Web site: Rachel Kendall

Rachell Kendall has had work in a number of anthologies and magazines including Nemonymous, Cabala, Darkness Rising 5, In Blood We Lust and the soon-to-be-published Butcher Knives and Body Counts by Dark Scribe Press. She is the editor of the zine Sein und Werden.

Short Story Collections

The Bride Stripped Bare
(Dog Horn Publishing, 2009)

reviewed by
Angela Readman

Interview with Rachel Kendall

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

Rachel Kendall: The earliest story in the collection is from around 2003 (The Suicide Room) and the most recent is Birth Control which I wrote whilst pregnant, ill and a bit out of it. It’s one of my favourites and was added right at the last minute.

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

RK: No. Despite a number of shared themes they were all written as single entities. One may well have spawned another in my brain but they were never foreseen as a collection of moving parts within a clockwork whole.

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

RK: I have a tendency to write in about 3 different styles. I could almost do an Iain [M] Banks and add/remove a letter in my name to suit the genre. There are my navel-gazing, surreal horror types (think Jan Svankmajer in words); then there are the sci fi (ish) stories (less Clarke, more Philip K Dick. But not as clever). Then there are the more generalized, marginalised razor-edged but not exactly horror, less-blood-more-suggestion types.
    When it came to choosing the stories to include in this collection it was simply a case of going with my favourites, and those that were connected by a similar thread. Although there are some of my meatier stories in here, the bulk of the book is made up of shorter, bloodier, weirder fiction. I was then assigned an editor who was able to point out when my prose became too garish and silly, and to suggest the best order for the content.

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

RK: Something structured, but not necessarily adhering to strict chronological rules. I quite like stories that have an end, a beginning and a middle, or that change pov halfway through. A story doesn’t necessarily have to be plot-driven, though I think the more random pieces, dream sequences, fleeting scenarios might be considered as prose poetry or flash fiction rather than a story per se.  I do find it hard to get away from the word ‘story’ pertaining to a ‘Once upon a time’ Brothers Grimm kind of epic, and perhaps it’s that dark fairytale I’m trying to recreate.

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

RK: No I don’t. I don’t think writing can work that way. It’s such a personal thing, like poetry. Whether the seed comes from a dream, an overheard conversation, a line in a song, it can only flow the way it’s destined to flow. That doesn’t mean the writing experience is out of my hands; I can mould it till I’m happy with the outcome, but never to please anyone other than myself. Perhaps that’s why a number of my stories are such a marriage of genres. I always had difficulty getting the earlier pieces published in ‘horror’ or ‘science fiction’ zines, because my lines blurred. Then bizarre/magic realism/irrealism became much more acceptable and accessible and a whole new world was opened to me. 

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

RK: Well, predictably I’d like to ask what works for the reader, in this collection. There are some stories  with definite plot, others are more character-driven, and others are somewhere in between with some weirdo, squishy black matter thrown in.
    I would, though, like to impress something upon the reader myself. I am neither a lunatic, nor a sadist, despite what my fiction may suggest! Oh, and yes, there is a birth link in some of these stories, from tales of hybrid children to infanticide, but I wrote those stories pre-pregnant. Now I am post-pregnant and I don’t tend to write about such things anymore. I was curious about the physical and psychological aspects of pregnancy and birth and played around with my artistic license to horrific effect. Now I’ve experienced it I have no need to write about it. So, really, I’m not a baby-eating mutant swamp-mother.

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

RK: I try not to think about it. It’s too exciting. What really floats my boat, actually, is having my fiction published in a different language. Two of my shorts have been published online in Polish and I do kinda like that.

TSR: What are you working on now?

RK: Many, many, many things, in my head. Mostly I am rearing my two-year old, whilst editing ISMs Press and its enfant terrible, Sein und Werden. I am working on a new novel too, when I get a moment, and a short story here and there. Also I am reading a lot and, I think, learning. Learning how to hone my writing skills, how much to tell and how much to hold back, and how to create a story the reader can bring into their own personal universe. It’s a constant learning experience and I expect it is for seasoned writers too.

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

RK: I just started reading Toddler-Hunting and Other Stories by Kōno Taeko, which a friend recently sent me from Japan. Before that it was Steve Redwood’s Broken Symmetries (which I hope to review very soon in Sein und Werden’s review pages) and The Brothel Creeper by Rhys Hughes (whose fiction you can read in the new issue of Sein und Werden).
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Find out what other authors, from Aimee Bender to Sana Krasikov, said about their collections, what the word "story" means to them, and how it feels to know that people are buying your books! More interviews >>>