Wednesday night I had the pleasure of attending seeing Kelly Link, author of Get in Trouble at our favorite bookstore, Powell’s Books.
We got here early for Kelly Link's (@haszombiesinit) Author Event @Powells! #PowellsEvents #GetInTrouble pic.twitter.com/2fruPaQ5Et
— GeekyLibrary (@GeekyLibrary) February 19, 2015
It was a good thing LisaKaren and I got there early because by the time Link arrived, the place was full of people attending.
We passed the time by discussing some of the stories in Link’s new collection, Get in Trouble. LisaKaren’s review of the book was posted earlier this week and I had also read about half the stories in the collection.
Our favorite story in the collection was “The Summer People” and we were looking forward to hearing from the person who’s vivid imagination created so many fantastical stories.
Link, who lives in Northhampton, Maine started the night by thanking the audience for living “someplace warm.” When she left Boston, the mayor was asking people not to jump out of their windows into the snowdrifts. Portland, on the other hand, has been experiencing a spell of warmer spring weather.
Kelly Link then read from “I Can See Right Through You,” a short story involving a haunted nudist colony. She hooked her listeners, including me, event thought I had already read the story (which is featured in Get in Trouble). Link stopped her reading before the end.
Although the audience would have gladly listened to the end of the story, Kelly Link instead opened it up for questions.
When Kelly Link starts writing a story, often times she’ll know the ending or a tonal quality she wants to aim for. She may also know the elements she wants to include. Is it a ghost story? Does it have vampires?
The conversation also touched on how so many stories are in fact retellings of fairy tales. As long as the distilled essence is maintained, “fairy tales are pretty solid templates where you can change almost everything and the story will still work,” says Link.
Although many of our fairy tales date back hundreds of years, “At this point, superheroes are very fairy tale like in the way they keep getting retold and reimagined,” said Link.
A few of the short stories in Get in Trouble include superheroes or people with superpowers, either as characters or in the background.
When people meet a talented writer like Kelly Link, often they look for advice. And every writer wants to know how to beat writer’s block. So what is Kelly’s approach?
“Sometimes I just sit on my butt,” she said with a laugh. If she gets stuck writing a story, “I’ll set it aside and do dishes… for a month.”
Sometimes it helps to do other things, like reading, Link says, but unlike many writers, she doesn’t get a significant amount of writing done in a day. It helps when there is a deadline.
However, once Link decides on where she’s going in a story, it takes her about 2 weeks to write a coherent rought draft. “And then I don’t write for a long time,” said Link. “I’m like a snake— I eat a really big meal and then I don’t move.”
Kelly Link gave some Bookstore Love with a shout out to a “wonderful bookshop” 20 minutes from Northhampton that has the motto, ‘Books you don’t need in a place you can’t find.’
The Montauge Bookmill is a used bookshop and restaurant housed in an 1842 gristmill.
When looking for a title for Get in Trouble, none of the short stories really had titles that seemed a good match for the collection. However, most of them feature her favorite kind of character, the useful ‘Cat in the Hat’ type character, one that “comes into the story and wreaks havoc.”
“Every story has these characters that do terrible things and get in trouble,” said Kelly Link, hence the title.
Short stories are particularly interesting in the way they are written. Unlike novels, where there is plenty of time for world-building, short stories are condensed with plot and scene-setting often taking place simultaneously.
Kelly Link has two fears;
1) The story will become boring. She will give too much information that the reader will figure out naturally.
2) It will get so complicated it isn’t fun. Reading should be fun.
"My goal is always to make reading immersive & pleasurable, even if the story is distressing or disturbing." -Kelly Link #PowellsEvents
— GeekyLibrary (@GeekyLibrary) February 19, 2015
Whether you enjoyed Pretty Monsters or just picked up Get in Trouble, people want to know what writers will do next.
“For 20 years I didn’t want to write a novel,” says Link, although her writing friends pointed out how her stories kept getting longer and longer.
Recently, she changed her mind and will be working on a new novel. Look for that in the next few years!
Kelly Link’s reading suggestions
So what does Kelly read in her spare time? Here are her suggestions;
Duplex by Kathryn Davis
The Island of Dr. Death and Other Stories and Other Stories by Gene Wolf
There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbors Baby by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya
Molly Gloss, author of Falling from Horses