Michael Kelly is the author of Scratching the Surface,
a collection of stories, and co-author (with Carol Weekes) of Ouroboros, a novel.
He lives in Ontario, Canada and runs a small press Undertow
Undertow and Other Laments
(Dark Regions Press, 2009)
by Mario Guslandi
Scratching the Surface
(Crowswing Books, 2007)
with Michael Kelly
How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?
Michael Kelly: Some of the stories were published five or six
years ago; some 2 or 3 years ago; and a few were written specifically for this
collection. Actually, one of the tales goes back about 9 years. Of course, the
length of time each story took to write varied. Some came out in a rush, while
others took years to gestate and form. The creative process remains a mystery
to me. I’m one of the rare writers who doesn’t really dwell a lot
have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
MK: In general, no. I was approached about a
collection. The only trouble was that I’d had a collection published a
couple years before. I’m not a terribly quick writer. I had 35,000 -
40,000 words of uncollected material. Some of it previously published. So I
wrote the last third of the book with the collection specifically in mind.
you choose which stories to include and in what order?
MK: I looked through all my works and it soon became
apparent that, if chosen carefully, a collection loosely themed on sorrow,
grief, loss, and melancholy — laments —was viable. The
worry, of course, is that the overall mood and tone is too much, that there
isn’t enough variety. Perhaps, indeed, that is the case. I did see
a couple of “reviews” that took me to task for a perceived lack of
entertainment. But the collection represents who I am. I’m incapable of writing
strictly escapist entertainment. It isn’t really what I want to do, at
any rate. But I am envious of those who can.
I then attempted to structure the order of tales in such a
way that it mimicked the building tension, the rising swells and descending
dips of classical music. I’m uncertain if that effect was achieved. To be
sure, it doesn’t follow the typical start strong, end strong scenario (a
tried and true method that I employ when putting together anthologies) where
the best tales are first and last. At least I don’t think so.
does the word "story"
mean to you?
MK: Story is the intersection of the heart and mind and
soul, where beauty and tragedy and the mundane intertwine to edify and educate
(and, yes, entertain) us, as we go about our generally despairing and fragile
Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?
MK: No, never. Each reader brings their own perceptions and
prejudices to the work. It’d be madness or folly for me to write with a
reader in mind. I do understand that some writers, especially those in the
commercial arena, can and must have a reader in mind.
anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection, anything at all?
MK: This speaks to the sadist in me, but I always want to know which
story or stories the reader disliked. Not just disliked, but actively despised.
There’s at least one in every collection. Even from your favourite
author(s). It gives me a perverse pleasure in knowing these things.
TSR: How does
it feel knowing that people are buying your book?
MK: People are buying the books? Woot! Show me the money!
Seriously, it is very gratifying knowing people are reading the work. A piece
of fiction, to me, doesn’t seem finished until it is read.
What are you working on now?
MK: Editing, mostly. I’ve just edited the inaugural
issue of a new literary journal, Shadows & Tall Trees. And I’m
putting finishing touches to an anthology, Chilling Tales, which will debut at
the World Horror Convention, 2011. I’ve penned a couple of very short
stories which will see publication soon.
the three most recent short story collections you've read?
MK: Lesser Demons by Norman Partridge; Quill and
Candle by Scott Thomas; The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel. Aside from these single
author collections I’ve read, partially read, or reread the following
anthologies: Cutting Edge, The End of the Line, The Mammoth Book of Best New
Horror 21, Haunted Legends, and The Color of Evil. Not to mention various
magazines and journals devoted to the short form.