Saturday, July 15, 2023

Q&A with Jennifer Fliss



Jennifer Fliss is the author of the new story collection As If She Had a Say. She also has written the story collection The Predatory Animal Ball. She is based in Seattle. 


Q: Over how long a period did you write the stories in As If She Had a Say?


A: This collection includes my earliest work. Probably about 2015 or 2016. I had come up with this collection before I came up with my previously published one, The Predatory Animal Ball, actually. (And I am now putting together a third.)


Q: The writer Chelsea Bieker said of the book, “Inventive, witty, and bracingly true, As If She Had a Say made me laugh, made my heart drop, and made me think deeply about the ways women must navigate a world that is not made for us.” What do you think of that description?


A: I was floored by her blurb. I admire her as a writer. She often writes the things people think about or recognize in life, but don’t include in stories. But it’s in those moments when we are most human. The embarrassing, the seemingly shameful.


Isn’t it always wildly flattering to have someone who you think is an incredible writer tell you they like your work? I read Godshot, which is about a girl navigating a world absolutely made for her in a superficial way, but not made for her on a real, personal level, and I still think about the protagonist Lacey May like she was an actual person.


I never set out to write quote-unquote feminist writing. But when you write women, you have two options: either write subordination and misogynistic dreck or you write feminist. There are so many people navigating a world not made for them and that is where the stories are. Compassion, growth, learning all comes from living it, and if not living it, then reading about that experience is the next best thing.


Good storytelling, in my opinion, comes out of challenge and conflict and navigating a situation or world where the path is not always clearly illuminated for you.

Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: Women so often do not get a say. We are fulfilling roles men have created for us. In so many situations, we just don’t get a say, even if it sometimes seem we do. My women, my characters, I feel, mostly overcome this within the arc of each story. They say, wait a minute, and then use their voice to speak up and act out.


It was originally titled As If You Had a Say. Which I chose for the same reasons above. But then it also kind of brings the reader in. I am speaking to you and how does this predetermined or determined-by-others path make you feel?


My editor suggested changing “you” to “she,” which make sense, POV-wise. The way it is now is inline with telling a story about women in general. It broadens it a bit, makes it more relatable, perhaps.


Q: How did you decide on the order in which the stories would appear in the collection?


A: They are mostly in chronological order to when I wrote them (mostly). My editor suggested this and I agree. It’s like there’s a natural path and climax that probably mirrored my abilities, subject interest, and writing education.


People are lulled to sleep on a train going straight, few bumps, few turns. People get excited on a rollercoaster – up and down and around and whoosh! I am hoping the order mixes it up, goes up and down for the reader, doesn’t lull them into sleep!


Q: What are you working on now?


A: A novel. I mean, aren’t we all? Even if we aren’t writing a novel, we’re all writing novels. I had written one several years back, sent it out, got great feedback, and ultimately wasn’t signed by an agent. I’d like to go back and edit that.


I also have a new idea because – squirrel! I like generating. I get distracted by new ideas. Revision is so hard for me.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I love writing. Often I see – mostly on social media – people talking about how hard it is and why do we choose this? Dorothy Parker said she “hates writing, but loves having written.” Fran Lebowitz said “I hate writing. I’ll do anything I can to avoid it.”


I understand some people feel they must write. But truly, it’s not a job you take on because you have bills to pay. No one is making you do it.


And there are aspects of the business that are hard. I don’t love revision and that’s part of writing. But generating? The writing writing part? I love it, enjoy it, and am grateful I have this gift.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Jennifer Fliss.

No comments:

Post a Comment