Please welcome Kit Reed to the blog! Her brand new novel, WHERE, just came out this week, and she very kindly answered a few of my questions about the book.
What made you decide to write a book that was a riff on mass disappearances such as The Lost Colony of Roanoke?
KR: When I was 11 or so, a book came into the house with a section about the mysterious disappearance of everybody on the 19th-century sailing ship, Marie Celeste. Ship dead in the water, no signs of pirates, mutiny or any other kind of disturbance; the stove was still warm, as though they’d just VANISHED in the middle of the ocean. There are theories, but we still don’t know how or why they left the ship. The world was mystified. Nobody knows what happened to them– not even today. That story took me out to sea and I never came back! There are more personal reasons, which I lay out in my short story, “Military Secrets,” added as a sort of coda to WHERE. The simple fact is that the missing live in your head forever, precisely because nobody knows what happened to them or WHERE they went.
For me, the starkness of the alternate “world” was a great canvas to showcase the demons and insecurities of the main characters.
KR: Thanks! All I knew was that it had to happen this way. It’s one of those things I don’t think about while I’m in the middle of something. At the time I had no idea the setting would do what it did to them. The story just told me they’d end up in this place; I knew what it would look like, but that’s all I knew. I think in a lot of ways, that was me, or some unknown element, dropping everyone from Kraven Island into a sensory deprivation tank to see WHERE their minds would go when they were left alone with themselves, and what would become of them. And, as it turns out, what they would do under pressure, and the pressures are intense.
When you started the novel, had you already decided the story would focus on Davy and Merrill (and to a larger extent, Merrill’s father)?
KR: I knew it was going to be about a woman suddenly put in this bizarre, all-white place, I knew WHERE she came from and I knew the man left behind by the, um, removal would go nuts looking for her. Then I heard her voice and I knew who she would be. And Davy’s. I knew Merrill’s father would be what he was, which is pretty horrendous. The rest came as I worked with all this.
KR: I don’t choose styles, exactly. In weird ways, the process is a lot more organic. My third person is always from within the character, i.e. character POV, which makes it more specific and personal– omniscient narrator or fly-on-the-wall quite simply don’t work for me. I pretty much slip into what sounds like the right rhythm and cadencing for a particular character and if I can’t feel it, keep on typing and retyping and retyping until I get it; first person is what it is, that person’s word choices, frame of reference, metabolic rate, and the rest? Pacing, inside their heads, and according to what’s going on.
The ending to WHERE is ambiguous and certainly allows the reader to imagine what might happen to Merrill and David, and their relationship. Did you already have an ending in mind when you started the book or did you let the narrative guide you as you wrote?
KR: I knew two things at the beginning, which I can’t tell you here, but as you’ve given WHERE a great, close reading, you may be able to guess. Problem being that they’re both spoilers, and I don’t want to give away the ending to people who haven’t read the book. Oh, gulp. Sorry I can’t tell you, but ping me on FB or twitter and I’ll DM you, OK?
What kind of research did you do for WHERE?
KR: I started reading a book about the Marie Celeste, but put it down a third of the way through and did what I always do– let the story make itself. And the rest? Lived in South Carolina for two years as a kid; that and the occasional Google, and, OK, I thought about it all. A lot.
You’ve certainly influenced other writers with your work, but what writers or books have influenced you the most?
KR: *blushes* It’s a long, long list: L. Frank Baum and Ruth Plumley Thompson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Theodore Sturgeon, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, Iris Murdoch, Muriel Spark, Flannery O’Connor and… and… and… Best I set this aside and go on.
What’s one of the first things you can remember writing?
KR: My first novel on about four folded sheets of my father’s typing paper, dictated to my mother when I was four and a half. Harbor Plots Her Plans, Illustrated by the Author.
Have you read any good books lately?
KR: The Rafael Yglesias novel The Wisdom of Perversity is amazingly scary, and the Brad Gooch memoir, Smash Cut is flat-out brilliant. Is there anything you’d enthusiastically recommend? Gooch, I think. It’s a heartbreaking account of love in the pre-AIDS era.
What are you currently reading?
KR: The John Lahr Tennessee Williams biography. And in the realm of more portable books, I’m taking Andrew Irvin’s Burning Down George Orwell’s House and Paolo Baciagalupi’s The Doubt Factory to read on the plane.
What’s next for you, this year and beyond?
KR: To quote Buzz Lightyear, “To the future, and beyond!” Thanks for the use of the hall!
In a coastal town on the Outer Carolina Banks, David Ribault and Merrill Poulnot are trying to revive their stale relationship and commit to marriage, and a slick developer claiming to be related to a historic town hero, Rawson Steele, has come to town and is buying up property. Steele makes a romantic advance on Merrill and an unusual 5 a.m appointment outside of town with David. But Steele is a no-show, and at the time of the appointment everyone in the town disappears, removed entirely from our space and time to a featureless isolated village–including Merrill and her young son. David searches desperately but all seems lost for Steele is in the other village with Merrill.
Kit Reed’s Where is a spooky, unsettling speculative fiction.