Charles Tan Interviews Karen Joy Fowler

Karen Joy Fowler

Hi! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. What is it about the Booth family that interests you as “Booth’s Ghost” isn’t your first (and hopefully not the last) short story you’ve written about them? 

Actually, Mary Doria Russell is encouraging me to write a novel about the Booths and I am seriously considering it.  I’ve been accused of being fascinated with John Wilkes, but I deny this.  My last story was about the conspirators and particularly Mary Surratt’s innocent daughter.  My current fascination is Edwin Booth and his sister Asia.  The destruction of their lives through the acts of their younger brother is such a Shakespearian story, human-sized but also immense, epic, and the fact that half the players in it are Shakespearian actors is irresistible.  And I’ve always been interested in the people on the edges of the great events.  I like the stories about the stories.  

How did you decide that “Booth’s Ghost” would make its debut in What I Didn’t See and Other Stories?

Small Beer wanted at least one unpublished story in the collection and Booth’s Ghost happened to be the one I was writing at that time.  I’d been thinking about this story for quite awhile — years in fact — so when I was finally ready to write it, I was able to go quicker than my usual pace.   I was particularly pleased to find that it had a happy ending.  I don’t manage those often.

What I Didn’t See and Other Stories is a tight and strong short story collection. Who decided what stories went into the book and how did Small Beer Press end up publishing the book?

Thank you!  Kelly Link and Gavin Grant and I had been talking about a possible Small Beer collection for a couple of years.  I wanted a good collection and I don’t think I’m able to see which are my best stories and which not so much.  I like them all the same, which means some days I like them and some days I don’t.   So I asked Kelly and Gavin to make those decisions.  They made suggestions and I agreed.  So easy!  A perfect working relationship.

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