“Broken, scattered pieces”: An Interview With Guest Reader Kate Finegan

by Shasta Grant See all Guest Readers

You write fiction, nonfiction and poetry. How do you move between genres? Do you have a favorite?

Fiction is my creative home, but I read so much poetry, it slips into everything I do. All writing shines light – on joy, on fear, on the experience of being alive and being human – and genres are just different lenses. Sophomore year, I was assistant to the director for my high school’s production of A Streetcar Named Desire. I would sit in the dark theatre with its yellow plastic seats, watching specks of sawdust from set construction shimmer in the air, and feel like my ears were ablaze from all the beauty I was hearing night after night. A fictional story (with autobiographical elements) told through dialogue that sounds like pure poetry was my way into writing, so it makes sense that I move between genres. I just love words and all the shapes that they can take. As for how I move between the genres, I prime the pump. If I want to write poetry, I start writing poetry, and then new ideas come to me in the form of poetry. The same goes for fiction. Contest deadlines and calls for submissions also help! If I know I need to submit a poem, that’s help me to sit down and start thinking in poetry.

You’re currently working on your second historical novel. What draws you to historical fiction? Can you tell us a bit about your research and writing process?

My tendency to ground my novel projects in historical research is honestly a surprise to me. I don’t exclusively, or even primarily, read historical fiction. My first novel, which is currently living in a drawer, came about because I was intrigued by the model ship collection at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Am I into model ships? Nope. But what caught my imagination was that some pieces were described as “Prisoner of War Models,” and these were often made of bone (bone?!). So, I went home and did some research, and that research turned into a very, very bad partial draft of a novel. Then that very, very bad partial draft of a novel provided the spark for many good drafts of a totally different novel. I think I’m drawn to history for longer projects because there is serendipity within the research process. For my current project, I listened to three episodes of Criminal that sparked my interest, and somewhere along the line, medicine shows got involved. History is made up of stories, and those stories can form the basis for fictional stories. It’s a cliche, but facts really can be stranger than fiction, and I love finding those strange gems as I build my worlds and characters. Researching for a historical novel feels, at times, like crafting a collage; the pieces are all there, because history is the fullness of human experience, and my job is to put them together in new and interesting ways.

What do you love most about writing and/or reading flash fiction?

I keep trying to answer this question, and it keeps coming out as “Everything!” But I think I love flash fiction for the same reason I love poetry: it condenses the universe into a single point of pulsating light. Reading compact works can feel like the Big Bang in reverse – like it’s taking all these broken, scattered pieces, and pulling them back together into this small piece that is pure potential, that is so much about what hasn’t yet transpired and what is left unsaid.

What kind of story would you love to find in the queue this week?

I want a story that makes me hold my breath, that gives me an ache in my gut, that leaves my hands tingling and ready to grasp at this beautiful, imperfect world anew. For an idea of what I like, just read any of the flash pieces at http://longleafreview.com.


About the Reader:

Kate Finegan is editor-in-chief of Longleaf Review and author of the chapbook The Size of Texas (Penrose Press, 2018). Her work has appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Witness, Prism International, The Puritan, Waxwing, The Fiddlehead, and elsewhere. You can find her at katefinegan.ink and on Twitter @kehfinegan.

About the Interviewer:

Shasta Grant is the author of the chapbook Gather Us Up and Bring Us Home (Split Lip Press, 2017). She was the 2016 SmokeLong Quarterly Kathy Fish Fellow and she won the 2015 Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest. Her stories have appeared in Hobart, matchbook, MonkeyBicyclewigleaf, and elsewhere.