Derick Varn: How would you like to introduce yourself and your work? Kellie Wells: Hi, Derick.

I guess I would simply say I'm a fiction writer, a novelist and a short story writer. And that I think my name--Kellie Wells--and my book titles-Compression Scars and Skin--have mistakenly attracted consumers of pornography to the website, to their great disappointment. Apparently there's a porn star named Kelly Wells. D.V.: That's a strange fluke of naming, and I have to wonder why Compression Scars would attract pornography consumers. That is a little creepy. You also teach, am I correct? Does this effect your writing life at all? Kellie Wells: Yes, I teach full time. I'm not very good at dividing my attention and so don't get a lot of writing done during the academic year. I write catch-as-catch-can, but a novel requires a certain single-mindedness, so I usually work on shorter pieces until the summer break. D.V.: I suppose I should ask a question that gets redundant for writers to answer, but what are you reading these days? Does any of it inform what you are writing? K.W.: The reading I've been doing recently is rereading for a

craft class I taught on fabulist fiction--Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz, The Thin Place by Kathryn Davis, Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, Wolf Whistle by Lewis Nordan, Madeleine is Sleeping by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, Under the Glacier by Halldór Laxness, Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link, Minor Angels by Antoine Volodine, and others. These are writers and books that have surely left a mark on me, though I couldn’t tell you how exactly. They are all books that, to varying degrees, throw off the constraints of mimesis in one way or another, and it has certainly been instructive to observe how each writer walks the tightrope between the familiar and the invented. D.V.: Reading your fiction, which is often very quirky, seems to be pulled
together by this really interesting way that language can cement a character's... well.. character. It does, however, lead to some very interesting vocabulary that sometimes comes out of really young characters. So I think I am asking is, what voice do you feel you are portraying, an inner voice of a character or an outer one? K.W.: This is a very interesting question, and it's something I've spent a lot of time thinking about because it's something that has occasionally been objected to, incongruity of diction and character, and not just in terms of age, also gender, class, geographic origin, education, etc. That is,

And I have to say that it's very liberating not to be straitjacketed by narrow ideas of what constitutes linguistic verisimilitude for this or that sort of character.W. this might be concerning. I'm working on a novel now that features a character who isn't God. wouldn't use elevated (especially when combined improbably with demotic) speech. in the way that I'm thinking about her. as sense. and so if I can be said to be representing an inner voice. And of course my interest in language has everything to do with sound.V.V.: Since character for me is often largely derived from voice. from this place can't plausibly speak in the way that I have them speak. and *moving*. but I take liberties that allow me to write in the polyglot manner that comes naturally to me. What I thought a lot about while writing my novel Skin was how I wanted the voices of those characters--the book is narrated from a variety of points of view--to be very similar but also distinct. For me. I conceived of those characters from the outset as part of a community. well. but might be. And I don't mean by this that I was trying to mimic a specific geographic idiom. I wonder if I'll have no choice but to write a Jack Sprat sort of prose. wouldn't use language in that way. where place and character are one and the same. . that's how a character comes to me.sometimes people will say that characters who are this age. has someone been badmouthing it lately? Are you thinking of that essay about William Gaddis by Jonathan Franzen (to which Ben Marcus later responded)? I suppose high style is always a hard sell these days. sound is every bit as important. and this is affording me. It's more a voice of the shared vexations of these characters.: I don't know.: Have you ever written a character that was particularly difficult to find a voice for? K.W. but anything worth your time will provoke someone somewhere to spit. a capaciousness that allows me to exploit this maximal tendency. So the characters share language and imagery but then put something of their own stamp on it. place as an emotional or psychic state rather than a landscape. with certain linguistic predilections in tow. though there's that too of course. D. wouldn't swing so hastily from high to low. and if I were aiming for mimetic fidelity. so. I like your suggestion that what I'm trying to represent is a character's inner voice. This doesn't mean that I eschew mimesis entirely. but I'm not. it would perhaps be the voice of this place. it's not. D. after having licked the platter clean. After the gluttony of this voice. I've always thought of myself as trying to get at some emotional truth that only a very consciously constructed relationship to language will help me to inch toward.: Do you think maximalism has gotten a bad rap in American fiction? K. that sex. if I were a strictly realist writer.

each book though. isn't it. though it seems to me we are more inclined to speak affirmatively. A student pointed out to me recently that I have a lot of affection for the word onus. But I was also thinking on Franzen's article. apropos of our conversation about maximalism. except for perhaps certain words that I know are fond tics of mine. but it's a little too showy to use habitually. the words we love too much. And. I believe that less is less. that's an interesting question. I guess I'm always thinking about.: Well. as you know.: I have a story about opposite sex conjoined twins. to talk about what it was we were attempting to accomplish.V. It's revealing. consciously avoiding. XX. produce drivel)? Of course I'm sure there are many things writers strive not to do when writing. sort of birthed the novel I'm writing now. that relationship. maybe because I'm not really finished telling it. As Stanley Elkin said in the defense of excess: "I don't believe less is more.V. I wouldn't bemoan the plight of maximalism in mixed company. is there anything you actively tried to avoid? K. What was I trying not to do (other than. It's such a useful. For example now I know I've got to inoculate myself against the word ylem.: Hmm. fat fat. thin thin and enough is enough.: Do you have a story that you are particularly attached to that you have written? K. however delicious. This is a list that changes with each story. where I teach. you know. D. What stories and poems of yours do you remain attached to? I still remember a really terrific story you wrote about a couple sitting in a car awaiting the end of the world. What was that story called? .V. among unsuspecting civilians. which I keep bandying about. called "Secession.W.D." and I'm still attached to that one. realism. perhaps to my own detriment. That piece.W.'" D. so I'm sure you can run into frowners easily enough. but whether a maximalist aesthetic is embraced or reviled in academe depends on the writing program.: I got that feeling that it was frowned upon during Graduate school. words we make mantras of? Well. I believe that more is more.W. sure.: In writing Skin. though not in a direct way. has been the reining mode in American letters for a while. the consequences of reduction or oversimplification (which I think is sometimes mistaken for economy). I can't think of anything I was actively. No frowners we here at Wash U. Do you find that teaching writing and being involved with writing academia makes you more aware of these kinds of the debates that probably bore many non-writers to death? K. lovely word.

I. That. and I admire that. I suppose.: Yes. leads to a question that I always ask fiction writers--how much of yourself do you find in your work after you write it that perhaps you didn't think would be there? K. that story was exhibitionism.V.: Is there anything you'd like to say in closing? K. but perhaps it is one for me.V. and then I see that what I thought I'd cleverly invented is just a dusty memory. I actually come to hate.W. That ever happen to you? K. Do you mean how much do I later realize is autobiographical? Or do you mean how much of the work do I realize I have a sincere and intimate connection to? Or something else? If you're asking about the autobiographical aspect of the work that reveals itself only later. On the other hand. your feelings about her death? Isn't that a legitimate subject of inquiry for a poem? Do you have a measure of when a poem or story. So its not so much an illegitimate choice in general. in fact. I do know writers who genuinely love their own work.W. and so I backed away. almost obsessively so. to your way of thinking. As for my grieving with death. I don't know exactly why it feels distasteful.W. and I am still pretty attached to it. is too autobiographical? D.: Hmmm. There's a poem about Susan Atefat-Peckham that I really like. Most of the poems that I have published or won awards for.: Self-dealing is legitimate for an artist who wants themselves to be part of their art in an explicit way. that's hard to answer.: Yes.V. so you don't grow too complacent or too smitten with the look and sound of your own voice. I hide a wall with my fiction when I felt I was no longer creating characters but merely dealing with myself. D. but I don't think I'll ever publish it. thanks for your interest. however.D. and not in a fatheaded or self-aggrandizing sort of way. Why do you think you won't ever publish the poem about Susan Atefat-Peckham? You feel like you're "merely dealing with [your]self" in the poem. It depends on what you mean by finding yourself in your work. I think it's probably a good thing when the honeymoon is short. They just have a strong sense of what they're doing and take pleasure in it. am some private. with alarming regularity! I don't know. I never recognize this until my sister tells me that she remembers this or that event or this or that person. but somehow it does.: Thanks for reading. Perhaps I am clinging to a self a bit much. I write more poetry now and non-fiction. .