Dark Siren Calling: An Interview with Kara Vernor

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“He didn’t mention his banging heart, a car loose of its track. The building and building, salt air in and out of his lungs, the top approaching. The top, where he threw his hands up and screamed.” — The Rumor Was, Hobart

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Kara Vernor’s work is that banging heart, a tumult, a plunging into darkness and ascension into something beautiful. With prose that is spare but rich, dark but not without hope, her stories are deep waters with so much more shimmering beneath the surface. She builds tension — “As we lay under the stars with the fire dying, he told me people eat spiders in their sleep—hundreds in a lifetime. They crawl toward the smell. ‘Don’t be a mouth-breather,’ he said, and then he rolled over.” (The Pull, Split Lip Magazine) — and paints scenes — “I see us smoking cigarettes in a bar with deer heads on all the walls and guns mounted everywhere in between.” (Four Hands, PANK) — without wasting a word.

In her three new micro fictions for Atticus Review, Kara dives even deeper. Like a bewitching siren, the voice in these pieces will call out to you and lure you beneath the current to a strange, luminous world. Keep reading and you may just surface.

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Georgia Bellas: If you were interviewing yourself, what is the first question you would ask? The last?

Kara Vernor: First: If you had all the time and money in the world, what would you be for Halloween?

Last: What was the most shocking thing you discovered upon finding your elementary school journal in a drawer at your mom’s house?

GB: Can you please answer them?

KV: First: I would be a functioning, life-sized blimp. Rather than hanging around a party, I’d float over it, drop down a ladder and let people hang out in the gondola, maybe take short trips around town and watch trick-or-treaters from above. How creepy would that be? This low-flying blimp following you around, blocking out the moon.

Last: Beginning in fourth grade I regularly called girls “bitches.” Not like, “Those are my bitches.” More like, “So-and-so is a total bitch.” I even called boys bitches. I thought I developed my dirty mouth in high school, but I guess it runs much deeper than that.

GB: When did you start writing?

KV: I started writing poetry in fourth grade, but at least it was bitch-less. I saved “bitch” special for prose.

GB: List five adjectives, five nouns, and five verbs that describe your work.

KV: Sad, profane, funny (sometimes), irreverent, hopeful. Wanderlust, alienation, feminism, tension, blood. Cuss, punch, drink, float, exorcise.

GB: On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being darkest), how dark would you rate your work?

KV: 7.5

GB: Where does your darkness come from?

KV: A heaping dose of family dysfunction. That, and growing up in the Santa Cruz mountains in the ’70s and ’80s. Santa Cruz was dubbed “the murder capital of the world” for a string of murders in the early ’70s, and as a kid I was told they used to dump the bodies off the roads that led to my house.

GB: Can you talk a little about your writing routines and process from start through revisions?

KV: It’s all sporadic. I tend to write when I get “that feeling,” and then when a story starts to take, I come back to it in rapid succession. Everything I write is short, so sometimes the whole story comes out in a sitting. Other times I’ll add a sentence here, a sentence there, over a week or so until it finally adds up to something. If the timing is right, I’ll share it with my writing group, as well as my boyfriend. He’s a good sport about reading drafts. I’ll make changes based on their input and then put it away for a bit. Before sending it out, I’ll go through every word, make sure there’s nothing I think I can make better.

GB: How did you decide on the image of the hand grenade in “His Girls, 1987”?

KV: I think hand grenades and secrets have a lot in common. They contain all this potential energy, and pulling the pin (or telling the secret) releases it, lets loose a precise, personal explosion.

GB: What’s your earliest memory?

KV: Crawling on the terra cotta tiles of the entry hall in our house in Half Moon Bay.

GB: What makes you cry? When was the last time you cried?

KV: Forgiveness, grace, animals at the pound. When the little guy or gal stands up to someone bigger or more powerful, in which case the context could be political (radical acts by Malala Yousafzai, Assata Shakur, etc.) or interpersonal (naming the elephant in the room, calling bullshit on some strain of groupthink), or even intrapersonal (an addict getting sober).

The last time I cried was a week ago Monday morning when I had an adverse reaction to a medication and suffered hours of debilitating pain. Upon arriving at the ER and thinking relief was in sight, I started weeping like a baby. They let me writhe for what felt like an hour before dropping some Dilaudid in my IV, but, WOW, that stuff worked.

GB: What’s the last dream you remember?

KV: It was a work dream. I said something honest and pissed off a funder and everyone was mad at me. I’ve managed not to do this in real life, but I’ve been tempted—maybe too tempted if it’s that straightforward in my dreams.

GB: If you were a stuffed animal, what would you be?

KV: Chewbacca.

 

Photo By: Anne Ostsee

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About Author

Georgia Bellas is an editor and artist living in Somerville, Mass. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in Lockjaw Magazine, Synaesthesia, Sundog Lit, Cartridge Lit, Bird’s Thumb, WhiskeyPaper, The Collapsar, and [PANK], among other journals. She is one of the poetry winners for Sundress Publications' 2014 Best of the Net anthology. You can follow her teddy bear, host of the Internet radio show “Mr. Bear’s Violet Hour Saloon,” on Twitter @MrBearStumpy. If you ever meet her, she will probably tell you about her bicycle’s movie star status.

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