Martha Soukup (soukup) Thu 27 Mar 03 11:17
Kelly Link's collection, "Stranger Things Happen", was a Firecracker nominee, a Village Voice Favorite Book and a Salon Book of the Year. Salon called the collection "...an alchemical mixture of Borges, Raymond Chandler, and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Stories from the collection have won the Nebula, the James Tiptree Jr., and the World Fantasy Awards. More recent stories have appeared in Conjunctions and McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales. Kelly lives in Northampton, MA, and is currently working on a new collection of stories. Kelly and her husband, Gavin J. Grant, publish a twice-yearly zine, Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, and were recently selected by Terri Windling and James Frenkel as the new co-editors (with Ellen Datlow) of the Year's Best Fantasy and Horror. Coincidentally, Gavin J. Grant will be interviewing Kelly. Gavin is the publisher of Small Beer Press and editor and publisher of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, a twice-yearly small press zine. Fiction from LCRW has been reprinted in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror; Small Beer Press books have been chosen as Best of the Year by Salon, Book Magazine, The Village Voice, Locus, and other magazines. Originally from Scotland, Gavin moved to the USA in 1991. He lives in Northampton, MA, with his wife, Kelly Link, and is trying to balance freelancing, Small Beer Press, and renovating an old farmhouse. Please welcome Kelly and Gavin for an intimate discussion of writing, editing, publishing, and home improvement!
Gavin Grant (gavingrant) Fri 28 Mar 03 06:32
Thanks for the great intro, Martha! This might be a little strange, since Kelly is actually sitting across from me right now, but we will try and keep the interview electronic. Kelly, here's an easy one to start with. In Martha's introduction she says you're working on a new collection of short stories, what does that mean? What are you working on?
Kelly Link (kellylink) Fri 28 Mar 03 07:44
Thanks, Martha, for putting this together. Okay, before I answer Gavin's question, maybe I should set the scene. Gavin and I are both in the same office, in our new house -- the office is just slightly smaller than our old apartment in Brooklyn was. We spend all our time in here: we have a sofa in here, and a woodstove, and a large-ish mini-trampoline, which my brother just sent me. Lots of temporary brick and board bookshelves, and a table, which I'm typing at. I can hear Gavin typing away at the desk behind me, and Missy Elliott is on the stereo. So. What I'm working on is more short stories. I'm working on a haunted house story w/ rabbits, and a smaller, looser story that comes from hearing a selection from a series of interviews on NPR -- what I remember is the question "And who will be fired from the cannon?" And the answer was "My brother will be fired from the cannon." So that's my starting place. Every time I work on the haunted house story, I add a few more sentences to the cannon story. I've never tried to work on two stories simultaneously, but for a while it was actuallly three stories, the third being a story about a convenience store & zombies. But I've more or less finished that one.
Gavin Grant (gavingrant) Fri 28 Mar 03 07:52
The Missy CD was inside another CD box. I figured it was as good a way as any to wake up. Ghosts seem to inhabit quite a few of your stories (I'm thinking of "The Specialist's Hat," "Louise's Ghost," and "Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose"). What is it about ghosts that keeps you going back to them? Is it the thought of dying? Is it things beyond our control? Or...?
Kelly Link (kellylink) Fri 28 Mar 03 08:29
Hmm. I haven't thought about this very much. Or rather, I probably have thought about it, and then forgotten that I've thought about it. I think one thing, maybe, is that we are all inhabited by our own ghosts. That is, we are ghosts as much as we're living, walking, talking, physically present people. We haunt our own bodies, we fail to communicate with ourselves and with other people. And of course the other thing is that no one knows what happens when we die. Hopefully, it's strange and interesting and there are still libraries. I've always loved ghost stories best of every kind of possible story. I grew up reading those Helen Hoke anthologies of ghost stories, and Joan Aiken collections, and M. R. James, and Robert Westall. I used to scare myself to sleep.
Gavin Grant (gavingrant) Fri 28 Mar 03 08:43
I know you want me to ask about what you're reading. I wasn't going to, but since this will go on for two weeks and that's a lot of books in Kelly-time (she reads pretty fast) perhaps asking this question a couple of times is appropriate. I -- and hopefully other people, too -- will get back to the haunting our own bodies later. So what are you reading right now? And, of all the books in stacks (a lot of shelving still to be built...) around the house, why those?
Kelly Link (kellylink) Fri 28 Mar 03 09:20
I love to be asked what I'm reading. It makes me feel slightly more virtuous about the fact that I spend too much time reading, and not enough time doing other things, as if my answers might come in handy. What I'm reading now : M. John Harrison's collection, _Things That Never Happen_ the new McSweeney's magazine, The Believer Edward Ardizzone, _Sketches for Friends_ Jincy Willett, _Jenny and the Jaws of Life_ China Mieville, _The Tain_ Richard Morgan, _Altered Carbon_ Norah Labiner, _Miniatures_ Susan Stinson, _Martha Moody_ The Richard Morgan is fun, but I keep putting it down and forgetting where exactly I've put it down. _The Tain_ is wonderful, and last night before I fell asleep I read Harrison's short story "Egnaro," which is absolutely wonderful. So is his story "The Incalling," which is kind of Robert Aickman-y. Jincy Willett is wonderful too. And there's a used bookstore in Northampton where all the books are only three or four dollars, so I've just bought a hardcover copy of Jayne Loader's collection _Wild America_, and also_Taylor's Guide to Heirloom Vegetables_. I want to grow lots and lots of tomatoes this summer. And I've just finished reading Kate Atkinson's collection, _Not the End of the World_ and am filled with admiration for the way in which she manages to mention "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" in almost every single story -- I guess it's appropriate in a collection with that title. I've also just read a galley of Kevin Brockmeier's novel, _The Truth About Celia_, which I loved. His collection, _Things That Fall From the Sky_ ,came out last year, and I found a copy of it at the Strand. I don't know where I've put it, though. We're building bookcases right now, and laying down floor, and painting various rooms, so most of the stacks of books around the house are temporary stacks. Books appear and then disappear and then appear again. They migrate from room to room. I'm not reading things straight through right now -- I become distracted by the news, and put the current book down, and wander away. So I guess I should also mention that I'm reading lots of newspapers online -- Salon, of course, and also The Guardian and The Independent.
Kelly Link (kellylink) Fri 28 Mar 03 10:04
One more thing, on the subject of ghost stories, while I'm thinking about them. I think reading fiction is a very ghostly experience. You're reading about people who don't really exist -- they're imitations of life -- written about by a person whom you usually don't know, and who doesn't know you. So it's a very weird kind of communication, like a seance, only usually without the dramatic lighting effects and the handholding, and hopefully without the ectoplasm. I'm not really sure who's the ghost here -- the reader, who participates in the story without ever being able to physically manifest themselves in it? The writer, who has moved on to the next world? The story itself, and all the characters in it? All different kinds of ghosts, I think.
Gail Williams (gail) Fri 28 Mar 03 12:07
William H. Dailey (whdailey) Fri 28 Mar 03 15:54
Dear Kelly Please see http://www.cheniere.org It may seem to be fantasy but it is real. The author has some things to say about the afterlife that may interest you.
Angus MacDonald (angus) Fri 28 Mar 03 17:28
Make sure you don't put the trampoline in your front yard; attractive nuisance and all that. I really liked =Stranger Things Happen= a lot. [One of the nice surprises in it was the mention of the "Reverend Walker Skating" picture, because years ago Mom returned from a vacation stop in Edinburgh with a print of that as a gift for us, and it's been by the front door since.] My question for now is: how much Borges and Chandler have you read? Any favorites?
Kelly Link (kellylink) Sat 29 Mar 03 11:10
I love that painting. I found a tie with lots of little Reverend Walkers skating across it in the gift shop at the National Gallery, and bought it for Gavin. He's worn it with his kilt a few times, although the tie is blue and the kilt is red. I've read a lot of Borges, and some Chandler -- not as much Chandler. I like the idea of hardboiled better than I ever like hardboiled, but then again, my tastes will probably evolve into Chandler at some point... A few years ago I read Jen Banbury's _Like a Hole in the Head_ which was like Chandler, but goofier. The details about working in bookstores were spot-on.
Gavin Grant (gavingrant) Sat 29 Mar 03 13:36
It's hard to get a good tie to go with a bright red kilt. I like strong colors together, though. Sometimes. When I'm not wearing all those earth'n'hemp tones. So, ghosts. Do you think the ghosts of your former (and future?) selves inhabit or inflect your writing?
Kelly Link (kellylink) Sun 30 Mar 03 06:24
Sorry, I don't understand the question. Maybe after I've eaten breakfast...
Martha Soukup (soukup) Sun 30 Mar 03 22:11
That's a big breakfast!
Gavin Grant (gavingrant) Mon 31 Mar 03 06:37
You know breakfast on a Sunday.... It becomes brunch -- OT question: why are the first pancakes or crepes not as good as the rest? I don't think when we write we're fully based in the present. There are memories of previous stories we've written and read, ideas we hope to explore, future events we're curious about (or want to avoid). What I was trying to do was use the word "ghost/s" to ask if your former self/selves and ideas about where you might be in the future influence your present-day writing? PS This isn't a yes/no question!
Kelly Link (kellylink) Mon 31 Mar 03 09:11
I'm actually very fond of the first, exploratory crepe or pancake, but then I also really like the chocolate chip cookies that end up well-done. I'm going to have to pass on that question. I think my answer is yes, and no, and also, what?
Gavin Grant (gavingrant) Mon 31 Mar 03 09:16
Ah well, onto other perhaps easier things. These questions being the second crepe, as it were, of the batch. Besides writing, you've been doing a fair amount of editing recently -- and it only looks to increase in the future. So, a couple of questions: -- are you worried at all that more editing = less writing? -- what do you enjoy about editing? Are you a demon copyeditor or it is the larger view that you enjoy? -- Now that the anthology you've been editing (Trampoline, July 2003) is almost done, what has been the difference between editing a zine (Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet) and a book?
Kelly Link (kellylink) Mon 31 Mar 03 09:48
I suspect that I'll always be more of a reader than a writer. As I've said, this may just be laziness on my part. Writing is odd, slow work -- I'm trying to get more stories written, and to get out and write more, but it feels like tickling trout. I don't work very efficiently, even when I'm having fun. So I don't really worry that I won't get as much writing done because I'm doing more editing, because I don't really get all that much writing done anyway. I like copyediting, and looking at stories on a sentence-by-sentence level. I like talking to writers about their work. I have very mixed feelings about asking for significant rewrites -- most of the time, i think writers know better than editors what their stories are about, and how they should be put together. Even line-editing can be a kind of tampering. I like figuring out story order -- putting together an anthology has been a lot like putting together a mix tape for a friend. The difference between LCRW and Trampoline is that the production values are better, and the print run will be slightly higher (2,000 copies vs. 700 copies). If we can break even on Trampoline, then we'll put out more anthologies of original work.
Gavin Grant (gavingrant) Mon 31 Mar 03 09:52
>and how they should be put together. Even line-editing can be a kind of tampering. I know you've taught writing and partake in writing workshops. Do you approach stories differently if you are the editor than if you are in a workshop with a writer?
Gavin Grant (gavingrant) Mon 31 Mar 03 09:57
Are production values really the only difference? Were your standards at all different? Did you consider including nonfiction? Did you consider the wider audience this collection will have?
Gavin Grant (gavingrant) Mon 31 Mar 03 09:58
And now that we're talking of Trampolines ("A trampoline in every home!"), why don't you tell us something about it? Anthologies are interesting beasts. At bookshop readings I love to sit next to the anthology section (I think my favorite was at Shaman Drum in Ann Arbor, MI) and look at all the fantastic collections. There is so much work put into them -- I don't mean that in any way disingenuously -- and I wonder why people do them for the tiny return (yes financially, but also respect, response, etc). Your thoughts?
Kelly Link (kellylink) Tue 1 Apr 03 08:41
>I know you've taught writing and partake in writing workshops. Do you approach stories differently if you are the editor than if you are in a workshop with a writer? Of course it's different as an editor -- and it's probably another degree of difference, being an editor who also writes: I'm both more likely to feel that I know how to really polish someone else's writing, because I write myself, and also more likely to feel that tampering with someone's work is risky and invasive, and that the author probably knows what they want the story to be. And then again, as a writer, I have the contradictory and sneaking suspicion that sometimes the writer has hold of a good stick by the wrong end, and that a good editor would point this out. Workshops are another kind of beast. Frequently the work that you're looking at is a draft, rather than a finished story. The author may be hoping for drastic suggestions or critiques. And there are all different kinds of workshops -- sometimes, in peer workshops, it's less a matter of taking a story apart to see how to make it better, and more a case of disassembling to see why it works so well. I went to Clarion, a 6 week genre workshop, in 1995. I taught there two years ago, and will be teaching there this summer. I'm a graduate of an MFA program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I work for an online writing workshop. I'm a big believer that workshops are good for writers, although the benefits are not necessarily the obvious ones. I think you learn more from reading and talking about other people's stories than you do from getting feedback on your own work. It can be hard to take in what the workshop says to you, when you're still trying to work through the story yourself, and haven't gotten any critical distance from it. A good workshop learns how to read each other's work, and doesn't apply a one-size-fits-all style of critique. You don't want to make everyone's stories sound the same. Over time, writers in workshops learn to how to listen to critiques, and figure out who they should pay attention to. You can actually make even bad advice useful, if you spend enough time figuring out how and why that advice puts up your hackles. And the more you read -- the more widely and carefully you read -- you take all that back to your own writing. Then again, workshops are horrible for some writers. Hopefully you figure that out fairly quickly.
Kelly Link (kellylink) Tue 1 Apr 03 08:53
Back to Trampoline and LCRW: >Are production values really the only difference? Were your standards at all different? Did you consider including nonfiction? Did you consider the wider audience this collection will have? Sure, the standards were slightly different. The policy for LCRW has always been that we would take interesting work, even if it had flaws -- as long as they were interesting flaws. We've also published a fair number of debut stories. But there have also been stories that we fell in love with, and couldn't believe we had gotten our hands on. That's why we started LCRW, because there didn't seem to be a consistent market for some of the kinds of stories that you and I both love. There are two stories in forthcoming issues of LCRW that I very badly wish we could have published in TRAMPOLINE -- one by Jan Lars Jensen, and the other a story co-written by Philip Raines and Hervey Welles. But there wasn't space. As for audience, again, it's like making a mix tape for an imaginary friend. All the stories in TRAMPOLINE are stories that I wanted to put into people's hands, and say, read this. You have got to read this. Conventional wisdom says that short story collections don't sell a lot of copies, and that original anthologies sell even less. So I don't know about the audience -- it may very well be imaginary. And there's no poetry or nonfiction in TRAMPOLINE, which is another difference between it and LCRW. I didn't really think about including it. I'd like to publish more poetry.
Kelly Link (kellylink) Tue 1 Apr 03 09:20
>Anthologies are interesting beasts. At bookshop readings I love to sit next to the anthology section (I think my favorite was at Shaman Drum in Ann Arbor, MI) and look at all the fantastic collections. There is so much work put into them -- I don't mean that in any way disingenuously -- and I wonder why people do them for the tiny return (yes financially, but also respect, response, etc). Your thoughts? TRAMPOLINE is the result of _Stranger Things Happen_ selling a certain amount of copies. Once STH had made enough money, we could finance an anthology. The goal is always to break even, or do slightly better, so that we can put the next two books out. As for the tiny return, very few writers get much money or response to their work. Editors get even less. But who cares? I can't think of anything better than getting to write what I want to write, publish writers that I love, and have a career where I'm supposed to read everything that I can. When I was growing up, I had huge crushes on writers like Joan Aiken and Joyce Ballou Gregorian and Robin McKinley and Diana Wynne Jones and Saki and Alfred Payson Terhune, etc. I wouldn't ever have written fan letters to them -- I was shy. I'm sure I must have had a very active imaginary life, in which I met them and said intelligent things, and showed them stories that I'd written, and they were absolutely knocked over by my blazing talent -- but I was also smart enough to know that this was the most ridiculous kind of wish fulfillment, and real life didn't work that way. So it's kind of strange to have met writers whose work I love, and find out that they've read my work as well. Being a reader is a weird thing. You have a relationship with the author, because you have read their work. Frequently that work reflects something life in general, or about your life -- you feel that they know you, but of course they don't. So it's odd when you meet writers out in public places -- it can be like meeting a good friend who has absolutely no memory of your friendship. I'm still shy around writers, who are friends, who have written books that I love. I'm completely off-topic now, but what I was trying to get around to saying is that I didn't expect my life to work out like this. I knew that most writers never got published. I knew that even wonderful books didn't necessarily sell more than a couple of hundred titles. I knew writers -- esp. short story writers -- didn't make a living at writing (I don't make my living from writing short stories, by the way -- I have lots of freelance jobs). I knew that even when editors loved books, they didn't necessarily get to publish them. But despite knowing all of this, things have worked out fairly well. I worry about this. Things are going far too well.
Gavin Grant (gavingrant) Tue 1 Apr 03 10:20
So what kind of freelance jobs do you do. And, since we're in the realms of the fantastic here, what kind of freelance -- or other -- jobs would you like to do?
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