Q: Why don’t your stories have . . .
KL: Endings? Sorry about that. I like to think of the places where my stories stop as more of a jumping-off place. What happens next is probably interesting, but if I’ve written a successful story, you’ll go on thinking about what happened next and maybe you’ll come up with some interesting ideas on your own. Besides, endings are a bit too much like tails on people. Attractive, maybe, but usually not all that convincing.
Q: You and your husband run an indie press called Small Beer Press. Why is it called that? Do you publish books about tiny beers? Also, that zine that you publish. Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. What’s up with that?
KL: Small beer is slang, in Scotland, for small business. My husband is Scottish. Also, he likes beer. What we publish are short story collections and novels, mostly stuff that would fall into the category of fiction that the writer China Mieville calls “weird shit.” We also started an imprint for young adult and middle grade readers called Big Mouth House where we’re publishing collections by writers like Joan Aiken and Holly Black.
The zine is a project we started because we wanted to publish work by new writers, more experimental work, some comics, and the kinds of stories that didn’t quite fit into either genre magazines or literary magazines. We publish two issues a year, and many of our readers subscribe at the chocolate level (each issue comes with a fancy chocolate bar)
Q: You published your first two collections yourself. Isn’t that kind of weird?
KL: Yes. It’s not the way publishing usually works. But as it turned out I’m just as interested in the publishing side as the writing side. I love copyediting, proofreading, layout, and working with artists. These aren’t usually aspects of publishing that writers get to explore.
Q: So why is Viking bringing out Pretty Monsters then?
KL: Because Sharyn November is awesome. And Jim Hoover is a better book designer than I am. And I’m not sure Small Beer could have afforded a cover by Will Staehle. And because although I used to work in a children’s bookstore, children’s book publishing is still a brand-new world from the publishing side.
Did I mention I’m a huge publishing geek? I’m being published by Viking. Viking is part of Penguin. I have Penguin mugs for drinking coffee, a Penguin tea towel, Phil Baine’s excellent book about Penguin book design, not to mention shelves and shelves full of those orange-and-white dust book covers.
Q: Why do you write ghost stories? Do you believe in ghosts?
I’ve never seen a ghost. Maybe if I had I’d be writing romance novels instead. When I was a kid I loved reading horror anthologies right before I went to sleep. My favorite writers were the ones who wrote ghost stories: Joan Aiken, Robert Westall, M. R. James, E. Nesbit, Stephen King. When I sit down to write a story what I usually want to do is write something scary.
Here’s a true ghost story.
Q: You have a lot of T-shirts. Where do you get them?
KL: My approach to fashion is that if my T-shirt is fancy enough, maybe nobody will care what else I’m wearing. I need to stop buying new T-shirts, though—I can’t open my drawers anymore. So I’m not going to buy any more T-shirts from Threadless and Gama-Go.
Q: Do you have any pets?
KL: We have a skunk living under our ping pong room. (Although right now I’m not playing ping pong. I’m watching Ugly Betty.) There’s a bear in our yard sometimes. No dog, right now, and no cats. And Gavin’s a vegetarian, so no bacon.
When I was a kid, I had a pet boa constrictor named Baby.
Q: Why do you put some of your stories up online for free?
KL: A couple of reasons. One: I have an inordinate and overpowering dread that someone will buy my collection and only then discovering they hate my fiction. That whole cow/milk/free thing? Cows—I mean books, they’re expensive! Even Ben and Jerry’s gives away some free ice cream once in a while.
Some of the stories I’ve put up online are stories we’ve released under the Creative Commons copyright. I’m doing this so that if someone reads them and wants to make a piece of music about one of the characters, they can. You could also write some fan fiction or make one of my stories into a comic book. Or a play. Or put a line from one of the stories on a T-shirt. As long as you’re not charging money for it.
Q: Is the Garment District a real place?
Q: Have you read Twilight?
KL: Yes. Can I ask you a question? Why do hot immortal vampires always fall in love with high school girls? One day I’d like to write a story about this.
Q: What are you working on now?
KL: More short stories. Also, Holly Black says I really ought to write a novel. So I’m thinking about writing a young adult novel in free verse about a high-school girl who interviews a vampire. No, really.
Q: What advice do you have for new writers?
KL: Let me think about that one for a while. And if you have any questions you’d like to ask, send me an email.
Send interesting and grammatically elegant questions here.
info at kellylink.net