BJI: Give us some background on This Is a Love Crime</em>.
LK: This Is a Love Crime came after reading an article in the Calgary newspaper about a female hijab-wearing student that was running for student council. Someone had scrawled “This is a hate crime” across the front of the poster, and the articles and enraged letters to the editors that poured forth, both pro and con, got me thinking about similar, but different oppression in our Canadian society. It’s always easy to point out where another culture/country has seriously missed the boat on equal rights and oppression, but not so easy to pick out in the culture in which you eat, sleep and breath. So, in This Is a Love Crime, I wanted to look at oppression, and in this case specifically, women, although oppression has its tentacles in many other areas: i.e. religion, gender (both male and female), sexuality, government, cultural, military, workplace, you name it, if us humans are involved, there is likely some form, overt or not, of oppression/repression going on. Such is our glorious humanity.
BJI: In your opinion, what role does fiction play in society?
LK: I think the role that fiction plays in society is like that of the court jester, or the heyoka (contrary) in native culture that sneaks up on you, and shows you something you didn’t see prior. Any really excellent fiction I’ve read over the years works on this premise of going beyond the taboos and conventions within a given society. What I love is that fiction allows the writer to express what may be a controversial/contrary opinion that could not be expressed in any other form without serious repercussions. I’m not saying that fiction’s goal is to provoke and/or offend cultural sensibilities, more, I mean that fiction, good fiction, might just be that small, seemingly innocent tool, which causes the reader to look at an age-old situation with fresh eyes. Bare minimum, good fiction provokes thought, and with thought comes consideration, understanding, possibly even change. It drives me perfectly wild to see women in hijabs (or worse, in full niqabs at the local swimming pool), while their male counterparts cavort about in the 30 degree Celsius heat, bare-chested and in western board shorts. Likewise, western women, or anyone else who is willing to hand over their free will to another individual and/or organization, which dictates the codes and behaviours beyond what would be considered good, kind, common, human sense, which I think most people are capable of entirely on their own: i.e. don’t kill each other, robbing isn’t good either, war is worse, no adultery, please, it’s hurtful. My mother’s old adage of what’s good for the goose is good for the gander is often the starting point for me in fiction.
BJI: What was your process for writing this story?
LK: Story process: as above, the start of a story is usually is the goose and gander thing (oh, the unfairness of it all), or anything that gets my dander up, and sticks with me until I feel compelled to put it down on paper. More than the writing itself, it’s the thinking process prior that dictates how the story gets written. I always know the beginning of the story, and the end, but never the path that gets one to the other, and for me, that’s the best part, the not knowing. It’s what allows me to stay fully open as to what might happen along the path, and I love that freshness, the unexpected things that crop up as you write. It’s what keeps me coming back to fiction over and over again. As for process, I’m a seat-of-the-pants kind of writer (minimal notes, no structure, plot lines – what are those???), but it works well for me.
BJI: What are the advantages of writing short stories? What are the challenges?
LK: Short stories are my first love, although I’ve written two novels, a short story collection, am working on novel four. The advantages for me with short stories are that they are short, which may sound simplistic but after spending anywhere from 2-4 years nose-to-the-grindstone on a novel, short stories give me the much-needed break from the novel grind. The challenges of the short story are it’s length. Can I convey and say what i want within a short piece? Can I make something work in a limited form? I relish that challenge, and also think it makes me a better novel writer, in that I don’t tend to get lost in superfluous details that you wouldn’t have room for in short stories, so why waste your reader’s time in a novel? A friend of mine’s wife, we’ll call her Jillian, used to go on and on about any and everything, so that after ten minutes of a lot of talk about nothing, my friend would say, Get to the point, Jillian. Short stories aren’t much different in that respect that no matter what the story is about, the whole idea is to get your reader to the point.
BJI: Last question. What excites you most about online/digital storytelling?
LK: I like the potential of the vast public access to online/digital storytelling. Although the free internet content copyright stuff has me worried that writers will be further pressed in terms of fair compensation for fair work, but that’s a whole other story. Please, if you read online, readers, consider donating so that, at the very least, a writer can purchase another grindstone on which to set their noses … I love love the idea that I can download a short story like a single on iTunes, and read it while en route to work or travelling or at home in my relaxing pants … I love the easy access, the exposure for short story writers, who are increasingly rare, in these days of hard economic times for publishers, who are also hard-pressed, and can’t or won’t take the risk to publish short story collections. Bravo Found Press, you are a most welcome addition to the short story form. Thank you for that!
stories by Lee Kvern