Interview with Kiana Govoni 

Rappahannock Review Fiction Editors: “Grave Flies” deals with grief uniquely by having the subject endow their dog with their mother’s spirit. What was the process of conceptualizing grief in that way?

Kiana Govoni: I like the idea of wishes and second chances. I also like getting what you wish for in a manner that deforms and forces a personal choice that tests the narrator’s understanding of themselves, their limitations, and what they can justify to themselves. Situating the mother’s essence in the body of a dog allowed me to bring the mother back to the narrator, but in a way that denies the return of desired dynamics. This, to me, structured grief in the immediate and portrayed the complexities of how grief doesn’t just disappear with the reemergence of a lost loved one.

There is relief and hope with the return, but the narrator will still grieve for the parent she lost because her mother lives in a different and unquestionably inhuman form. I am also a stickler for inserting horror elements into my narratives. So by having the mother return as a dog, the subsequent dynamics between the narrator and the mother inform a new type of warped affection and trauma, an unnatural alteration that induces a new layer of grief to the narrator’s loss and regrets over her past choices.

RR: We love how the story uses second person, which is a notoriously difficult POV to write in. What led you to write in this perspective?  

KG: While I have written in the first person before, I always found the third person easier to write, and I’ve stuck with this voice for the majority of my writing years. As I am now experimenting more with voice and structure, however, I have decided to try employing different points of view to not only challenge myself but to just have fun.

Different voices are fun. There’s so much that can be discovered writing in different points of view, and I wanted to try the second person for this story to see how that voice would inform my writing and the unfolding of the narrative. The second person was a welcome change that allowed me to feel like I was in closer contact, emotionally, with both the narrator and the reader. This direct address also helped the vulnerability and desperation I was trying to convey in this narrative to feel more honest and conversational.

RR: What do you think is the most important part of your process when writing?

KG: Outlining. Creating a basic idea or plot is one thing. To develop those ideas into a story that has thematic movement and a sense of completion dictates that I need a very strong outline. A strong outline, however, rarely looks the same for each story. Some outlines could be a few pages long or half a page. Some are just bullet points of ideas, images, a one line summary of what I want to convey, or just a single world. The idea of a strong outline for me means that I have the order of the ideas and scenes, which I will expand or alter when writing, and that I have a direction and at least a few points to start.

Starting is often one of the most difficult aspects of writing for me, even when I know the general idea of what I want to write. So outlining is an essential part of my writing process. Once I have my ideas outlined I will then be in the right headspace to sit down and start writing the first draft.

RR: We understand you’re a fiction editor for the Greensboro Review; how has that role influenced you as a writer?

KG: I was a fiction editor at The Greensboro Review before I graduated. I have also served as an editor at another journal during my undergraduate years, and I found that working as an editor, while being a writer myself, exposed me to a wide selection of voices and experiences that either confirmed or challenged my writing style. Writing is a singular and plural experience. To write is also to read, and having the privilege of reading other writers works showed me amazingly diverse and creative works and voices. It also proved to me that taking risks and not being afraid to say what you’re going to say in a way that’s unapologetic and unique to yourself will always feel authentic.

Writing and exposing that writing to the public is rewarding. It can also be terrifying. Being an editor influenced me to take chances and to not restrain myself due to fear of how others would view my writing voice or my narrative decisions.

RR: What would you say has been the biggest influence on your writing?

KG: Ray Bradbury. The balance of the beauty of his prose and the exoticism and expansiveness of his plots have greatly inspired the evolution of my writing style. The distinction between literary and genre fiction isn’t as severe as it once was, and Bradbury’s ability to incorporate different elements of genre with distinct, sharp, and poetic prose encourages me to not limit myself or my writing and to avoid viewing the different writing styles as so greatly separated from each other.


Read “Grave Flies” by Kiana Govoni in Issue 11.2