“A Thrill. A Fall.”: An Interview with Kari Nguyen

by Megan Giddings See all Guest Readers
story art

What are 10 things outside of writing and books that influence your work?

Every interaction, every memory and emotion, each passing car, even, has the potential for story.  I try to stay open to these sparks of thought, as fleeting, inconvenient, or silly as they may be. As far as influences go, there are many, but a list of this type must include the magic of my daughter, the joy of my sons, and the space and freedom that comes when they’re not with me; a vivid imagination; a desire to understand (everything); uncertainty and fear (of – pick a word, really); hardship, pain, personal trial, and what is left when that’s all we are feeling; connection and human interaction; memory, especially its own influences, mechanisms, and unreliability; childhood; physical place, mine being New Hampshire – I grew up in a log house surrounded by trees and nature and I can’t separate that part of me from any other part of me; and lastly I have to mention movement, because I grew up with a love of running and kicking and jumping as much as I loved books, and sometimes, weirdly enough, I think back to the hours spent in my dirt driveway trying to perfect some particular move, a crossover dribble or spin move or reverse layup, and I fall back to those rhythms, those hesitations and pivots and surges. For better or worse. Everything is easier without an audience.

One of my favorite things about your story “Blood Strangers” in Blue-Fifth Review is the ending. You bring us to a moment that I would never have anticipated, but after reading it, I can’t imagine the story ending any other way. Can you talk a little more about your process of writing this story? Did it always end with Moira cutting herself on the glass?

Thank you! I’m very happy to hear that reaction to the ending, which was really the second and last major change I made to the story. The first change was a POV one, as the earlier drafts were written in first person. It’s useful to challenge the initial voice lodged in your mind, and although I very much wanted an intimacy with this particular story, I was able to get much closer, I think, with the distance afforded through third person, through Moira. Going in I didn’t know it would end this way, but I don’t usually know, and once I had Moira that last scene fell into place. I should note that I’m almost always surprised by the story as I’m writing it. I should say, too, that Sara Lippmann guest edited that issue in an inspiring way and her notes to me on “Blood Strangers” were incredibly valuable.

What are you currently reading? What are you currently writing?

Right now I’m reading The Sinking of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story of the ‘Victorian Titanic’ by Gill Hoffs. Most of us are familiar with the Titanic, but 58 years prior to that tragedy there was another ship run by the same company that went down while headed to Australia from Liverpool, also on its maiden voyage, also advertised as the most luxurious and state-of-the-art ship of its time. Hoffs focuses on the people whose lives were impacted, whose stories have been all but lost, and does so with great detail and care, and many first person accounts. It’s an incredible read. Before that I revisited Toni Morrison. I had the opportunity to hear her speak at The MacDowell Colony a few weeks ago and wanted to surround myself with her powerful words. The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, God Help the Child. As for the writing, I’m chipping away at a longer work, and though I have a few word documents and hard notebooks containing parts of it, lately I’ve just been sort of carrying it around in my head, and capturing new bits and thoughts as they come using a memo app on my phone. So perhaps I’ve been collecting lately, more than writing, but that has felt right, so I’m going with it.

What kind of stories are you looking for during your week of guest editing?

A thrill. A fall. Take me with you.

About the Reader:

Kari Nguyen lives in New England with her dog, husband, daughter, and twin boys. She is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, a two-time prize winner in the Glass Woman Prize, and her work has received recognition from Glimmer Train, The Binnacle, and New Hampshire Writers Magazine.  Over twenty-five of her stories have been published online and in print, most recently in The Best of Boston Literary Magazine anthology. Kari is the former Nonfiction Editor for Stymie Magazine where she also directed Stymie's "Why I Write" web series. Find her at karinguyen.wordpress.com or on Twitter @knguyenwrites.

About the Interviewer:

Megan Giddings was a former executive editor at SmokeLong Quarterly  and a winner of the Kathy Fish Fellowship. Her chapbooks, Arcade Seventeen (TAR) and The Most Dangerous Game (The Lettered Streets Press) will be released Fall 2016.  She has been anthologized in Best of the Net 2014 and in Best Small Fictions 2016.  Her stories are forthcoming or have been recently published in Arts & Letters, Passages North, The Offing, Pleiades, and Black Warrior Review. You can learn more about her at www.megangiddings.com.