Amy Jones on Dying Young, Asshats, and Expensive Cowlicks

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Amy Jones, whose story “Die Young” is published in The Malahat Review‘s Spring 2014 issue, #186. It’s the story of how three twenty-something friends and a sister deal with the death of their friend/brother.

What was the inspiration for “Die Young”? Did you set out to explore death and quarter-life malaise or was it spawned by an image or something else?

Amy Jones

Amy Jones

I had gone to a couple of funerals in a row and was thinking a lot about death and funerals and you know, the whole pointlessness of everything and just generally being weird and moody and wanting to write about it. A lot of my stories start like that: with me wanting to process something that I’ve experienced or that I’ve been obsessing over, and using that kind of as a jumping-off point for something fictional. I feel like if I can transform something, make it happen to other characters in a different setting or in a different way or whatever, that it helps me understand it better.

(I realize I just said “other characters” as if I am a character, too, which I suppose is entirely possible and if I think about it too much I’m going to fall into some kind of “Stranger Than Fiction” black hole and make myself insane.)

Read the rest of the interview on The Malahat Review‘s website here.

 

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Arleen Paré’s Leaving Now

Leaving Now

Leaving Now

In the summer of 2009, I was working The Malahat Review’s table at an environmental literature conference, selling copies of their Green Imagination issue. At that time, I was in the middle of a separation. I had been sleeping in the basement of the family home for weeks. I didn’t want to leave my children but I didn’t want to stay with my husband. All of the parenting magazines I read focused on potty training, school lunches, soccer. That’s what parents are supposed to be concerned with. How to get your child to eat his leafy greens. Not how can I leave my husband with as little damage to the children as possible. I had no examples, no allies. But, at the table next to mine, Arleen Paré was selling copies of her BC Book Prize-winning first novel, Paper Trail. And we started talking. Somehow, we started talking about separation. She shared her story and I shared mine. She told me she had a book coming out, Leaving Now, in which she wrote this story. It launched in spring 2012, and I finally found the time to read it this spring. It is a beautifully written story, one I would recommend to anyone who has family, i.e., everyone.

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Everybody Loves Will Johnson

Will Johnson

Will Johnson

I first came across Will Johnson’s work when I was reading fiction for Island Writer magazine in the fall of 2010. I read story after poorly written story about aging parents with Alzheimer’s and then—finally—someone with a voice: “Nolan drove half way to the pool before he realized he was missing a contact lens. He didn’t have time to turn around. It was 5:17 a.m. and swimmers were probably already lined up outside the front doors. If he were even a few minutes late the patrons would complain to management.” Will’s story, “Split,” ends with Nolan’s failed attempt to save a drowning old woman, Glenda (Glenda! Perfect!)—failed in that Glenda ends up kicking Nolan and knocking out his tooth while Nolan’s female coworker, Lisa (whom he’s trying to get with), saves the day. “Nolan rubbed his eyelid, dragging his contact lens stiffly across his cornea. He blinked at the pool, at the people, at Lisa crouched in the corner with Glenda. He squinted  his eyes until both his realities merged together. He saw himself with his arm around Glenda, while Lisa looked on admiringly.”

Will and I met at the launch for that issue of Island Writer and became good friends. Now, he reads every draft of every story I write, he wrote about me on his blog, Literary Goon, when I had my first publication, when I had my first REAL publication, he put me on a top 10 list (which made me cry, which, apparently, he loves), and he even convinced Little Fiction to publish a story of mine this past January. And he’s done stuff like this for many, many others. In fact, one of Will’s favourite writers, Kris Bertin, prior to meeting Will for the first time, wrote to me “everyone seems to like Will. Don’t you think it would be more interesting if he and I were enemies?” That never happened, of course, because everybody loves Will Johnson. And I thought it was about time somebody featured him on their blog. Here goes:   Continue reading

Meet Zoey Leigh Peterson

Me and Zoey Leigh Peterson at Malahat issue #176 launch

Me and Zoey Leigh Peterson at Malahat issue #176 launch

 I was introduced to Zoey Leigh Peterson’s work in the summer of 2011 when her story “Next Year, For Sure” won the 2011 Far Horizons Award for short fiction at The Malahat Review (where I work). I was struck by how she developed her characters in such a way as to make me feel as though I’ve known them for years and by the odd, endearing details of their lives. I met Zoey that November, when she came to read at the launch of the issue her story appeared in. In this photo, I am gushing to Zoey about “Next Year, For Sure.”

We became facebook friends, emailed back and forth a bit, and then came that fateful day when she said those words every writer (or at least I) yearns to hear: “if you ever want another set of eyeballs to look over a story, just let me know.” Since then I’ve sent Zoey every story I’ve written once I feel I’ve done all I can with it and, no surprises here, she’s just as careful an editor as she is a writer. She even made a chart to understand the organization of the first story I sent her. A chart!!

The Malahat‘s 2013 Far Horizons Award for short fiction deadline came this May, and, in order to promote the contest, I interviewed Zoey for the Malahat website. I’ll share the interview here, and then a few of my favourite quotes from her (many) publications.

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