Wednesday, June 09, 2010
TWENTY STORIES by Kristin Fouquet >> Debut Author Review
Reading TWENTY STORIES (Rank Stranger Press, 2009) by Kristin Fouquet is akin to sitting down by the Mississippi, eating twenty beignets, lightly fired and dusty with sugar, and sipping a cup of chicory-infused café. Because that’s what her stories are: short, sweet, sharp, a tinge of bitterness on the swallow. Each story easily digested on the first read, yet on the second immersion, new layers and levels of complexity emerge, and you understand you are reading the words of a gifted and nuanced writer.
In The Congregation Next Door, Fouquet presents what seems a simple story: a Catholic congregation bereft of its church due to its closing by the diocese, gathers in protest in a neighboring non-believer’s yard. A slice-of-life sort-of-funny read. But then I spent much of the remainder of the day musing on the role of church in our lives, on the role of worship, and whether God could be caught in a stone building or could be found on a neighbor’s porch. Similarly, The Painters made me question the tangibility and permanence of art, and whether something beautiful and profound should be preserved for posterity, or allowed to be fleeting, appreciated by just one other.
Kristin generously agreed to let me interview her about writing and living and the creation of TWENTY STORIES. In her own words…
How did your 20 stories come to be birthed? The stories were written sporadically over a four year span. I honestly didn’t expect to have a book out as soon as last year. I was concentrating on improving my writing and wasn’t thinking beyond that. Then I met my editor in January of 2009. He read some of my stories online and liked them, but knew they could be strengthened. We started working together and by June, he suggested it was time for a book. Twenty Stories was published in August.
What is your favorite story, and why? What inspired the story? Maybe because of your use of the word “birthed” in the preceding question, I feel like the mother of my stories. Asking to name a favorite is a bit of a Sophie’s choice. If space permits, I’ll mention a few that are meaningful to me.
I feel The Painters at only 483 words, conveys much despite its brevity. Someone told me a story about an artist who painted a mural in a rented house and later it was painted over when he vacated. I thought it would be interesting if the two painters met and shared a mutual respect for the work. I believe artists can create in any field if their work is transcendent. Also, the mural painter in the story is not emotional about losing his painting because the real task was the creation. Having the other painter appreciate the art only makes it that much easier for him to walk away from it.
As for the longer stories, Blue No More is a favorite inspired by a past relationship. I love the last story The Depreciation of The Darbonnes for several reasons. The characters were strong and I felt an obligation to them. I changed the ending three or four times before arriving at the current one. I learned a lot about writing with editing that story, so it’s special to me.
New Orleans figures prominently in these stories. What do you love best about living there vis a vis your writing? What do you like least? From a very young age, I knew I lived in a special place. New Orleans has a mystique which continues to intrigue me. I grapple with the notion of being a provincial writer, though. I don’t want to rely too heavily on my city as the setting of everything I write, but it is always in my mind. Unless a story is set in suburbia, of which there are two in the book, I think of traditional New Orleans architecture. Even if I choose not to describe the setting, it is New Orleans. I’m a very sensitive person, especially visually. I love the aesthetic of this city; the beauty is comforting and inspiring.
However, there are distressing aspects of living in New Orleans. Crime is an ongoing concern. I find it creeping into my recent writing. With our vanishing wetlands and proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, we are geographically vulnerable. The devastating oil spill in the Gulf is exacerbating this and threatens to rob our city of much of its culture.
When did you start writing, and why? I learned how to write in the first grade. I was a secretive kid and kept a diary for a few years, then moved on to a notebook. Some painful childhood experiences led me to become more introverted and I discovered solace in making up stories. So, the fiction writing started about age nine or ten. When I was twelve, I wrote a novella about a romance in the fashion industry. I think my mother still has it, no doubt saving it as blackmail material. As a teenager, a good night for me was staying in and banging away on my Underwood typewriter. My friends would go out and later visit me in my room, raving about their experiences. I don’t think I really missed out on much; I enjoyed my private time writing.
Is that you on the cover? Ha, you caught me. I shot that self-portrait two years ago. The plume in the hat reminded me of a quill, so I thought it would make a nice writing photograph. At the time, I had no idea it would be a book cover, least of all my own. [Kristin is an amazing photographer --> Check out some of her architectural B and Ws HERE].
Tell us about your publisher. I was really fortunate to be invited for publication. Working on the manuscript for Twenty Stories with Rank Stranger Press was certainly one of the most rewarding times in my life. The editing process was new and exciting.
What are you working on now? I’ve written several short stories in the past year. I’m working on a novella which I’d like to finish by the end of the summer, but that may be too optimistic a time frame. I’m still learning and hopefully improving. As long as I’m writing, I’m happy.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kristin Fouquet writes and photographs from lovely New Orleans. Twenty Stories (Rank Stranger Press, 2009) is her first collection. More of her work may be found at her website Le Salon and updates at her blog Le Salon Annex.
ABOUT THE PRESS: Rank Stranger Press is an independent non-profit publisher operating out of Eastern North Carolina. Since 2001, it has brought forth over 20 books that include poetry chapbooks, longer poetry collections, novels, and short story collections. The editor/publisher is Charles Whitley. Submissions are by invitation only. Unsolicited manuscripts will be neither read, returned, nor acknowledged. The writers and poets published by RSP are from all across the United States. Currently, Rank Stranger Press is bringing out two books each year. Authors previously published include Jim Chandler, Tim Peeler, S. A. Griffin, Ron Androla, and Jennifer Bosveld.
Get your copy of TWENTY STORIES while they're hot. You'll be happy you indulged. Peace, Linda