July 14, 2014KR Conversations

Kellie Wells

wells-microinterview-carouselKellie Wells is the author of a collection of short fiction, Compression Scars, winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award, and two novels, Skin and Fat Girl, Terrestrial. She teaches in the MFA programs at the University of Alabama and Pacific University. Her story “Moon, Moon, My Honey” appears in the Summer 2014 issue of The Kenyon Review.

Can you identify the seed of inspiration of your story “Moon, Moon, My Honey”? What was the hardest part about writing it?

I wanted to try to write a straight-up love story. I wanted to look romantic love deep in its moony eye and see what I found reflected there. Death, as it turns out! Although I don’t think the story is without a certain . . . cosmic optimism. I suppose the most challenging aspect of writing the story was making sure that, inside the story’s fabulist body, its heart was beating authentically enough that another person could recognize the emotion of it and be moved by it. And, naturally, I wanted to veer wide of schmaltz.

Your story in KR appropriates and reworks the question-and-answer structure of a joke. Can you tell us a little about the impetus for scaffolding the story in this way?

One of the central characters is a teller of improbable jokes, and he occasionally performs improbable stand-up, so there’s that. I’d also say that the story suggests there life and love are full of many unanswerable conundrums, but that doesn’t stop us from posing the questions. These mysteries and the shifting hunches we have about them are like prismatic jokes with many punch lines.

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

I’m sure this occurred to me longer ago than that, but it’s something I relearn every time I sit down to write a story and I listen to the things it tells me about the form it needs to take: all craft conventions are just choices on a spectrum of possibility.

Which non-writing-related aspect of your life most influences your writing?

The diurnal rhythms of my dogs.

Of all the things you could be doing, why do you write?

It’s a compulsion and it gives me pleasure. I’m not a very sociable human being, and writing allows me the illusion that I’m more gregarious than I am, just very slowly, absently.

In the 1950s, John Crowe Ransom invited a coterie of critics (William Empson, Northrop Frye, etc.) to write a “credo” for The Kenyon Review. The results became an essay series by ten leading critics on their core beliefs regarding literature and the critical practice, entitled “My Credo.” What would you include in your own credo? What core beliefs do you have about literature and books?

I think all the good credos have been claimed. I like the idea of writing and reading being acts of radical empathy, a capacious and inclusive empathy so radical it produces fellow feeling for the molecular existence of all things, however non-human, however inanimate, however minute.

Could you tell us a little about one of your current or upcoming writing projects?

“Moon, Moon, My Honey” is part of a collection of stories I recently finished, entitled God, the Moon, and Other Megafauna.