Laura Enderâ€™s terrific story â€œSome Animals Have Funeralsâ€ appeared in our July issue. Learn where to put the ashes, below.
1. You make something that would usually seem so transgressive and wrongâ€”stealing ashes from peopleâ€™s remainsâ€”feel so intimate and touching. Does your writing always have this much love?
I have to love my characters. I don’t mean they have to beÂ lovableÂ or that they need to be a heroâ€”almost every one of my protagonists does terrible things and has major emotional issues that would make them difficult to deal with as people, and I don’t know if I could describe any of them as noble. To love my characters I have to see inside them, understand them, and want them to be happy. I’ve written stories where I don’t love my characters and it always feels condescending–it turns into a sort of commentary on people I don’t like. I try not to go there anymore.
2. What do you collect?
I think I have a collector’s spirit but I lack focus. I collect things that make me feel a certain wayâ€”nostalgic I guess. I’m starting to get quite a stack of vintage cookbooks.
3. This story has so much yearning for what we can never recover or replace. What inspired it?
I was in a strange place when I wrote this story. I was in graduate school, living part-time in one city and part-time in another because the school was here and my husband’s job there. When I was at school, I longed for my husband; I often skipped social events because I wanted to see him, even though I also longed to be part of my classmates’ community. I was so lucky I could drive the hour and a half home, but the morbid part of my brain wondered what it would be like if I couldn’t. If he were gone.
4. I love the gradual reveal of detail as the narrative builds. What held you back? What keeps the tide at bay?
So much can be conveyed through action, and I really enjoy watching a character from a distance for a while before an author explains what they’re feeling. It draws me in and makes me curious. I’m also very interested in distraction. Often, the only way to get through pain is to distract yourself from it. The distractions you choose reveal your character. April distracts herself whenever she can, and it keeps the flow of information restrained. I could have started the story earlier, at the point where she spent a lot of time crying on the couch, but I don’t think it would have been as interesting.
5. When disaster strikes, is our tendency to grab onto whoeverâ€™s closest?
I think some people grab and some people push away. I don’t know if it’s discriminatory or not.
6. Along these lines, if you had one single thing to hold forever what would it be?
He won’t relish being called a “thing,” but that would have to be my husband.