Called “a gripping dystopian thriller” in a starred review in Publishers Weekly, Kit Reed‘s new novel Enclave is about dysfunctional kids trapped in a mountaintop boarding school. The Baby Merchant, is about the man who will do anything for a couple that wants a baby– for a price. With Thinner Than Thou a winner of the A.L.A. Alex Award, and her collection, Dogs of Truth, it is now available in trade paperback. The New York Times Book Review has this to say about her work: “Most of these stories shine with the incisive edginess of brilliant cartoons… they are less fantastic than visionary.” Other novels include @expectations, Captain Grownup, Fort Privilege, Catholic Girls, J. Eden and Little Sisters of the Apocalypse. As Kit Craig she is the author of Gone, Twice Burned and other psychological thrillers published here and in the UK. A Guggenheim fellow, she is the first American recipient of an international literary grant from the Abraham Woursell Foundation. She’s had stories in, among others, The Yale Review, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Omni and The Norton Anthology of Contemporary Literature.
A member of the board of the Authors League Fund, she serves as Resident Writer at Wesleyan University.
Q (Meg Pokrass): Daniel Handler refers to you as one if his most important early mentors. Can you talk about that, how that happens, what that kind of creative nurturing is about? What it feels like to have helped Daniel and others?
You work with people whose work you like, and it doesn’t take long to recognize the keepers. They’re the ones that are fun to work with, and you like working together. You make great friends and next thing you know they’re also terrific colleagues. Nobody can teach another person how to write. That’s something writers learn on the job, and the big issue is finding out who has the guts and persistence to go the distance.
You’ve spoken about how discovering in your brain a cadence or something external, if I have it right… you have to “hear” your people speaking to find them/create them. Do character’s voices come from inside your mind or from something you notice/overhear that leads you?
Actually, everything I hear, I hear inside my head. It’s an organic process. Paul Horgan once said “style is metabolic,” and I think he’s right. It’s why nobody’s sentences on a page look quite like John O’Hara’s or Scott Fitzgerald’s– or Mark K. Danielewski’s, for that matter, or the loopy cadences of David Foster Wallace. It’s something you HEAR, not something you overheard. I hear my characters coming before I know their names, and certainly before I see them. I think the way they think– I have to know what it sounds like inside their heads.
Where in the process of a new writing endeavor do we define our genre and our audience?
Salespeople do it, critics do it, writers just have to do what they do as best they can, and when it’s done and they come up for air, figure out what it is. Writing to the market is certain death because what you THINK people want is not necessarily what they want. You have to start by satisfying yourself– making something that pleases you.
What do mediocre writing teachers teach students that really messes with their heads?
Anything that sets out a dogmatic HOW-TO! Every writer is different. Everybody works differently. What’s important for a teacher is figuring out what the student is trying to do and helping them figure out how to do it BETTER. Not in any way telling them how to do it.
Do you have tricks to move things through when not feeling as inspired?
Sitting down every day at a regular time and doing what you have to do.
Can you share some of the good habits you have learned over the years which are helpful as a writer…?
Sitting down every day at a regular time and doing what I have to do. That and coffee with caramel latte biscotti.
What is exciting about this time as a writer w/ the internet and what it offers?
We’re all in touch with a lot more people– and a lot faster, which makes a job that is, essentially, a solo performance, a lot less boring. We can sit in front of the magic box doing what we have to do and PRETEND there’s a lot going on in our lives.
What is (conversely) not so good about it?
For entertainment, we don’t even have to run over to the window.
Any suggestions on regular day-to-day craft of writing?
Starting from the beginning of the file every day with a story, or a chapter… making it better until for the time being, you are satisfied that it’s gone as far as you can take it.
Will you mention some writers, artists, musicians (dead or alive) do you turn to again and again for inspiration?
I read a lot of Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene back in the day and that was only the beginning. Since I don’t believe in inspiration, I just read because I can’t NOT read; everything sinks in and sits there, layer on layer of stuff, some good, some bad, but as a reader, I don’t look back and as a writer casting around for the next thing, that’s not where I go fishing.
What is happening now in your writing world?
I’m sitting on page proofs of What Wolves Know, a new short story collection P.S. Publishing is doing in the UK and the US, with copies due in March. They’re doing a limited collectors’ edition, which will be expensive and gorgeous, but for the rest, they’re doing a hardcover trade edition– with a great cover design. I have stories in the Spring ’10 issue of The Kenyon Review, as well as stories in invited anthologies by Ellen Datlow Haunted Legends (edited with Nick Mamatas) and the forthcoming The Naked City, and one past, one coming in Asimov’s SF and one in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. I have one more to write before I look around to see what, exactly, the next novel will be.
The Fictionaut Five is our ongoing series of interviews with Fictionaut authors. Every Wednesday — and over the holidays, every Saturday — Meg Pokrass asks a writer five (or more) questions. Meg is the editor-at-large for BLIP Magazine, and her stories and poems have been published widely. Her first full collection of flash fiction, “Damn Sure Right” will be out in February from Press 53. She blogs at http://megpokrass.com.