Jessica Knauss works as an editor and translator as well as a writer.She has published individual short stories and short story collections over the years as well as working as an editor for academic and commercial small presses.Her latest collection, Unpredictable Worlds, is released today.
You can find the book through this Amazon link:
You can follow Jessica on her blog:
Most of the stories included in Unpredictable Worlds contain magic realism. What is it about that genre that attracts you?
When I began to read the works of the classic Latin American magic realists, I had already been creating stories set in a reality that was similar to what “everyone” lives, but had certain noticeable differences. I was so relieved that a genre existed where this kind of thing was acceptable! I don’t feel compelled to create whole other worlds with totally different rules, as in pure fantasy, but when I’m writing about the contemporary world, I just don’t see it the same way other people do. I can’t resist throwing in a few surprising or disconcerting elements with their own—mysterious—logic. It expresses what I have to say more accurately and, most importantly, it’s a lot more fun!
Writers in the past have been known to say ‘write what you know’—would you agree with that?
If I were to write only about my direct experiences, it would probably only interest me. But if we understand that quote to mean that if you do your research, you can write about anything, and that we know our own imaginations, then I’m in wholehearted agreement.
One section of Unpredictable Worlds focuses on rhinoceroses (see I knew to use that for a plural after reading the stories)—what inspired you to write about them?
I see the stories are reaching their goal of spreading information about rhinos (and their crisis) to the reading public! My first “encounter” with rhinos was when the first line of “Rhinoceros Dreams” dropped into my head from some unknown place of inspiration. I learned more about them to write the story, and I’ve found that the more I learn about them, the more fascinating they are. To keep it short and refrain from gushing, in recent years, I’ve been to different zoos to see all four species that can live in captivity (Javan rhinos haven’t been kept in human environments since the nineteenth century) and each animal is unique and full of personality. Last year, I got to actually touch not one but two white rhinos. It’s impossible to describe the transcendence of that experience without exaggeration. I’m hoping to capture it as a pivotal scene in a novel I’ve started.
You have one story that is written as an homage to Hemingway and his style. Is there any particular writer that inspires you?
When I was in school, everything I read found its way into my writing in an imitative way. Now that I’ve found my own voice, other writers inspire me differently: I admire the poetry of certain scenes, whether in a published book or in my critique group, and I feel inspired to achieve something that good in my own way.
You have moved around a lot in the past ten years. Do you think these moves have informed your writing in any way?
Over the past ten years, I’ve lived in Spain, Providence, the far Boston suburbs, the Boston area, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Atlanta, Illinois, North Carolina, and have now, at last, returned to New England. I grew up in the unique environment of Northern California, so I imprinted early on with a strong sense of place, which has been sorely tested in recent years. Where do I belong? is a question that’s haunted me. My longing for specific places has affected my writing. I wrote my second novel, Awash in Talent, when I was living in Arizona and North Carolina, which couldn’t be more different than the book’s setting in Providence. My first novel, Seven Noble Knights, is set in Spain, my favorite place in the world.
What are your aspirations as a writer?
It is my biggest honor to be allowed to entertain someone looking for a good read. I would love to be able to support myself with my writing. That would mean reaching a lot of readers. I can’t think of anything more meaningful. Winning more awards would also be a welcome validation…
Are you working on anything right now and can you tell us about it?
Seven Noble Knights will be published by Bagwyn Books in 2016, so right now I’m focused on getting it and my second novel ready for publication. But as I mentioned, I have a novel about a girl, a boy, and some rhinos in the works. I’m planning to write quite a few short stories set in thirteenth-century Spain. I have ideas for sequels for both of my novels, and aspirations for a couple of other historical epics.
What do you have on your bedside table at the moment to read?
I’ve just finished The Price of Blood by Patricia Bracewell and Lucky Us by Amy Bloom. They were both so unusual (that’s a good thing), I wouldn’t want to leave them out. I’m in the middle of an Advance Reader’s Edition of The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan—it’s great! It makes me think of you, Kristin, because it has selkies. My husband and I are reading The Memory Painter by Gwendolyn Womack together. Next I plan to finish Love in Infant Monkeys by Lydia Millet and start Hild by Nicola Griffith and La nación inventada by the Escolar brothers. I have a feeling that last one will inspire a few new novel or story projects.
Kristin Gleeson is a writer, artist and musician who lives in the west of Ireland in the Gaeltacht.
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