Issue 039 author interview: Katherine Kendig and “The Wiser Move, The Better Choice”

Dear readers! This week we chatted with Issue 039 author Katherine Kendig about her short story “The Wiser Move, the Better Choice.” Go read her story and enjoy the interview below!

LSQ: Stories about prophecies and such can always be tricky, but I like your interpretation of the Universe merely making suggestions. Where did this idea come from?

Katherine: I think it’s natural to see direct orders as antagonistic, and a lot of people resist that automatically. But it’s harder to see the influence that something has if it’s mild and indirect. I think the idea comes from the constant suggestions we get from society and advertising and culture. When someone says “Buy this product” or “Act this way” we get prickly, but we’re not always as tuned to see the power in “You’ll be so happy when you buy this product” or “This is the way people act.” We’re more likely to think we’ve made those choices completely on our own.

LSQ: The plot twist with the Governor was so well done! Do you have any tips for writing effective plot twists that aren’t just made for shock value?

Katherine: I had a student in a creative writing class one time say, matter-of-factly, that she knew every short story had to have a plot twist. That’s not how I feel about short stories at all (and I kind of wonder what she’d been reading), but I do think sometimes it’s nice when two story lines that seem to be running in parallel, separate, suddenly converge. I think writers do best with plot twists when they don’t guard the secret too jealously – it’s so satisfying as a reader to realize that you failed to notice the signs, and so unsatisfying to realize the author just never gave you any.

LSQ: Would you like to be Prophecy-touched, or not?

Katherine: Not like Rien is, but I do love fortune cookies – they provide the same sense of mysterious prediction with absolutely zero stakes. (Plus they come with food!)

LSQ: What was the most challenging part of this story to write and why? What was the most enjoyable and why? 

Katherine: It was challenging to write the ending, and I rewrote it over and over. I always struggle to keep things natural at the finish line, when I’m so close to being done and I just-want-everything-to-wrap-up-as-planned so I’m trying to force things that may or may not be working. In this case, I also vacillated between having Rien overcome the Prophecies, or not. I originally had the opposite ending, and when I changed it, it didn’t work until I went back and sharpened her character in earlier parts of the story.

On the other hand, the scenes with Tia were fun. I usually like writing dialogue, especially in scenes where wary people sort of poke at each other’s boundaries until they’re having a real conversation. There’s something very appealing to me as well about situations where characters are stuck together for long periods of time, because it forces them to engage or not engage very deliberately. You can’t just accidentally not talk to someone who’s sitting next to you in a boxcar for days on end.