From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Nicole Kornher-Stace

I don’t seem to be able to write anything that isn’t intensely personal. I can’t detach myself that far. …in all my longer fiction I find the characters reach a point where they mutiny, take over, and sail off with the story, while I’m keelhauled in its wake.

Nicole Kornher-Stace, author of The Promise, was born in Philadelphia, grew up in six houses in four states on two coasts, and currently lives in New Paltz, NY, with her husband Dan, their new baby Julian, and three psychotic though well-intentioned ferrets. In between attempting to juggle writing and new-mom-ing with some modicum of grace, she tries to squeeze in reading, hiking, learning (bits of everything), and seeking new experiences. Nicole’s short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in several speculative fiction magazines and the anthology Best American Fantasy, and was nominated for the 2007 Pushcart Prize. Her first novel is due out in 2008 from Prime Books. You can find her at nicolekornherstace.com or wirewalking.livejournal.com.

Where do you get your ideas from?

I wish I knew. Generally there’ll be something — an image, a line, a piece of dialogue — that falls into my head from who-knows-where, and given enough incubation time, a story usually — somehow — builds itself up around it. I’m still trying to determine how this works.

The exception is “The Promise“. That was a dream I had in a trailer one summer in England. Easy to trace that one.

What author do you admire and hope to be compared to someday?

I admire much of what I read, but rather than being compared to any of it, I’d like for someone, somewhere, to read something of mine and say, “So. Hmm. Well. That was .. different.” (Hopefully in a favorable way.)

What is your favorite occupation?

Writing. I’ve been at it as long as I can remember, and I hope to keep at it a while more. I haven’t got a choice, really. I turn into a snarling harpy when I don’t get time to work on something new. My husband can attest to this.

Your favorite names?

This is a many-legged question. I’m hopeless at names. I agonized for a week when I was, oh, fifteen? before I’d decided on something to call my puppy by. My novel is still languishing in the deep dark pit of what I haven’t named (or, in its case, renamed). Many moons ago I had a mental file of Story Names I Wish I’d Thought Of First. But I can’t remember what was in it. When I was thirteenish I wanted to start a punk band and call it Nereid. Last year I named a ferret Loki, which I chalk up to my being a hardcore mythical-trickster groupie. I named another ferret Twitch, which I chalk up to it fitting him so well.

I tend to prefer names that start with J. Or V. Sometimes A. Not entirely sure why.

If I had a daughter I’d probably name her Holly. I have a son. I named him Julian. When I was five my favorite name was Sophie, but I’m pretty sure I’m over it.

What natural talent would you like to have that you don’t?

Fearlessness. And I wish I could play the fiddle like I’d sold my soul for the privilege.

Of your current stories, published or unpublished, which is the most important to you and why?

I don’t seem to be able to write anything that isn’t intensely personal. I can’t detach myself that far. If I could, I might be more prolific!

Of what’s published, or soon-to-be-published, my novel is the one I fell in love with. It was a long courtship. For a while I wanted to claw its eyes out. Some days I still do. But overall, it and I have come to an accord. As for why: in all my longer fiction I find the characters reach a point where they mutiny, take over, and sail off with the story, while I’m keelhauled in its wake. This set of characters was more …enthusiastic… than most others have been so far, and it was a hell of a lot of fun eavesdropping on their conversations, peeking through their windows.

I’m suspecting this will happen with the novel I’m working on currently. Maybe even more so. I can’t wait.

Say, I’ve got this spare time machine/flying car/imaginary friend/funding for world travel just lying around .. d’you think you could take it off my hands?

Yes. Please.


If you missed The Promise the first time around, you can still check it out online. And look for Nicole’s (still unnamed) novel to come out this summer, hopefully in time for Readercon!

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