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Book notes: Leyna Krow to read from short story collection at Auntie’s

Leyna Krow (Courtesy)
Leyna Krow (Courtesy)

Spokane’s Leyna Krow is a writer of fantastic (and fantastical) fiction. Her stories have appeared in Prairie Schooner, the South Dakota Review, the Santa Monica Review, Moss, Lilac City Fairy Tales and, just last summer, The Spokesman-Review as part of its Summer Stories series.

On Tuesday, her first story collection, “I’m Fine, But You Appear to Be Sinking” will be released from Featherproof Books, and she’ll celebrate that event with a reading on Friday at Auntie’s Bookstore with Spokane writer Aileen Keown Vaux.

Q. Where did the stories from “I’m Fine, But You Appear to Be Sinking” come from?

A. Ideas-wise, most of the stories in the collection evolved out of something I had seen or been told about that caught my attention for it weirdness. For example, the story “Tiger, Tiger” came from a friend of mine who told me about a sanctuary for rescued lions and tigers in the city where she grew up in Indiana. Rescued from where, I wanted to know. She said probably meth heads who buy them and then keep them in their backyards. What am amazing answer! So, that’s the premise for that story. Mostly, when I write, I’m just entertaining myself first-and-foremost. It’s always something I think funny or odd, or sad by in an unexpected way, that I want to play around with. Then I just hope others are entertained as well.

The oldest story in the collection is the title story. I started working on that one in … 2009? The others were written over the next six years. About half of the stories were in my graduate thesis for my MFA at EWU and the rest I finished after I graduated in 2012.

Q. Your stories could be described as fanciful or strange – in a good way – populated by astronauts, failed sailors, caged backyard tigers, a fair number of squids, and a human clone. Who do you read and who influenced your style or artistic vision?

A. There are a lot of really great writers who traffic in the fanciful and strange. I grew up reading guys like Tom Robbins and Kurt Vonnegut, who are pretty out there, but whose oddity often has sort of a bigger social purpose to it. Like, they want to show you something about reality by juxtaposing it with something surreal. Which I still think is great … but as an adult reader, I now find myself drawn toward writing that’s more just weird for weird’s sake. Like Kelly Link, Stacey Richter, Amy Bender. I feel like reading them gave me permission to just write what I wanted without it having to have some higher purpose. Like, look, you can just create a world you want to see for the sake of itself, no other reason.

Q. The title “Spud & Spud II” appears on seven linked stories. Do you see other linkages between those and the other stories in “I’m Fine”?

A. Originally, “Spud & Spud II” was a single story, told through three different character’s points of view. It was the idea of my editor at Featherproof Books, Jason Sommer (who is also an EWU grad), to split it up into semi-free-standing parts and place them between the other stories in the collection. I liked the idea because I couldn’t think of any other book I’d read that had that sort of structure. I wanted my book to be unique.

The Spud sections don’t link to the other stories in the book as clearly as they link to each other. There’s a lot of shared imagery between them and the other pieces (squid, rocks, astronauts, etc.), and the characters in Spud share this really deep sense of loneliness that characters in the other stories are grappling with as well. In fact, I think the Spud characters are the loneliest of all. And so you keep returning to them over and over and they can act sort of as loneliness guides for the rest of the book.

Q. Do you have a favorite story, or one that you think best captures your style?

A. Oh, that’s such a hard question! My favorite story (or even just the one I dislike the least, depending on my mood at the time) changes pretty frequently. My current favorite is “Habitat,” which is about a sort of environmental catastrophe the decimates the Palouse wheat fields. I think it’s pretty indicative of most of the stories in the rest of the book, too – lonely protagonist, weird premise, inter-personal drama, dark humor, and totally made-up “facts” about science.

Q. What are you working on now?

A. I’m one of those annoying writers who doesn’t like to talk about current projects. Not because I feel like I need to keep anyone in suspense. I just find it disruptive to the process if I know other people know what I’m working on. I get too caught up in the notion of perceived expectations, and it makes it difficult for me to finish projects. So I’ve found it’s better for me to just keep my mouth shut about all that.

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