Kellie Wells’ fiction is dense with language, existential quandaries, and dark humor, the way we like it. Below, Kellie gets the Writeliving treatment…
Who has been a major influence on your writing?
The Phantom Tollbooth and the Brothers Grimm were strong early influences. And old films, from the silents to the 50s, which I watched compulsively as a child on our old Magnavox television, the Marx Brothers, Buster Keaton, Billy Wilder, Dougals Cirk, Frank Capra. I watched the movies with my mother, who grew up reading Photoplay and knew the name of every actor, however peripheral or obscure. But writers: L-F Céline, Djuna Barnes, and Stanley Elkin changed the way I thought about language and helped me to understand what was meant by the word voice. Joy Williams and Bruno Schulz changed the way I thought about storytelling. And George Eliot. If I could Pierre Menard a book, it would be Middlemarch. And a great chaotic stew of so many others of course.
Can you give us insight into your creative process?
I wish I had some, insight that is. My creative process seems very higgledy-piggeldy. I’m not particularly systematic and each project is catalyzed differently, but I suppose the constant is my interest in language, the music of it, be it lyrical or stilted, the cadence of the words. As a reader, I’m often moved more by the effect of the sound of a sentence than I am by its content, because utterance is first and foremost sound, words intellectually onomatopoetic, at least that’s how I’ve always experienced them. So whatever ideas I have about story, about character, plot, action, they are generally grounded in sound.
Can you share an example of overcoming adversity to keep your writing dream alive?
I imagine much of the adversity I’ve experienced is of my own making. I am sometimes beset by the anxiety that it’s the height of arrogance to imagine I have anything meaningful to say, and then I’m paralyzed with self-consciousness, which is that thing many people have said is the enemy of, among other things, art, so what I do is pretend I’m someone else so that I can get out of my own way. Sometimes, though, even that doesn’t work because I’m pretty good at seeing through a bald hoax.
What is something about you that writers and readers may not know?
On the night I was born, there was a storm that knocked the power out at the hospital, and my father had to carry my mother up several flights of stairs to a candlelit delivery room, where they discovered I was a footling, and the doctor informed my parents that I would suffocate if so delivered but he was going to try the then uncommon procedure of manually rotating the upside-down baby in the womb. Life on the outside has been less eventful.
About the Author:
Kellie Wells is the author of a collection of short fiction, Compression Scars, winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award, and a novel, Skin, published by the University of Nebraska Press, in the Flyover Fiction Series, edited by Ron Hansen. Her novel Fat Girl, Terrestial is forthcoming from FC2 in the fall of 2012. Her work has appeared in various literary journals, including The Kenyon Review, Ninth Letter, The Fairy Tale Review, and Prairie Schooner. Her work has been awarded a Rona Jaffe Prize and the Great Lakes Colleges Association’s New Writer’s Award in fiction. She is a congenital Midwesterner and currently lives in Tuscaloosa, where she teaches in the MFA Program at the University of Alabama.