Smoke and Mirrors—An Interview with Natalie Lund

by Richard Lee Read the Story April 1, 2015

Can you talk about the process of writing “Rabbit?” It strikes me as a story that in some ways could have been much longer, so was it always flash? Why are you drawn to flash in particular?

A few months ago, I watched my boyfriend shoot a rabbit. I didn’t grow up around hunters, so it was the first time I’d seen something like that. The moment tumbled around in my skull for a while, gathering other memories to it: the death of a childhood dog, a stuffed animal I still have, the work I’d done in a lab as a teenager. When I completed a first draft, the story was shorter—about 500 words—and mostly about dead animals. I sent it to a peer and she echoed what I was feeling: the story wanted to be about more than a rabbit. That’s when I started investigating why the protagonist was preoccupied with these endings and what conflict might exist within her and the relationship. Over the course of revision, I read “Rabbit” aloud over and over to myself, each time reshaping sentences and the piece as a whole. One evening, I read it to a group of friends at an informal event called a Hoot and felt, finally, like it was ready to send off into the world.

I started writing flash fiction a year ago, around the same time I started a novel. I had to hold so much in my head at once for the long form that new ideas didn’t have enough room. Flash became an outlet of sorts. It was a tiny space where I could keep those subjects that were tugging at me. And I quickly fell in love with the form’s capacity for lyricism, nuance, noise, and quiet. I even started a flash contest at a magazine I edit, Sycamore Review, so that I can publish others’ work in the genre.

Where does a story generally start for you? Is it usually through an idea or a concept or is it through imagery or character? And if it’s at all possible to answer, why do you think it starts there for you?”

For me, it begins with a moment, usually between two people. I write that moment with imagined or remembered images and then build other elements around it: characters, plot, etcetera. The narrative takes shape over many drafts, and I have to listen to the story, my instinct, and peer feedback before I’m able to build something that feels whole.

What made you pursue writing as a craft, how are your current studies and work propelling that choice, and where do you see yourself in five years?

I worked as a middle and high school teacher for five years. During that time, I realized that writing was the thing I wanted to do most in the world, and my career didn’t leave enough space for it. I craved a writing community—people who would read my work not just during the course of a program but also for life. And I lucked out. I found that at Purdue: time to write and a group of women writers, whom I call the Wolf Pack, that I trust, admire, and respect. I know the next few years will be a challenge—that outside of my graduate program, I must find a way to finish my novel and earn a living— but I am confident that I can and will do it.

Whom do you read and admire? Why?

I try to read widely across all genres. I just finished Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things and admired how collected columns became a memoir of sorts. I dream of writing about emotion as honestly as Strayed.

One text I keep returning to is Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin. I initially reread the book because of its structure: the way it weaves around one day in history. It appeals to my love of organization, patterns, and connections. But I keep returning because his sentences break my heart.

About the Author:

Natalie Lund is a third-year student in Purdue's MFA program and the fiction editor of Sycamore Review. Before attending Purdue, she taught English and Texas history at a charter school in Houston. She was named as a finalist in Glimmer Train three times and has placed in the National Society of Arts and Letters competition twice. Her work has recently appeared in Literary Orphans. Follow her on Twitter @nmlund.

About the Interviewer:

Richard Lee is a professor of English at the State University of New York College at Oneonta, where he teaches courses in world literatures, linguistics and critical theory.