Auspicious Apparatus Press is pleased to welcome Kim Wells for a short interview. Kim is the author of several novels and short stories, most notably Mariposa: A Love Story and Apocalypse Weird: Hoodoopocalypse. She also has an original short story in Tales from Pennsylvania with the likes of Michael Bunker, Nick Cole, and Chris Pourteau. She can be found on the web on Facebook, Twitter, and her website.
Tell us a bit about your chosen genre. Do you feel your strength as a writer is within one specific genre or do you dabble in a number of different genres?
When I wrote my PhD dissertation, I identified and over-analyzed this genre I call Magical Feminism. It’s a genre a lot like Magic Realism—basically straightforward everyday life, but something magical happens and people don’t really think it’s weird. Gabriel Garcia Marquez is considered one of the pioneers of the genre, with his amazing 100 Years of Solitude. There are other writers, like Charles de Lint and Alice Hoffman who write it, too, and I will pick up one of their books in a heartbeat. A lot of the time, Magic Realism as a genre is used to critique or reveal political power dynamics, like when in Marquez’ book an entire village disappears and no one notices. That seems strange, but he was commenting on the United Fruit Banana Massacre incident in 1928, critiquing a corrupt governmental power-structure in fictional form. Subtle but fascinating.
So my Magical Feminism is like that, but it uses the magic elements to explore gender & power. I am always trying to write that kind of novel. My first book, Mariposa, is a ghost story, and a love story, and it’s really fun, but it’s also about the huge problem of domestic violence on one level. Almost all of the ghosts in the story die at the hands of someone they loved or at least knew—which is how it is in life far too often. Meg, the protagonist, has to find a way to fight that problem, and she’s going to probably keep doing it in the sequels I’m planning.
Because I love reading this kind of work, that’s what I’m finding myself writing. I also love sci-fi, and I have this short story coming out in the upcoming Dragon Chronicles that is straight up sci-fi. About dragons! So you would think that would be fantasy, but apparently my writing can’t behave itself and be one genre only.
My friend Daniel Arthur Smith calls me “Southern Magical Slipstream.” I kind of like that.
Physical books or ebook? Everyone has a preference...what's yours?
I honestly love both. A physical book has that smell everyone always talks about, kind of vanilla and dry dust. And you can look at the images on the cover, which I have always loved doing, even more so now that I’m doing it for my own books. And I’m working a lot of graphics into my novels, which don’t always work as well in e-book format. Holding my own print book in my hands has been the culmination of many life-long dreams.
But I’m also starting to get, shall we say, older… And I can’t read small print well anymore! That is something I straight up LOVE about e-books. You can change the text size! And I have the one with a light, so I can read in dim rooms and really see it. I also love being able to buy a book immediately. No trip to the book store required in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep. So I have about a million books in my house. And my e-book readers are completely loaded up, too. I love every single kind of book there is; for me, there isn’t a competition. They both make me happy. The joy watching that little bubble saying “Downloading” is almost as great as what you get when you crack open a new paper book for the first time.
If one of your books was to be made into a movie or television series, who would you cast--if given the choice--to play your main characters?
Hoodoopocalypse, my most recent book, has already been mentally cast for me. I am a visual writer, and I go in and find pictures for almost everything in my book and stick them on Pinterest.
Marie, the protagonist, is Lisa Bonet. She is so absolutely perfect for that character. And in my mind, the romantic lead for her is Gerard Butler. Now, one of my friends said “NO! That character’s Lenny Kravitz!” I can see that, but oh, Gerard’s sexy 5-o’clock shadow is so Marshall. I also have a character called Mère. In my mind, she looked like a really tall version of Stevie Nicks. But then a reviewer called her Cathy Bates from Waterboy and I was like “YES!” The bad guy in that book, Kalfu, is Harold Perrineau or Michael Ealy. Either one of them would make me a happy, happy girl. So that book is well-cast. Come on, Hollywood. Let’s do it!
Can you tell us about any memorable interactions you've had with readers of your work?
So I have this scene in Hoodoopocalypse where one of the characters, a soccer mom named Lee Lee, goes crazy in the carpool line. She gets out of her car and does some seriously horrible things because someone cuts her off. A few weeks after a friend of mine read that scene, she was in carpool line when one of her friends texted her that someone had jumped out of their car and was banging on another car window, yelling and making a terrible scene. She texted it to me and said “The Struggle is real.” That was awesome. Because that’s what made me envision it—how angry people get in that daily mundane moment, and how close to the edge people can be sometimes. All it takes is that little push. And everyone keeps telling me to “Calm down Lee Lee” whenever I get ranty. I tell them I’m so not Lee Lee but there are moments when we all would just like to go crazy when someone is rude and cuts us off in traffic, you know?
Have you ever attended any writing workshops or seminars or anything of that nature? Did you find them helpful or not so much?
When I first started college many moons ago, I took an amazing creative writing course. We read this book called Making Shapely Fiction by Jerome Stern. It was a really fun class, and that book’s lessons have stayed with me for a long time. What I learned most in the class was that sometimes you should take a character that no one expects to narrate a story and envision it from that perspective. My favorite project in that course was a short story I wrote from the POV of a cat giving birth to kittens. And I also learned about the “Bear at the door” story—where you have an immediate problem—“Honey, there’s a bear at the door.” And what do you do? It sets up the action so well. I did that in Hoodoopocalypse and any time I felt that there wasn’t a bear nearby I added one to the story. People have told me they couldn’t put it down because the action never leveled off enough and I consider that a success. So yeah, seminars can help tremendously in building your craft. But you can also find a community of writers, these days, online. That’s where I have my best writer friends, and I have found so much amazing love there. It’s what I do all day—talk about writing!
What can you tell us about your preferred writing environment? Music, no music? At home, locked in your office, or out in the world in a coffee shop?
Sometimes I like to have mood music. I make these elaborate playlists with Spotify. And when I wrote a really creepy couple of scenes in Mariposa, they were totally inspired by a song called Gallows by a band named CocoRosie. The music and the video for that completely made that scene work, got me in the creepy mood. Sometimes I like it really quiet, when I’m trying to think about the meat and bones and grammar. But I have kids, too, so sometimes my house is crazy noisy and I write anyway. I love being at home, and my office is my super comfy couch, door wide open, birds chirping away, cats baking biscuits on the blanket next to me. Pure bliss. And I make better coffee at home than most coffee shops have, so I often do have that. I’m just my own barista.
Do you use beta readers, and if so, how does the feedback from those beta readers help to shape your work?
I do and am so grateful for their amazing help. They can spot a plot hole, or ask a question that makes me clarify a point. And they are almost always my first “reviewers” on Amazon, so they are very supportive. In the story I’m about to publish, Lady in Blue, a Mariposa sequel, one of the betas mentioned she would like a little more information in one scene so I did that, and then sent it on to the editor. And in Hoodoopocalypse, a beta pointed out that I had inadvertently named all of my characters with a name starting with M. I don’t know if the editor would have noticed that weirdness, because she’s focusing so intently on things like structure & plot. So I fixed that. They help me make it smoother. My husband, though, is just starting to beta read my work and he’s gotten so enthusiastic that he’s actually written a bunch of “Husband Fan Fiction.” I’m going to work his perspective into the story because the character he’s writing really does need a male’s point of view.
Where did your love for reading and writing come from?
My mother was a voracious reader, and we went to the library every week. I started reading books that were seriously out of my age range pretty young, and the librarians at the big library we went to let me get away with that, honestly, and I think it helped me grow as a reader and eventually a writer from early on. We were pretty poor, so we didn’t have cable, or movies to watch. Imagine a world without Netflix! So books were the way we spent our time, just reading. I think most voracious readers are going to eventually try to write. Sometimes they don’t manage to turn off the critic enough to be creative, but we all think we have a story to tell, and all hope to share our little imaginations with someone else.
I love to read. I can't imagine my life without books everywhere and I feel so sad when I see a house without any books in it. It needs books!
Kim wrote her first critically acclaimed (if you call her fourth grade teacher a critic, and she does) short story when she was 9 years old. It was about Christmas in a Cave, and it featured such topical, ground-breaking subjects as homelessness & cave dwelling. She's been writing ever since. The state of publication depends on who you ask.
She has a Ph.D. in Literature, with specialties in American Lit, Women Writers, Feminism, Sci-Fi/Fantasy & Film Studies but please don't hold any of that against her. She sometimes teaches academic writing and how to read literature at a university in her hometown and tries to convince college students that it really is cool to like poetry.
She lives in the South, has twin children (one girl, one boy) and a husband who is the model for all her best romantic heroes. She also has two cats—one black and sassy, one stripey and fat.