series at KGB Bar.

kathyfishSusan Tepper: Kathy, when I read your story Snow posted here on Fictionaut I was spellbound (snowbound)?  It’s a little miracle of a story, and a perfect example of the narrative being driven by “place.”  The snow in this story ebbs and flows with such ferocity.  How did you come to begin this way?

Kathy Fish: I live in Colorado and we tend to get freak snowstorms as you probably know. In March of 2003 we got one of those “Blizzard of the Century” kind of deals. The area I live in got seven feet of snow. Anyway, my husband was out of the country and my oldest daughter was in NYC for a school trip so I was home and housebound with my other children for several days. Many of the images from this story come directly from that storm.  It really had this surreal, apocalyptic feel to it. The story arose out of my desire to answer the question, “What if it never stops?” And I went from there.

ST: I know that feeling.  Winter can be so foreboding as well as beautiful.  You really worked that dark metaphor in “Snow.”  Your first line “The snow started late Friday afternoon and everyone struggled driving home.”  The use of “struggle” makes a strong set up line for your opening, and then you give us: cars moved funereally, garage doors opening like mouths, ten inches, still coming down, up against the north sides of houses. To quote just a few.  The story bombards us.  That fear of being swallowed up by the storm that will be unending.  A life-changing storm.  Because it did change things for these people in this place, right?

KF: Yes, I wanted to set that tone of foreboding from the outset, that life as they knew it was never going to be the same again. And I did want the story to bombard the reader the way a storm does. The story appears in New South as one extremely long paragraph (I broke it up for F’nauter’s eyes). I remember when I workshopped it I kept getting the same feedback, i.e. “You have heard of paragraphs, right?” But I stubbornly stuck to the structure I had. I was ridiculously confident that that was how the story needed to be told. Happily, the editor of New South agreed.

ST: I can see the one paragraph format being really effective for this story in that it bolsters that relentlessness of the snow and the after-snow.  It gives no breathing space, kind of sucks us into its white drifts.  The relentlessness that never gives an inch.  But before Armageddon strikes, you make a big transition!  You create a sort of Winter Wonderland with phrasings such as: “Finally on Sunday just before dusk, the snow stopped; they waved to each other; called isn’t this something; people marvelled at the pristine beauty; white snow against a china blue plate sky. You lulled us into this scene off a Hallmark card.  It’s going to be OK after all.  In fact you give us better than OK.  They all go shopping for delicacies and wines and goodies.

KF: Ha, right! I wanted to toy with these people a little bit. Lay out a little hope. And that’s the sort of psychological cycle that sets in. First people are rather bolstered, loving the challenge of the weather, all Man vs. Nature and everything. We can do this! It is almost a feeling of euphoria. And then, yeah, it keeps coming and coming and there’s this transition to a gallows humor and then no humor at all and then…complete insanity, ha.

ST: Kathy, I find it so interesting that you, as the author, are aware you were “toying” with these characters.  And that you are willing to share that with us!  What fun!  Because the story, in its shifting darks to lights, then back to darks, is fun!  Take this line:  “All the snowmen now had large, erect penises and rictus smiles on their faces.”  Care to share again?

KF: You know, once in Estes Park, I saw these tiny, aroused snowmen all in a row on a fence rail. That’s the kind of stuff we as writers use, right? To me that image in the story was an indicator that things on this little suburban cul-de-sac were going downhill fast.

ST: It’s a fabulous image.  How lucky you were to have seen that and remembered!  Again the snow drives your narrative.  Well I won’t give away the rest of your story except to say that it transitions once more and turns very dark, indeed.  It’s a fascinating, beautiful story.

Read Snow by Kathy Fish.

  1. Myfanwy Collins

    To get inside the writing mind of Kathy Fish is a precious gift. Thank you for this interview!

  2. Katrina Denza

    Wonderful interview and the story is magnificent. Kathy is an amazing talent.

  3. Kathy Fish

    Thanks, Myfanwy and Katrina! Susan is a great, fun interviewer. She chose the story. I really enjoyed discussing it.

    Thanks, Susan.

  4. Julie Innis

    One of my favorite stories by one of my favorite writers! Really enjoyed this interview, Kathy and Susan.

  5. Ellen Meister

    An absolutely stunning story from a gifted writer … and how great to follow it up with this interview. I loved Susan’s insightful questions and Kathy’s surprising answers. Thank you!!

  6. W.F. Lantry


    I love your sentences. There’s a long one that begins “And the driveways…” Just glorious.

    Nice interview. Great questions, enjoyable answers. Good work all around!



  7. Ellen Parker

    It was really interesting to read this story just as we are heading into the holidays! I like how the snow finally melts and the Xmas lawn decorations emerge, undamaged. So after the apocalypse, all that’ll be left is lawn decorations. But what is a “balaclava”?

  8. Kathy Fish

    Julie and Ellen, thanks so much!

  9. Kathy Fish

    Thanks, Bill and Ellen! Ellen a balaclava is one of those stocking caps that covers the whole face with holes for the eyes and mouth…the kind of thing that bank robbers wear sometimes.

  10. Mary Akers

    Oh, how I love this!

  11. Kathy Fish

    Thanks, Mary! You are all so incredibly nice. Thanks.

  12. Ramon Collins

    Beautiful writing about a beautiful place on earth.

  13. Kathy Fish

    Thank you, Ramon!

  14. Patti Parkinson

    This is one of my all time favourite Kathy Fish stories, it’s hard however, to pick just one. Really enjoyed this interview Kathy and Susan.

  15. Kathy Fish

    Patti, thank you!

  16. fran metzman

    Susan I loved the interview. The questions you asked illicited great responses. You certainly gave me terrific incentive to read SNOW and it was superb. It said so much about human nature with the least possible amount of words. It pulled me in and I felt claustrophobic in that tight space and inability to leave. Great. fran metzman

  17. susan tepper

    Thanks to everyone who responded here, it was a joy speaking with Kathy!

  18. Pam Mosher

    Great story and great interview! The writing is so evocative and the pacing feels relentless, the one paragraph structure really works. Glad you stuck to your guns! Having lived though a few of these snow storms the emotions and images all rang so true. I loved the decorations emerging and then, the boot.

  19. Kathy Fish

    I’m glad you liked it, Pam! Thanks.

  20. Jane Hammons

    Terrific idea for a series and an excellent way to launch it. I really enjoyed this interview.

  21. Foster Trecost

    Great to get inside your head on this, Kathy – wonderful story and interview.

  22. Kathy Fish

    Thanks for reading, Jane and Foster!

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