From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Nicole Kornher-Stace, Author of Jane

Nicole Kornher-Stace was born in Philadelphia in 1983, moved from the East Coast to the West Coast and back again by the time she was five. She currently lives in New Paltz, NY, with one husband, three ferrets, the cutest baby in the universe, and many, many books. Her short fiction and poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in several magazines and anthologies including Best American Fantasy, Ideomancer, GUD, Goblin Fruit, Lone Star Stories, Farrago’s Wainscot, and Idylls in the Shadows. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and her first novel, Desideria, is currently available on Amazon.
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“Jane” conjures associative images of Brontë’s character of the same name:

Absently you ask yourself, now and again, exactly what characteristics your brain had on file under Jane: certainly you could never pin her down with the dull weight of statistics — brown-eyes-brown-hair-five-foot-five — all you had to go by (and cling to) was a chain of metamorphoses, . . . .

Was Brontë’s “plain Jane” a motivation for you or were there other motivations that sparked this piece?

Huh. I hadn’t actually thought of that. Alas, I don’t really remember now what inspired “Jane” — I wrote it in the late 90s and stopped tweaking it around … 2001? 2002? I do remember that it was one of those stories that sort of fell into my head intact and managed to get written pretty quickly with mutinies and dawdlings (its) and bludgeonings and briberies (mine) kept to a relative minimum. I know it’s not the most accessible story out there, which is all the more reason I’d love to get more feedback on it!

Your biography mentions a baby, three ferrets, and a Pushcart nomination. It sounds more like a film comedy, but for you, it appears to be a recipe for success. How do these three elements work together in your life?

Work together, you say? You had it right the first time. As far as the baby and the ferrets, anyway, it’s more of a film comedy than anything. With occasional accidents. As for the Pushcart nomination, that was for the first story I ever sold, which sold to the first market I submitted it to, and was later reprinted in Best American Fantasy alongside some ridiculously shiny names. You know what they say about beginners’ luck, right?

Your use of language in “Jane” takes a lyrical quality quite often throughout the piece, most noticeably in the children’s rhyme: “Plain Jane, gone insane, stood too long out in the rain.” This simple and rhythmic passage juxtaposes nicely with the rigor of your language. Do you often employ lyrical and/or simplistic cadences in your works? How do you feel this technique adds to the overall experience for your readers?

The oblique answer to that is: I write primarily for the ear, for the pattern of syllables and beats and how they flow. It’s not something I do consciously for the effect of it; that just seems to be the way my thoughts are organized. As you might imagine, I do a lot of muttering to myself when I type. Oddly, though, I’ve never done a reading. Perhaps I ought.

Is writing your only artistic outlet? Do you pursue other artistic expressions as well?

Writing — novels, short stories, and now poems (for the first time since middle school!) — is pretty much all I manage to scrape together the time for these days. I used to do more visual arts — drawing, painting, mixed media, photography — and maybe someday I’ll get to give those a try again. Right now, it’s all I can do to make time for the scribblin’. Someday …!

Was there a particular work that encouraged you to start writing? How did this work prompt your own writing?

Ohh .. I think there were a few culprits there. I was reading used bookstore copies of (then) Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow’s tragically defunct Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror anthologies when I was, oh, eight? Nine? Anyway, earlier than maybe I should have — some of those stories were wicked scary. But! They’re probably what got me seriously hooked on speculative fiction. It was all so very unlike anything I’d encountered before that point. And, um, I was a rather bookish child.

You’ve lived on both the East and West Coasts. What was it about the East Coast that made it home?

No choice of mine, alas. My family moved around a lot — as in literally once a year — when I was a kid. I went to five elementary schools. It was rough. I’d make friends in September and know that once school let out for the year, I’d probably never see them again. That chafed after a while. (If I’m honest, I’ll add ‘antisocial’ after ‘bookish’ above.) My parents finally decided to buy a house in NY State when I was seven, and they still live there. As for my little family, we’ve just just had our offer accepted on a house a bit north of there, right outside New Paltz, NY, which is a unique snowflake of a town. My only complaint is the half-year-long winter and the two-week-long spring. But a lovely two weeks it is.

What is your preferred genre or sub-genre? If you could create your own sub-genre, what would it be?

Oh, man. That’s tricky. See, I don’t believe in genres, really … my main problem in selling my stories is that everyone seems to think they’re someone else’s genre. Person A’s line in the sand between, say, dark fantasy and horror, or New Weird and steampunk, or what-have-you, may differ wildly from Person B’s. I say scrap the labels and let the free-for-all begin. That said, it’s the works that hybridize the “literary” mainstream and any-or-all spec genres that I tend to gravitate toward. I love the sense of hope inherent in the best of them — like the workaday world just isn’t quite enough to satisfy the souls of those who write those stories (or those poems, those films, those songs, paint those paintings, etc.) and the very act of writing them is a way to drag those wonders through the veil from where they hide and plant them in the plain dirt of this place. If that made sense at all.

My own subgenre? Well. I want to see more fiction come off the page and onto other canvases. Skywriting? Graffiti? Tattoos? Hell yes. Hell, yes twice to tattoos.

Where do you see yourself and your writing by the end of the year? What projects are upcoming?

*Counting on fingers* I’ve got two novels in the works, a few short stories, a few poems, and a few other things, some more time-consuming than the others. I’d like to hope I’ll get some of that done by the end of the year — but the upheavals, they are various, and I’m trying to be realistic about how much I’m likely to accomplish among and between them. I have a number of stories and poems coming out this year, so hopefully there’ll be some feedback on those to buoy me up while I’m banging my head on the moving boxes and wishing for time. For the benefit of the curious, I do post progress updates when I’ve got ’em (wirewalking.livejournal.com), as well as a whole slew of miscellany. And pictures of my kid. He’s a damn cute kid.

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