Smoke and Mirrors: An Interview with Kyle Brown

by James Tadd Adcox Read the Story December 19, 2016

Douglas Hofstadter, talking about how consciousness can arise from brute matter, says that “In the end, we self-perceiving, self-inventing, locked-in mirages are little miracles of self-reference.” I kind of felt something like this going on in your story: it doubled back on itself so thoroughly in such a short space that it felt like it created its own weird kind of consciousness. What are you up to here, Frankenstein?

A few years ago I had reached a point, as a reader of fiction, where I could not separate the voice of the narrator from the voice of the author. I repeatedly told the pieces of fiction I read, “I see what you did there.” That really took the fun out of it. This frustrated fiction reader inspired the fiction writer to create a saturated solution of self-conscious self-reference. Things got really meta. And it helped! The fiction reader stopped reading everything with the strict eyes of a fiction writer and all was at peace in his mind.

So would you say that metafiction, for you, is a way out of the self? An attempt to gain some sort of enlightenment? A (quasi-)religious thing?

When I first came up with the concept of this piece, I would have absolutely said yes to these three questions. Metafiction let me escape the self (myself?), it tickled me, inspired me to act, to leave behind any inhibitions or concerns, to create. And after some time I found myself reading stories and enjoying them without wondering what the author’s relationship was to the narrator. I still enjoy metafiction today, but it doesn’t tickle me in the side of my ribs like it used to. Which is fine. I’ve evolved as a reader and writer and “Dear Fiction Editor” has been a key part of that process.

What have you found on the other side of metafiction? What are you interested in now?

For the lack of a better word, I’ve found more sincerity. Maybe the word should be maturity. I used to sit down and try to write something as clever as I could imagine for the sake of being more clever than the next clever person. Now I just want to tell a good story. I think “Dear Fiction Editor” helped me make that transition.

These days I’ve been interested in very long pieces of fiction. I want to pick up one book and read it for months. I want to sit down at my laptop and work on one long piece for years.

What are you reading? Is any of it feeding into your work?

I’m currently reading The Recognitions by William Gaddis. It is absolutely feeding into my work. For a little while now I’ve been working on a (potentially very long) piece that blurs the lines between character dialogue and narration using an extreme lack of punctuation. Writing ambiguously yet precisely has been challenging. I could very well fail. Gaddis’ method and skill at dialogue is something I’ve been studying for a few months, and at the very least I think it’s helping.

Thanks for taking the time to talk some about “Dear Fiction Writer,” Kyle. It’s a great story, and I’m excited that I got to have a hand in publishing it.

Thank you for the kind words and thoughtful questions.

About the Author:

Kyle Brown writes fiction and poetry. He graduated with a BA in English from Purdue University. His work has appeared in Midwestern Gothic, Dark Matter, Word Riot, Spork Press, and elsewhere. He lives in Chicago.

About the Interviewer:

James Tadd Adcox is the author of a novel, Does Not Love, and a collection of short stories, The Map of the System of Human Knowledge. His work has appeared in GrantaBarrelhouseSmokeLong, and TriQuarterly, among other places. A novella, Repetition, is forthcoming October 2016 from Cobalt Press (and currently available for preorder)

About the Artist:

A Best Small Fictions 2015 Winner, Dave Petraglia's writing and art have appeared in Bartleby Snopes, bohemianizm, Cheap Pop, Crack the Spine, Five:2:One, Gambling the Aisle, Hayden's Ferry, matchbook, Medium, McSweeney's, Necessary Fiction, North American Review, Per Contra, Points in Case, Popular Science, Razed, SmokeLong Quarterly, Up the Staircase, and others.