Issue 041 Author Interview: Kel Purcill and “Luminous”

What do Tuesdays have in common with Issue 041? Both feature our amazing authors! Today we chat with Kel Purcill about her sensuous story “Luminous.”

LSQ: Starting a story off with a “failed” happily-ever-after isn’t seen much in popular culture. Do you feel it’s important to have more stories that show the positives that can come from divorce?

Kel: Absolutely! I believe the female experience of divorce in particular – in all its complicated, gutting, joyous, maddening, elusive, incandescent rawness – hasn’t been even close to adequately explored. There are more outcomes from divorce as there are reasons behind them, or the people experiencing them. So sharing the positives that come from divorce are a vital addition to the conversation and communal library of potential “what-next” scenarios.

There are established tropes and stereotypes about the female divorcee in media which is understandable and born from reality. But the experience of divorce doesn’t stop once someone stops crying at the mention of an ex, or throws clothes out a window, or gets revenge or…or…or… insert montage of choice, really. I’m fascinated in the “now what?” question: this has happened, now what? I’ve crash-landed on Planet Now-Divorced…now what? And why can’t the now what be amazing?

LSQ: The moon coming down from the sky and falling in love—you must tell us how you came up with this!

Kel: Take a scoop of the sky late one night when, in your undies, on your way to rescue the clothes from the clothesline, you’re stunned by the moonlight pouring down the sky like an invitation. Store, carefully wrapped, for a few years. Finely grind the eye-rolls and sighs collected when you’re introduced as divorced before anything else. Season well with snark, hilarious innuendo, and puns from everyday life. Mix in generously the laughter, lessons, terror, and delight of chasing dreams. Sauté a handful of ponderings on what a future relationship might look like. Leave to cool, maybe get frostbite. Boil in a university course where one week’s focus is on magic realism and fabulism, leave to marinate and ferment into deliciousness…

The idea of the moon coming down to woo a woman was all of that, then lead to considering how the moon would date someone, who they would find attractive, the logistics and little moments that would connect them… and the consequences for the rest of the world.

LSQ: There’s quite the repertoire of baked goods in this story. Are you a baker yourself? Why do you think baked goods add such richness to prose?

Kel: I am a baker! Adding baking to Luminous wasn’t deliberate, but baked goods certainly adds the richness to prose. I think that’s because we all eat, and we all have some food-related memories which punch us directly in the tastebuds and vice versa. Using baked goods in particular adds a level of intimacy or emotional messaging, particularly if hand-made. Cardamom cookies may be untasted to the reader, but the connection is there to cookies, all the senses used, and that connection (hopefully positive) ties the reader into the story through memory, emotion, taste-memory, and curiosity.

An interesting question to ask people is what their favorite food-related memory is. I’ve found everyone has one – and you can even drill down into emotion related specifics. My favorite regret-related food memory is a cherry tart I tasted when I was maybe twelve. It was baked by the “Siberia! No other!” mother of Sabine, the woman I babysat for of a Friday night. It was Sabine’s birthday, the mother had flown to Australia for the occasion and baked all week in preparation. She made this incredible dark cherry tart among other things, which remains the best thing I’ve ever tasted and eaten. The food at the party was way too rich and I ended up throwing up… And no more tart was left or made. I think the word ‘regret’, and I can taste that tart. It makes sense that food plays a huge part in our relationships, in our tokens of affection, our personal histories. Baking something is often time-dependent, just like creating. Taking the time to create is self-nurturing, whether it’s baking or writing or bagpipes or concreting, no matter how many others share it at the end.

LSQ: What was the most challenging aspect of writing this story and why? What do you like best about this story and why?

Kel: The most challenging part was not thinking about what people would say about it, or say about me because of it, and writing it anyway. Maybe because of that fear, writing was both a love letter to myself and declaration to the universe. I think it’s joyful, optimistic and celebratory. There’s magic in that. What I like most is it’s the story that wanted to be told, on the page in all its lush, sensual honesty.

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