Rappahannock Review Fiction Editors: We’re interested in the importance of the relationships in the piece. Is the relationship between the narrator, the father, and Lucy influenced by real people and/or pets in your life?
Kris Willcox: Yes, the relationship between the narrator and the father in the story is similar in some ways to my connection with my dad. It was also influenced by some things I’ve read recently while writing an article about end-of-life planning. I’ve been thinking a lot about dogs, as well, because my family just got our first dog (a puppy—other end of the life spectrum from the dog in the story) and there’s been a lot of conversation in my extended family about dogs, dog training, etc.
RR: Did you know before you began writing the piece that it would be a flash fiction, rather than a longer story, or did it naturally occur this way? How do you approach writing in such a condensed form?
KW: Most of the fiction I’ve written in the past few years has been flash fiction, and while I’d like to claim that there was artistic intent here, it’s really because I don’t have a lot of time and stamina right now for longer pieces of fiction, so I work with what I have: little chips of time and palm-sized ideas. I do enjoy the form, and the challenge of making something that has both the brevity and the density of a good flash-fiction piece.
RR: In general, do you tend to focus on realistic stories and everyday situations? What draws you to your subjects and themes?
KW: Most of my stories grow out of some small detail or observation that catches my attention and they expand from there, and I tend to write realistic fiction. I’m often drawn to a bit of imagery or dialogue that hints at something larger. “An Old Dog” is a good example of this; a few lines into the first draft, I became interested in the idea that the two characters were communicating about something larger than the street-level of their conversation. And as I got a little further, that became a kind of theme, that listening that we learn to do with people who are not always expressive in direct ways, but are sending clear messages nevertheless.
RR: Which part of this piece was the hardest for you to write? Were there any parts that were emotional for you when writing them?
KW: I wouldn’t say that any part of this was hard to write, necessarily, but I did take a close look to gauge if it felt emotionally honest. By that I mean, the story is not an exact replica of my own life, but it’s close enough that it was important the story not be too precious, or slathered in meaning that doesn’t seem to rise up on its own. You want it to read with poignance, but you don’t want the whole orchestra swelling up at the end and drowning the story in sentiment. I hope I avoided that.
RR: What is one thing, physical or otherwise, that you find essential to your writing process?
KW: Quiet. I really like to write in a quiet space and I’m not very good at filtering out distractions, though I’m always working on that because life is full of noise.And besides quiet, I find that constant reading is a cure for just about any kind of writing problem I have. Writer’s block? Read more. Hate the draft I just wrote? Read more. Full of existential angst? Read. Read. Read. OK, that was actually two things.
Kris Willcox’s work in Issue 6.1: