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Jennifer Pelland

Website: JenniferPelland.com

Jennifer Pelland is a Waltham, MA, based writer of dark science fiction and fantasy. Her work has been nominated for the Nebula and Gaylactic Spectrum awards.

Short story collections

Unwelcome Bodies (Apex Book Company, 2008) 

Reviewed by Sarah Hilary

Interview with Jennifer Pelland

The Short Review: How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?

Jennifer Pelland: The earliest story was written in 2002, and the latest in 2007, so pretty much my entire writing career. They're not the only stories I wrote and published during that time period, but they're some of my favorites.

TSR: Did you have a collection in mind when you were writing them?

JP: No. I mean, I had fantasies of having a collection out some day, but I didn't write any of the stories with a collection expressly in mind.

TSR: How did you choose which stories to include and in what order?

JP: To give a little background, I got involved with Apex Books back when it was just Apex Digest, the science fiction horror magazine. So when they started branching into books and asked me if I'd like a collection, I tried to keep the Apex aesthetic in mind as I selected the pieces. At the same time, I didn't want to include too many stories that had been published in Apex Digest, because I suspected that the people who'd be buying the book would have already read most, if not all of them. I also decided to stick with my serious stories, because I wasn't sure how satisfying a reading experience it would be to be swinging between comedy and drama every other story, especially once I'd settled on the title. And then when it came time to figure out what order to put them in, I just got lazy and ordered them by publication date. The three previously unpublished pieces I ordered by length. It's been interesting seeing people's reaction to that. Some reviewers say they wished I'd ordered the stories more thematically, while others say it's interesting to watch my writing abilities grow as the pub years tick by.

TSR: What does the word "story" mean to you?

JP:  It means the perfect little nugget of plot, something you can read in less than an afternoon, but that has the power to blow off the back of your skull off in a way that a bulky novel flat-out can't.

TSR: Do you have a "reader" in mind when you write stories?

JP: Not really. Sometimes, I find myself writing with the thought of finally impressing a particular editor, but beyond that, I'm just writing what I'm personally fascinated by at the moment.

TSR: Is there anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your
collection, anything at all?

JP: I'd be curious to find out what impression the stories give them of their author.

TSR: How does it feel knowing that people are buying your book?

JP: Pretty awesome. It's a feeling I've been looking forward to for a very long time, and it's great to have finally gotten to this place.

TSR: What are you working on now?

JP: At the moment, I'm in the middle of the rough draft for a new short story, plus I have a novel draft on the back burner. I've also got two shorts that need revision, but I haven't had the right chunk of spare time to spend on revisions for a while now. They're harder for me in many ways than rough drafts are because they require more undivided attention. My attention's pretty divided of late, alas.

TSR: What are the three most recent short story collections you've read?

JP: I don't tend to read a lot of single-author collections, but I did recently read Matt Wallace's The Fix, and William Sanders' Are We Having Fun Yet? Before that, I think the last collection I read was, Bagombo Snuff Box, which is a collection of otherwise uncollected Kurt Vonnegut stories. I love Vonnegut's work, and yet I could tell why the stories hadn't been collected before. It was kind of gratifying to see that a great author could have mediocre moments in his oeuvre. And I'm looking forward to Michael Burstein's I Remember the Future.