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Kelley Eskridge

Website: KelleyEskridge.com

Kelley Eskridge is a fiction writer, essayist and screenwriter. Her stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies in the United States, Europe, Australia and Japan, won the Astraea Award and been finalists for the Nebula and James Tiptree awards. Her novel Solitaire is published by HarperCollins Eos. Solitaire is a New York Times Notable Book and a Borders Books Original Voices selection, and was a finalist for the Nebula, Spectrum and Endeavour awards. She is a staff writer for @U2, the world’s most popular U2 fan website.

Short story collections

Dangerous Space (Acqueduct Books, June2007) 

Reviewed by Tania Hershman

Interview with Kelley Eskridge

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

Kelley Eskridge: Nearly 20 years. The first draft of the oldest story was written in 1988, and the most recent was finished in 2008.

Most of the stories, as well as my novel Solitaire, were written while I was working full time. I would write them, rewrite them, send them out, and wait (and wait, and wait… such a slow process). The combination of the slow writing, and the slow publishing, meant that there were often gaps of years between stories being out in the world. That was frustrating. But good work takes as long as it takes, and I've learned it's not a race. I've also learned that impatience is not my friend – writing faster wouldn't have made any of these stories better. I could have written more quickly and less deeply during those years, and probably published more; I had established relationships with editors, and my work received good critical attention, all of which makes it easier to publish. But the work would not have been as good. I had to make a choice a long time ago between volume and quality.

Not everyone is faced with this choice – many people write both quickly and well. And whatever choice people make in general terms about writing is fine with me – quality, volume, growth, safety, all or none of the above. What matters is that we make the right choice for us. It's hard enough to be a writer, to get work out into the world, without all of us getting snotty and competitive about who's doing it "right."

TSR: Did you have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
KE: Not at all. Most of the stories were originally published in magazines or anthologies in the 1990's. They were written from whatever emotional and psychological place I found myself in at the time. I had no overarching notions of themes or interconnectivity. But of course the stories are connected. Imagine that (laughing). One of the most unexpected gifts to me of publishing the collection is the chance to see my work as a whole, and definitely (in my opinion) greater than the sum of its parts.

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

KE: All my published stories are included, as well as a new novella. My marvelous editor at Aqueduct Press, L. Timmel Duchamp, ordered the stories, and I am pleased with the arc they create and the shape of the collection.

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

KE:  The human experience. The exploration and mapping of human feeling and thought, of our hopes and fears and failures and joys. I am fascinated by the billions of ways that there are to be human in the world. I am compelled by our capability for big feelings even in small everyday moments. A story is a map of a particular person becoming something that they were not before, whether it's through loss or gain, choice or accident. Human is always the heart of story.

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

KE:  No. I write to explore what it means to be human and to express what I've learned. I write to please myself, and to tell the story that wants to be told to the best of my ability. I believe that if I do that, readers will connect with it.

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

KE: How did it make you feel? What parts of it spoke to your own experience, your own desires or fears, your hopes, your joys?

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

KE: It's great.

I almost stopped there, because the answer seems so obvious to me. But I imagine there are as many possible answers as there are writers. I think if you'd asked me 20 years ago, or even 10, the answer would have been some combination of excited and vulnerable. But it doesn't frighten me anymore to share my work. I've been doing it a long time, and I have found my feet as a writer. I expect I'll never stop growing, and that can make me feel hugely vulnerable – as I felt writing Dangerous Space, the newest story in the collection and one in which I took what were for me many risks. But being vulnerable doesn't scare me the way it used to. It is simply a part of being a writer.

TSR: What are you working on now?

KE: The screenplay adaptation of my novel Solitaire, which is in development now as a movie. It's my first experience with screenplay, and it's enormously exciting and scary and frustrating to be an "expert beginner." Screenplay and prose fiction are very different both in the writing and in the way the business works, and I'm having to learn very fast. I know to my bones how to create character, but this is a completely new way to express it. After that, I've got a young adult novel bubbling in the back of my brain. And a couple of ideas for new screenplays. We'll see…

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

KE:  My Secret compiled by Frank Warren. This is a PostSecret (http://postsecret.blogspot.com) book, a compilation of postcards that reveal the deepest secrets of anonymous people, in words and images. There is more real story in some of these cards than in a lot of the stuff I read in The New Yorker. Different Seasons by Stephen King. An old favorite. King is an absolute master of the novella form, and this collection includes two of the best novellas I've ever read (Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption and The Body). City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff VanderMee. Literary postmodern fantasy of the highest order, stories layered with detail and sensation in which a city becomes a character in its own right.