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Karen Heuler

answers the Usual Questions

Says Karen Heuler, "I wrote my first novel when I was 11. I wrote it in longhand, skipping two lines, and leaving the back of each page blank but counting it. It has luckily been lost to the ages. Books always figured in my life."

"I'm an agnostic now, but early religious training left me with a mass of symbols and references and an ongoing literary interest in gods and beliefs and assumptions and facts, and most particularly, in exclusion and inclusion."

Has your interaction with fans, for example, at conventions, affected your work?

I recently got a note from someone via Goodreads, who said that reading my collection The Inner City made him a better writer. I realize now I have to read the collection again so I can be a better writer too. But the idea that a reader could love, not just like, something I wrote -- hold it up as a standard, take the time to get in touch -- makes me believe I'm in a friendly alternate universe.

Do you have a favourite author or book (or writer or film or series) that has influenced you or that you return to?

Alice in Wonderland. It opens my thinking, even in retrospect. I love the wordplay, I love the oddities, I love this little girl who can take anything in stride. Everyone and everything in Wonderland is filled with staid and steady self-determination. I would like to imagine myself with some of Alice's fortitude. Stand up, I tell myself. No shirking. Bite down on that pill and see what happens. I used to think One Hundred Years of Solitude was the first major influence, since I so much like that mix of real and unreal, but ultimately, it's Alice. I feel like I'm in that kind of plot, really. People ask me to do outrageous things with never a wink; they would take off my head in a blink of the eye. And I'm always on a journey to somewhere, really just a circular journey, trying to get back to something that, when you think about it, wasn't that interesting at all.

Who is the person you would most like to be trapped in a lift with? or a spaceship?

Tina Fey. I like that kind of humor, slightly under her breath, revealing without being painful. Sharp, insightful, yet acknowledging her own quirks. I suspect she'd be good for a long or short run.

Who is the person you would most DISlike to be trapped in a lift with? Or a spaceship?

Most people, sadly.

What would you pack for space? (Is there a food, beverage, book, teddy bear, etc that you couldn't do without?)

Only one thing? Isn't that a bit mean if I'm going into space? I expect a fairly large spaceship, so I will bring: wine, books, music, movies, internet access, fresh veggies, pizza, chocolate, popcorn, a swimming pool, a secret garden, my dog if there's room to run, my cats if there's a window and a ray of sun and a couple mice; and for me, I'd pack only two seasons, spring and summer, no holidays like Christmas or New Year's because they present such an untrue version of life. I'd take along the best conversationalists and the funniest people I know and I suppose some good painkillers in case there's no dentist or doctor. But why wouldn't there be a dentist and doctor? Wouldn't I check that out first?

What is the most important thing you would like to get/achieve from your work?

no answer

What is the special satisfaction of your work?

When you're writing well there's a sense of rhythm and purpose and just pure existence that I imagine musicians and composers must feel -- the sense of flow, perhaps. You know that moment when you've climbed a hill or valley on a perfect day and you look at life and feel anchored? You believe in harmony and purpose, at least for a while.

submitted by Karen Heuler

6 August 2014

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Just the facts:
Born: 1949, in Brooklyn, NY. Which was not then a hipster place. Working class.
Resides: West Village.
Karen Heuler's stories have appeared in over 70 literary and speculative magazines and anthologies, from Alaska Quarterly Review to Clarkesworld to Weird Tales. She has published four novels and two story collections with university and small presses, and her last collection was chosen for Publishers Weekly's Best Books of 2013 list. She has received an O. Henry award, been a finalist for the Iowa short fiction award, the Bellwether award and the Shirley Jackson award for short fiction. Permuted Press just published her novel, Glorious Plague, about a beautiful apocalypse.

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