Charles Tan interviews Kit Reed

Kit Reed is the author of the Shirley Jackson Awards nominated short story collection What Wolves Know.

Hi Kit! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. First off, for your collection What Wolves Know, what was your criteria for selecting the stories that went into the collection?

I chose the stories I chose because of the ones I’d published since the “Dogs of Truth” collection, they were my favorites. “Monkey Do” because it’s funny and I wrote it in a single day! The others, like “What Wolves Know” and “Song of the Black Dog” are, I don’t know, denser than most of my earlier stories– more going on, and at more levels. This is true of all of them, especially “Missing Sam,” which basically sums up a woman’s lifetime– it’s based on something that happened in one of the towns I grew up in, to somebody I never actually knew. I like the new stories because it’s nature’s way of telling me that my work has gotten better than it was when I first started publishing short stories back when dinosaurs walked.

Your body of work spans decades of writing. What makes you keep coming back to the short story format?

In this particular case, I had a run of short stories because I broke the absolute HELL out of my leg: cadaver graft, Zimmer plate, cables and screws, three months on crutches and four more on a cane, which meant for the first three months I spent a lot of time on the sofa (not allowed to put weight on that leg or their rotten hardware might break). With a serious injury, your concentration goes to hell for at least a year. There was no way I could even contemplate a novel. Too many particles to hold in my head. Short stories, I could manage (I finished “Camp Nowhere” in the first 2 weeks out of the hospital), and at least two thirds of these stories were written within that year.

In the afterword, Joseph Reed makes a good case for not pigeonholing your writing into any genre. How would you describe your fiction?

I think I hit on the right explanation when I coined “transgenred.” In short, I do what I have to because I have to do it, wouldn’t know a trope if I fell into one and truth to tell, I don’t belong ANYWHERE. It isn’t sad, it’s liberating, although I pay for it, i.e. I can’t be slotted ergo am harder to sell. Freedom is interesting. Some stuff goes to lit mags (Kenyon Review, a story this summer in The Yale Review and two coming in Asimov’s later this year). I do what I want because I have to do it and when it’s done I sit back and hope to God somebody wants it… and usually somebody does. Severn House will be publishing a novel it took me 8 years to get right– Son of Destruction– this fall in the UK and next March pretty much simultaneously with the Wesleyan University Press’s giant collection The Story Until Now: a Retrospective. Wow, 2013 will be a two book year. So as long as I can keep doing what I’m doing, I’m grateful… especially to editors and publishers willing to bring it into print.

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