Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Kelly Link Introduction

The following are a couple of questions from an interview with Kelly Link on writing. But mostly this is just an introduction to Kelly Link. I've never met her, but LOVE, her writing - it's not screenplays, but her short stories are so visual that they feel like little romantic, horror, mythical, dark short films.

The website where you can read a few of her short stories for free is www.KellyLink.net

And here are the couple questions on who she is, and even better, her writing process...

"KK: When I first read Pretty Monsters, I was struck by how effectively you captured the darker side of being a teen- the cruelty of the boys in “Monster,” Miles’ self-absorption in “The Wrong Grave,” Clementine’s self-delusion in “Pretty Monsters,” the violent anger in “The Cinderella Game.” It is a very powerful technique. How do you tap into the emotions of teens, and how do you express it in writing in a genuine way?

KL: The height of my popularity was probably when I was in kindergarten. I’d have to check with my mother, but the way I remember it, I was in charge. I told other kids what to do, came up with games to play, or suggested doing things that we weren't supposed to do, and everyone pretty much went along with it. But by the time I knew how to read -- somewhere between 1st and 2nd grade -- my star was declining. Maybe reading was my downfall?

We moved from Pennsylvania to Miami when I was in fourth grade, and when I was in 10th grade, we moved again, to Greensboro, NC. I had fewer and fewer friends each time we moved. Not to mention, by the time I was in fifth grade, I was wearing headgear to school. Sometimes I’d also bring along my pet boa constrictor, Baby. I could wear her as a belt, and at the time that seemed really cool -- even though, of course, it wasn't. I spent a lot of time catching geckoes and anoles, and I didn't always have the good sense not to do this in front of other people.

The short version is, I was a weird girl with funny teeth who had a pet boa constrictor and spent most of her time reading fantasy and science fiction. Oh yeah, and I also wet the bed until I was in sixth grade. And I’m also pretty sure that I was awkward, socially inept, etc. etc. When you’re not popular, you spend a lot of time observing the people who are popular, for a couple of reasons: you are trying to avoid being noticed/made fun of, and also, you are trying to figure out how they do it. You spend a lot of time thinking about why people are the way they are. You imagine unlikely scenarios in which you might be friends with the people who are making fun of you.

When I write, it’s very easy to access all of those emotions again. I’m still the same person. I care much less about what people think of me now, but I still care about what people thought of me then. And in the end, I care about all of my characters -- the ones who are brave, the ones who are mean, the ones who do stupid things, or who never figure things out. I can imagine being all of them.

KK: Your bio on the book is brief- it mainly lists the awards you've won. Can you tell us a little about yourself, beyond the bare facts?

KL: I'm 41 years old, and married to Gavin J. Grant, who is also a writer. We run Small Beer Press together, and until last year we lived in a small farmhouse with a big, overgrown backyard in Northampton, MA. Earlier on this blog tour I wrote about our daughter, Ursula, who was born at 24 weeks and 1 and 1/2 lbs in February 2009. We've spent the last year in hospitals, with her, because of complications due to her prematurity. A couple of months ago she finally came home with us to an apartment in Brighton.

Before we started Small Beer Press, I'd mostly worked in bookstores, or done various freelance projects, partly because I wanted to avoid any job where I would have to wear panty hose, or answer a phone. I had a fear of jobs involving call buttons. My father was a Presbyterian minister who went back to grad school, when I was a kid, to get a degree in psychology. He now lives on a farm in North Carolina with my stepmother, and gardens, builds barns, and practices as a psychologist. My mother and I worked together in a children's bookstore for a few years while I was in graduate school. She's a teacher. I'm the oldest of three children. I have one brother and one sister.

I'm a feminist. I like dark chocolate better than milk chocolate. I like roller coasters and German board games. I spend too much time online reading posts on Apartment Therapy, Fandom Wank, and Jezebel. I like roller coasters. I'm left handed, I like Burmese food, and I really wish that at some point I'd managed to live on the West Coast -- Seattle, or San Francisco. I've lived all up and down the East Coast, and I'd love to live even closer than I do to an ocean, preferably one that I could swim in. The two best vacations I've ever been on were ones where I went swimming every day: in Jamaica, on a writer's retreat, and in Byron's Bay, in Australia. A perfect day would be one that involved swimming, some writing, dinner with friends, and a stack of good books waiting to be read.

KK: How did you get started in writing? What was your path to publication?

KL: Here's a pretty complete history: I took three workshops with the writer Raymond Kennedy at Columbia College. In the last workshop I turned in three chapters of a novel, and he gave them to his agent, Binky Urban, as well as to his editor. They both asked to meet with me, to see if I was planning on writing more of that novel. I was about to graduate and go traveling -- I'd won a free trip around the world -- and I wasn't sure whether or not I could finish a novel. When I came home, I still didn't want to finish the novel, but I did decide to apply to the MFA program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. In my second year, I started submitting stories to magazines -- before that, I'd entered The Writer's of the Future contest, and maybe also submitted something to The Twilight Zone, which was a magazine, along with Night Cry, that I loved. I submitted "Flying Lessons" to Ellen Datlow at Omni, and something to a literary magazine -- I can't remember which magazine, or what story. Those stories were rejected, but I also submitted "Like Water Off a Black Dog's Back" to a new magazine, Century, and was amazed when the editor wrote back to accept it. I also applied to the Clarion Workshop, and got in.

While I was at Clarion, Asimov's bought "Flying Lessons" and Realms of Fantasy bought "Vanishing Act." All of this was thrilling -- but then I didn't sell another story for the next two years. I was very slow to submit work before 1994. I thought that what I was writing was pretty good, but I also thought that as the author, I probably wasn't the best judge of whether my work was publishable -- or interesting to other people. So I didn't submit anything until I was pushed to do so. Ellen Datlow ended up being the editor who really championed my work -- even that first rejection was very encouraging -- this is what I tell writers who haven't sold their fiction yet. You may or may not be a good writer, but even if your work is publishable, it may take a while to find the editor who is the right reader for you.

The best thing to do is to keep on submitting to the places and the editors that you most admire, that you most want to be published in & by.

KK: When you write, what’s your routine? For example, do you need peace and quiet, or do you prefer to work with music playing?

KL: I have a mix on my iPod that I listen to, but I also like to sit in a cafe and have other people around me, talking and eating. I like a certain level of background noise. I like to work in the afternoon, and to have at least two or three hours to settle in. I love to work at a table with other writers. At a certain point in a story, I am still writing on my computer, but I also carry around a pad of paper so that I can put down notes or ideas or sentences that will go into the story the next time I'm at the computer.

KK: How do you write? For instance, do you use an outline, or write a certain number of words each day?

KL: I haven't written anything in the last year or so -- I've hardly managed to write even very basic emails, or to keep in touch with friends. But before that, I was starting to realize that I'm a writer who likes to have a fixed routine of some kind. And then, after a year or two, I need to find a new routine, because the old one doesn't work so well anymore -- I've started to come up with ways of avoiding writing. A lot of the time I'd rather do anything than write.

When I am writing, I start at the beginning of a story every time I sit down, and make revisions -- small and large -- until I get to the place where I left off. And then I do a little new work, and then go back to the beginning again, or to a part that doesn't yet feel right. I'm continuously revising. This method probably works better for stories than for novels, although sometimes, even with this process of revision, I can get a story done quite quickly, say in a day or so. Other stories take months, or even a year." -Interview by by Kirsten Kowalewski on the site www.monsterlibrarian.com

No comments:

Post a Comment