There is much to admire in Chloe N. Clark's writing. I interviewed Chloe on her writing process, her work in general, and on her forthcoming short story collection, Collective Gravities, out in July 2020 from Word West Press. This is the first part of a two-part interview with Chloe.
Vanessa Maki: When do you prefer short fiction to poetry? And how does your process differ between both forms?
Chloe N. Clark: This is hard to define because pieces really come to my mind in their form. When I have less time, I’m definitely more likely to write poems. My process doesn’t differ as much in the writing itself: I sit down and let images flow. But, for editing and revising, it differs considerably. For fiction, I definitely have to keep track of plot and character much more closely. For poetry, I’m very much about tracking the pacing and the individual words themselves.
VM: What’s your perspective in regards to pre-ordering books from small presses?
CC: I say this with the bias that I’d love for people to pre-order my book. But, even that aside, pre-ordering is SO IMPORTANT for small presses. They don’t have institutional backing, etc., that guarantees certain press run sizes. Instead, the print runs depend on pre-orders much more. Pre-ordering shows faith in an author and their work. If you have the means and want a book, I always suggest pre-ordering instead of waiting. If you don’t have the means, ask your library to pre-order!
VM: How did Collective Gravities come to be? And how did you choose which pieces made it into the collection?
CC: The collection was ten years in the making. Some of the stories' first drafts were originally written when I was an undergrad student (and now I teach undergrads, so there’s been a lot of life change in that time). I started thinking of the pieces as a collection once I realized that I had a lot of stories that were dealing with relationships and the idea of what we owe to one another. This is a book about choices and guilt, kindness and gratitude to one another.
VM: Did any of the pieces draw from your own personal experiences?
CC: I think, in some way, every piece does. It might be that a character reminds me of someone or that I’ve been in a similar situation and then take it to another level for the story. Oftentimes, a moment that inspires a story will make its way into the story, as well as a visual I use within it.
VM: Which pieces are your top favorites and why for each one?
CC: Uffda, I can’t choose! I think each piece has been my favorite at one time. I always love best the piece I’ve just finished. I think the ones that stand out as being especially important to me, though, are “Between the Axis and the Stars,” “So This,” and “Like the Desert Dark.” Each of those stories felt like an evolution in my writing and they each managed to accomplish exactly what I wanted them to.
VM: Is there something specific that you’d like people to take away from Collective Gravities?
I think, at some level, my goal for writing, for editing, for teaching, and for just being a human in general, is that people will take away that I tried to be kind, and for them to be kind as well. In the stories in here, that’s what I hope of my characters, too: they tried to be kind, they tried to do the right thing.
VM: Do you have plans to compile and write another collection of fiction?
CC: So many plans. I am currently working on several collections of fiction and a novel! I have a current novel-in-stories (about astronauts!) that I am starting to submit places.
VM: Have any other creative projects in the works that you can talk about?
CC: Currently, I’m working on a novel-in-stories about a basketball team (two of the pieces in the collection are from this project) that deals with masculinity, friendship, and collective grief. I’m also working on a more traditionally structured novel. It has ghosts and space in it.
I also have two completed poetry collections, one about bodies and one about joy, out on submission.
VM: What are some of your long-term creative goals?
CC: I’d love to finish my creative projects. And I would love to find a tenure-track teaching job for creative writing (*knocks on wood until the wall falls down*). I love teaching and engaging students with writing that is current and vital in this world.