Smoke and Mirrors—An Interview with Kathy Fish

by Randall Brown Read the Story April 2, 2015

EDITOR’S NOTE: You’re not seeing things—The main character of Kathy’s story is actually interviewing Kathy. In Fall 2014, SmokeLong Quarterly ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for our new web site. Randall donated to our project and received as a thank-you an original story written by Kathy Fish with him as a main character. Here Randall interviews Kathy on that and more.

My donation to SLQ had an added benefit: Kathy Fish would write a story starring, of all people, ME!  How did you approach the nerve-wracking challenge of writing for a “real” person?

It was nerve-wracking! I didn’t think it was enough, for your generous donation, to simply tack your name onto a character. I wanted it to be on some level, actually you. But it’s fiction after all, right? Also, what if you didn’t like the story about you? That possibility loomed and terrified me. This story was actually my third attempt. The first story I wrote was a sort of metafiction with me, the writer, attempting to draft a new story, while you, Randall Brown, read over my shoulder as I typed. It was actually kind of funny. You kept stopping me and scolding me for this and that. Basically I gave my internal editor the name of Randall Brown. My internal editor is too mean to be you, though. I didn’t want to write a mean Randall Brown story. The second story was you coming home from a bad day of work and rolling yourself up into a rug. I had your family members each arriving home and kneeling down on the floor and talking to you through the rug. That one just—went nowhere—so I had to ditch it, too.

For weeks I was writing “Randall Brown story” on my to-do list and coming up short. Finally, what I had to do was just let go of the worry and fussing and let myself just play and have fun. The first draft of this android story was entirely different and I hated it, but finally I got the story I wanted.

With what might a thousand Kathy Fishes fill their days?

Well, I’ve always wished I had a clone who did nothing but read all day. The thought of a thousand of me walking around on this earth is a little terrifying though. Even for me.

Explain, if you would be so kind, why “heartful” is so much better than “heartfelt.”

Oh, Word wanted me to change “heartful” in the last paragraph to “heartfelt.” As a writer, I have nothing but negative connotations for the word “heartfelt.” I associate it with bad, overwritten, sentimental writing. I do not associate it with your writing! I do however see your writing as full of heart. Genuine feeling. So, heartful.

How has your approach to writing flash fiction evolved over the years? What continues to draw you to this form?

You know, I’m not sure my “approach” has changed much over the years. I’ve always approached it as a fluid form with few restrictions beyond word count.  As a sort of invitation or challenge. What can you do with a thousand words or fewer? What draws me to flash fiction now, and always has, is the beauty of it. Its rebellious, hybrid nature. A zillion people are writing it now, but I still see flash is an innovative and evolving form. It’s exciting.

Your home state of Colorado has become “bud-friendly.” Any interesting stories you have about this development (not involving you of course, but a close friend)?

Oh I get high all the time now! I’m high right now! Well, no. But I wouldn’t mind trying one of those bakeries with the pot infused treats. That might be kind of fun. There’s nothing like that out here in the ‘burbs.

About the Author:

Kathy Fish teaches for the Mile High MFA at Regis University in Denver, Colorado. She has published four collections of short fiction: a chapbook in the Rose Metal Press collective, A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness: Four Chapbooks of Short Short Fiction by Four Women (2008); Wild Life (Matter Press, 2011); Together We Can Bury It (The Lit Pub, 2012); and Rift, co-authored with Robert Vaughan (Unknown Press, 2015). Three of her stories have been Best Small Fictions winners, most recently “Collective Nouns for Humans in the Wild,” chosen by Aimee Bender. Additionally, two of Fish’s stories will be featured in the upcoming W.W. Norton anthology, New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction.

About the Interviewer:

Randall Brown is on the faculty of Rosemont College’s MFA in Creative Writing Program. He has been published widely, both online and in print. He earned his MFA at Vermont College.