Guest starring in today’s update is author Kodi Scheer, who has graciously consented to answer the same writing questions I responded to in my last post.
What am I working on?
I’m still working to promote my story collection, INCENDIARY GIRLS, which means I’ve been spending a fair amount of time on events, interviews, and essays. I’m also drafting a novel that follows several young American girls as they visit Paris for the first time—with tragic consequences—as one of the girls suffers from mental illness. I’d love to say more but I’m a little superstitious about it.
How does my work differ from others in the genre?
My short fiction isn’t easy to categorize. My friend calls the work in my first book “anatomical horror stories.” I suppose I’m working within the tradition of magical realism, as the stories are all set in our world, usually with one fantastical element—a heart transplant patient starts to take on the characteristics of her donor, a small town is infected by a highly contagious love virus, or a medical student is haunted by the ghost of her anatomy cadaver. The stories focus on science, medicine, and illness, which makes them a bit different than most fiction you’d label magical realism. I like to explore how the physical and psychological intersect.
Why do I write what I do?
I’m definitely influenced by my science background. I’m not a healthcare provider but I’d planned on a career in medicine. I studied the natural sciences as an undergrad and sought out clinical experiences by volunteering in various units of the hospital and at a women’s clinic, plus I worked with human subjects in a neurology lab. But I found myself more interested in people’s stories than their pathologies.
That said, I think there’s a lot of overlap between practicing medicine and writing fiction. In the end, they’re both about empathy — putting yourself in another’s shoes, experiencing the world from another person’s point of view. To a certain extent, I think both medicine and fiction can help relieve suffering. Medicine does this in a more acute and obvious way, but reading fiction can help alleviate suffering just by knowing another individual (“real” or not) has felt the same psychic pain — you’re not alone.
How does my writing process work?
I teach writing at the University of Michigan. During the academic year, I often write for long stretches on the weekends but only get an hour or so to write on weekdays. Summers are amazing because I get uninterrupted time to compose and edit. I love the quote by Hank Moody on Californication: “Writing is like having homework every day for the rest of your life.” I’m always working on a scene or creating a character in my head, whether I’m washing the dishes or taking a shower. I also find it useful to let my subconscious chew on a writing problem, so I’ll contemplate before I go to bed. Sometimes that leads to some very strange dreams…