February 17, 2012KR Conversations

Anna Kovatcheva

Anna Kovatcheva

A micro-interview with Anna Kovatcheva by KR Associate Tim Jurney.

Anna Kovatcheva was born in Sofia, Bulgaria. She is currently an undergraduate studying Fiction Writing at the University of Virginia. Anna should be hard at work writing her thesis, but she is frequently distracted by an in-progress novel about a very large house. Her story “September” was selected by Ron Carlson as runner-up in the 2012 Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest.

KR: Is there a story behind your KR piece(s)? What was the hardest part about writing it?

AK: In February 2010, the NYPD released the new aerial photographs of the 9/11 attacks. A few months later, I was prompted to write a “game with time” story, to treat time as anything but linear. I chose to play with the expanded moment, and the only moment to really stick in my mind as I brainstormed was the second of impact at the North Tower.

For “September,” I spent a long time looking at photographs, reading about the moment the plane hit, looking at flight seating charts for AA11. (I didn’t want to presume to imagine the life of a real victim of the attacks; I gave Isabelle an empty seat on the plane.) But even more difficult than trying to recreate the moment was trying to do it justice. Everything felt trite, and I felt completely unqualified to write the story. I knew nobody killed in the attacks, nor did I know anybody who knew anybody. I was eleven years old and living in rural Virginia when it happened, distant in every possible way. It took me a long time (and a lot of positive feedback from others) to accept that the piece was worthwhile, and that as Americans, we all have a right to express ourselves about that day, regardless of how far we may have been from Ground Zero.

KR: What internal or external factors have the biggest influence on your creative process?

AK: I write in bursts, usually in response to a single line or image that catches and won’t let go. For the actual physical process of writing, setting and music are most important to me, but the ideals change depending on the story or on my mood. I prefer big, open tables when I write, and the music needs to feel like the story, like it would fit comfortably in its soundtrack. Andrew Bird, Simon & Garfunkel, and Belle & Sebastian are my perennial writing favorites.

KR: What’s one book, contemporary or otherwise, that you wish you had written?

AK: There are always many, but most recently, it’s been All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman. It’s clever, memorable, relatable, and charming, all without ever taking itself too seriously.

KR: What have you learned about the writing process in the last five years?

AK: Probably everything. I don’t think I’m old enough to know that much about writing yet.

KR: When we publish, whether in print or online, we hope we’re making a sustained art–something that endures and continues to be significant. What role will sustained art have in a future that’s sure to be full of iPads/Pods/Phones and Kindles, hyper fast computers, and a reality where we can always be online, all of the time?

AK: It’s comforting to know that in a future of e-books, no written word will ever be out of print or lost. I don’t believe that significant work will become less so just because we’re lucky enough to have more of it survive. And good writing is one form of art that can stand apart from presentation, that can be enjoyed in a variety of forms, in one edition or another, on a screen or on a page.

That said, nothing beats the look and feel of a well-designed book, which is an art form all its own. I hope enough readers will remain devoted to aesthetics and well-stocked bookshelves. Just because we can always be online doesn’t mean that some people don’t like to step back from time to time.