Saturday, May 14, 2011

Kevin Brockmeier

Kevin Brockmeier is the author of the short story collection Things That Fall from the Sky, and The Brief History of the Dead and The Truth About Celia, among other books. His latest novel is The Illumination.

From Brockmeier's Q & A with Michele Filgate at Bookslut:

Your second novel, The Brief History of the Dead, was originally a short story. Was that also the case for The Illumination?

Yes and no. In both cases, I knew that I was actually beginning a novel, but I wanted to satisfy the terms of some smaller introductory structure as a way of easing myself into the larger continuing structure of the book. I tend to think of the opening pages of a novel as a testing ground, a place where I can figure out how its sentences will work, its rhythms; answer the questions I have about the balance and motion of its voice; discover the emotional tones it will allow me to use; determine how intimate its intimacies will be; and in general prepare the way for the narrative that will follow.

With The Illumination, it's not that I wrote a short story and then recognized the broader possibilities of the idea; I recognized the broader possibilities of the idea and found a way to broach them in a short (though really rather long: 13,000-word) story. Beyond that, I tried to design nearly every section of the book so that it could stand alone, completely apart from the others. In fact, three of its pieces were originally published elsewhere as self-contained narratives: "Ryan Shifrin" in Tin House, "Jason Williford" in The Toad Suck Review, and the fairy tale embedded in Nina Poggione's section, "A Fable for the Living," in Electric Literature.

One of the things that attracts me to your writing is the blending of literary fiction with genre elements. There’s often a sci-fi/magical realism bend to your work. Why is that? What inspires you to do that?

I think of myself as working within -- or at least aspiring to work within -- the very particular tradition of writers whose books I happen to love. Many of those writers are realists, but many others are fantasists, though it's a toss-up as to whether you'll find their books shelved with the literary fiction or with the science fiction and fantasy. All of them, though, regardless of their genre affiliations, are authors of tremendous vision, great craft, and a complex and absorbing sense of what it means to be alive. All of them write the kind of books that inspire me to emulation.

Aside from that, I suppose I turn to the fantastic or the magical or the strange or the uncanny so often because...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue