Kelly Link broke onto the bigger literary
scene with her short story collection Stranger Things Happen,
followed by Magic for
Beginners. Because of the creativity, humor, and
intelligence evident in each of her complex stories, she moved quickly
from being known by a small group of readers to winning Nebula awards
and a Hugo and a World Fantasy Award.
with Kelly Link
How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?
Kelly Link: Altogether, I wrote these stories over the course of fifteen years. The earliest one is The Specialist's Hat, and the title story is a story that I finished just as the collection was being put together. Monster, The Wrong Grave, and The Faery Handbag were some of the most fun I've ever had -- I wrote each of those in about three days, whereas The Surfer took about a year.
have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
few years ago I realized that I had almost enough stories that would
work as a cross-over collection for young adults. Some of them were
published in the U.S. in my first two collections, Stranger Things Happen, and Magic for Beginners.
It started to seem like a really good idea to collect them all in one
place, especially as my editor promised to help entice Shaun Tan to
provide original illustrations.
you choose which stories to include and in what order?
KL: The Wrong Grave
is one of my favorite stories, possibly because it's so much fun to
read out loud. The narrator's very grabby, very intense. It seemed like
a good way to lead off. Pretty Monsters
seemed like it ought to come last, because it's a pretty dense story,
and I wanted that ending to linger. After that, it was mostly trying to
make sure that various stories didn't bump up against each other too
hard. For example, I don't think The Faery Handbag would have the same impact if it were right up against The Wrong Grave.
Length factors in too. You want to provide some breathing room. I would have liked to include a few other stories from Magic for Beginners and Stranger Things Happen,
but at a certain point the collection felt complete. Or else it felt
like an elevator with no more room on it. All of the stories are meant
to be ones that would appeal to younger readers as well as adult
does the word "story"
mean to you?
It means I expect (I hope) to come away feeling that short, sharp
shock, (which Wikipedia tells me is also the name of "a treatment for
young criminals" under the Thatcher administration. Yikes. I'm the
editor of a small press, and I also teach creative writing. What I'm
hoping for when I read a story for workshop, or out of the slushpile,
is something that takes risks, that feels like it mattered to its
writer. A writer I know says you ought to "follow your inner rage,
follow your inner perv" when you sit down to write. I translate that
as: write the story that only you would be able to write. Follow it all
the way down the hole.
Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?
often a reader sitting across the table from me when I write. My
favorite way to work is in a coffeeshop or bar (or beside a pool, for
that matter) with one or more writers within conversational reach. When
I'm at home and when she's at home, Holly Black and I team up, because
it's a relief to have company while you're at work, miserably, at
something. When when you're happily at work, it's nice to be able to
gloat a little. And when we get stuck, we pass our computers across the
table to each other, and then talk about what might work better. I've
belonged to various professional writing groups, and by this point when
I'm thinking about how a story might be read, I can rethink it from a
number of different perspectives.
anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection,
anything at all?
spent years working in bookstores, and so when I meet readers, mostly
what I want to know is, what do you like to read? Who are your favorite
authors? Because then I get the pleasure of recommending books to them.
There's nothing better than recommending books. The stakes are much
lower than setting up dates for your friends, and it's so satisfying
when you put the right book in someone's hands.
TSR: How does
it feel knowing that people are buying your book?
Worrying. I'm still a bookstore clerk at heart. I want to make sure
everybody ends up with the right book, not necessarily with my book.
What are you working on now?
There's a picture book I'd like to try
to write. And two stories: one about demon possession, and the other
about self storage. Two of the most recent stories I've finished were
about superheroes, and I'd like to write one more superhero story, as
well as one more zombie story. Then I'd have two short story trilogies
(or perhaps, since they're short stories, it would be more accurate to
call them tripods or triplets or triptychs. Something not quite so
the three most recent short story collections you've read?
KL: The Boat by Nam Le, The Collected Ghost Stories of E. F. Benson, and The Far Forests by Joan Aiken. Right now I'm in the middle of the second volume of Ruth Rendell's collected stories.