Behind the Words: Kate Alexander-Kirk

Posted by on Jul 22, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Kate Alexander-Kirk

Reflections on My Parents’ Past” is a fictionalized recounting of the bizarre series of events leading up to the conception, birth and childhood of Kate Alexander-Kirk (well, technically the “narrator”). The story is surreal in the best sense of the word: you won’t have any idea where it’s going, but it will always feel right when it gets there.

 

Mark-Anthony Lewis: Are your parents really a platypus-mermaid chimera and a recovering-minotaur primordial dwarf? If so, where you ever bullied in school for your nontraditional family?

Kate Alexander-Kirk: You have no idea how long I have had to suffer with this unusual fact in absolute silence. Who would believe in my amphibious-mythological parental figures…? On a plus I was not taunted as a result of my upbringing (naturally the school bullies satisfied themselves with other superficial inadequacies of mine) however it did make it awkward for bringing friends home. My parents were like the elusive Vera and Maris from Cheers and Frasier

M-AL: I’ve read some of your short fiction, and you seem to thrive in the short-short format. Do you have any longer works?

KA-K: Yes, Mark-Anthony. I like to experiment with different writing styles. I have flirted with different genres including script writing—although I have always shied away from poetry as I stink at writing it. What interests me most are relationships and internal thought processes. There is so much scope for exploring these universal issues through different genres and sometimes to very different effects. I am part way through a novel, a darkly comic story of a young man who has lost his lust for life and who is failing at every turn. I guess that I tend to favour the short-short format as so many people are moving at such a fast pace and sometimes all they have the time and energy for is something short. It’s snapshots in life that are of interest to me. Capturing small, seemingly insignificant moments of life that other people might mistake as boring or commonplace.

M-AL: So what are Cyril and Willy up to these days?

KA-K: Cyril and Willy struck it lucky with a big lottery win. They have been touring the world and living it up. Not sure that they have any plans to return to their lowly beginnings anytime soon. The last I heard from them was a postcard from Iceland. They don’t have hands and therefore cannot write but their was a muddy splodge and snail trail across the page that just reeked of the boys.

M-AL: Speaking of Cyril and Willy, what are the challenges of telling stories in web comic/comic strip format and how do they differ from the short story writing?

KA-K: I never planned to create a comic strip. It began life as a joke, a dare of sorts. I drew a pathetic little doodle, which—amazingly—a few of my fellow bloggers were intrigued by. They wanted more and somehow a legacy was created! I really started to get into it, to such an extent that I started to care about the characters and I even tried to bring Cyril out of his shell by finding him a love interest.

The challenges arise when trying to create something that is fresh, witty, accessible and yet somehow classic Willy and Cyril. When dealing with an international audience, humour can become lost in the language and the regional variations, but it is a risk worth taking. Ultimately I didn’t have the time to refine my cartooning skills and write, and so, for the time being, the boys are patiently awaiting their comeback!

I find that with short stories there is a different focus and expectation with regards to drawing readers in. In some ways it is easier to appeal to a greater number of people with a simple doodle and a one liner than it is with a literary offering as the former is more likely to be universal rather than esoteric or enigmatic.

M-AL: As someone who isn’t afraid to cross genres of writing, what medium other than literature would you say inspires your writing/creativity?
 
KA-K: Undoubtedly, it has to be music, which is the number one influence within my life. I have such great respect and admiration for songwriters and musicians that can evoke such an array of emotions. So much of music is poetry and literature. I couldn’t be without music. My current manuscript features an extraordinary amount of music references, many of which are quite subtle and purely included for my own indulgence and amusement, but which reflect some of the great artists that have inspired and shaped my own character through time. If it ever gets completed – not to mention published I’m not sure I’d ever be able to afford all of the royalties I’d need to pay out!

M-AL: Are there any books or stories that you would say have a strong influence on the way you write and the stories you create?
 
KA-K: Interesting question, Mark-Anthony. I was experimenting with form when I wrote ‘Reflections…’ as a result of having studied Charles Simic’s The World Doesn’t End. It has been my first flirtation with creating magical realism; it lead me to writing a series of four flashes centred around the original narrator within ‘Reflections…’ and has been some of the most enjoyable, worthwhile writing I gave ever concentrated on.

Other writers that I am in awe of are Muriel Spark and Ira Levin both of whom have an innate ability to write economically and with such seemingly effortless precision. I could only ever hope to have an ounce of their talent. Jeffrey Eugenides and Joyce Carol Oates, similarly have written astounding works of fiction with such dark eloquence. What a privilege to be able to read these writers’ work.

M-AL: What degree should one tilt one’s hat to achieve maximum jauntiness? Or is there an algorithm which takes into account the occasion, wind resistance, head-shape of wearer, etc.?
 
KA-K: This depends entirely upon the individual and the top hat in question. It depends also upon mood, not to mention the shape of the head in question. For me, it feels good leaning just a little towards the left—nothing scientific or mathematical—just got to tilt it until it feels right.

M-AL: I hear you live (or have lived) on the Isle of Lewis. What’s it like up there? Any mythical creatures roaming about? Do they have their own style of sweater (like Fair Isle)? I only ask because I kind of a sweater enthusiast.

KA-K: It’s all about the Harris Tweed up in the Outer Hebrides/Western Isles, not so much the jumpers, I’m afraid. Living in Lewis was a significant chapter of my life. It made me realise much about myself but also helped me to appreciate what home (Glasgow, Mainland Scotland) means to me.  Great black pudding. Probably the best you would ever taste.

M-AL: As someone who runs her own literary journal (an arts and poetry mag called Zest), what have you learned about contributors, and has it changed your writing and your own submissions in any way?

KA-K: I cannot begin to express how grateful I am to have experienced working with such a talented, generous bunch of artists who are largely broadminded, grateful, positive people. In the 2 years that I have been working on the ezine I have encountered just 3 or 4 difficult, objectionable characters—the rest of the contributors, including those whose work I have unfortunately had to decline, have tended to be exceedingly gracious artists. It makes it so worthwhile. The impact it has had on my own writing is that I have no time or energy for my own writing. ‘Reflections…’ was the last piece I had published as I have focused all of my attention on creating a platform for other people’s creativity, which has been a pleasure and through editing and having a creative dialogue with other artists I have learned such a lot about literature.


 

Mark-Anthony Lewis enjoys reading stories as much as telling them. He also likes Awful Awfuls and pumpkin whoopee pies. You might like his blog. Check it out.

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