The Secrets of a Fire King
by Kim Edwards
CHAT with Author KIM EDWARDS
Session Start: Tue Feb 23 20:14:42 1999
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<chelak> Hello Everyone... We'll be starting in a few mins.
<chelak> Welcome to the KET Bookclub chat.
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<jc> Hello, Kim!
<chelak> We'll wait a couple of more minutes.... Hello Everyone
<chelak> i hope everyone has questions for Kim!
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<chelak> Hello, I am ChelaK, the chat room host for our discussion tonight.
<chelak> Tonight it is my pleasure to introduce author Kim Edwards. Ms.
Edwards' collection of short stories is titled "The Secrets of a Fire King."
<chelak> She is currently working on a novel. Ms. Edwards lives in
Kentucky with her husband and two young daughters. She joins us tonight in
the first Bookclub@KET live chat.
<chelak> Please make her welcome.
<chelak> We are ready to start taking questions now. If several questions are posted at the same time, I will try to moderate and make sure everyone gets a chance to have their question answered.
<chelak> We have a question to start.
<chelak> Question from toby, posted to the discussion center on 2/12/99:
<chelak> Do you have an idea for a character, or a set of events (a
storyline if you will) or does it all come together in your mind at once?
<kim_edwards>Usually my stories have different kinds of sources. It's
always something that resonates with me. Either a line of dialogue or
something I read in the newspaper or story I overhear. Or it can be
something completely unrelated to fiction that I'm reading. For example,
in the story about Marie Curie "A Gleaming in the Darkness" the quote that
opens the story which is a quote from Marie Curie talking about radium was
something I found to be very beautiful and compelling.
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<chelak> Hello David!
<jessamine> Kim, although this is certainly not the most important question
I want to ask it is one I have to ask. What happened at the end of Balance.
Did he catch her?
<kim_edwards>That's an interesting question.
<kim_edwards> In my mind when I was writing the story. It was set in Japan
<kim_edwards> And of course, in Japan, there are a lot of earthquakes. So
the buildings are not very tall.
<kim_edwards> So yes, in my mind, the trapeze was not all that high and my
feeling was -- he would catch her.
<jc> You've obviously traveled a lot, but where were you born and raised?
<kim_edwards>However, my editor, read the story very differently.
<kim_edwards> She assumed he would not catch her. And I thought about
clarifying it. But then I realized
<kim_edwards> that unlike the ambiguity of the ending.
<kim_edwards> I was born in Killeen, Texas.
<kim_edwards> But when I was 2 months old, my parents moved back to upstate
<kim_edwards> Which is where I grew up.
<jessamine> Kim, Did you always know you wanted to be an author?
<kim_edwards>Yes, I did.
<kim_edwards> It was unusual in my family. No one else is an author.
<kim_edwards> And I'm the only one in the family that loves to read -- has
<jc> Are all of the stories in "Fire King" basically about the conflict between Destiny and Free Choice?
<kim_edwards>But it's always been something that I loved.
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<kim_edwards>I'm interested in the question of destiny and free choice.
<kim_edwards> And clearly it's important to the great chain of being.
<kim_edwards> But I didn't consciously put that theme in the other stories.
<kim_edwards> Though it certainly may be there.
<jessamine> What authors are your favorites -- those who influenced you?
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<kim_edwards>That changes every few weeks. There are so many wonderful writers.
<chelak> Welcome Sue, we are chatting with author Kim Edwards
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<kim_edwards>Right night I'm reading Iliad.
<jc> Searching the Internet for your name, I found several links to genealogical threads. Is that you? Have you been researching your "roots?" Maybe for your novel?
<kim_edwards>But I've been influenced by the Irish writer, William Trevor. Certainly by Alice Monroe.
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<kim_edwards>And I love a lot of Louise Erdrich's work.
<chelak> Welcome DancesWithCats, we are chatting with author Kim Edwards.
<kim_edwards>That's interesting, I haven't.
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<chelak> I love the strong women characters in all the stories. Do you
prefer to write about women?
<kim_edwards>I think it comes naturally to me, because I am a woman.
<kim_edwards> But I don't make decisions based on gender. It's based on a
character that speaks to me for some reason -- male or female.
<chelak> Can you tell us what you are working on now?
<jc> Your stories vary in "voice." How do you decide whether to use third
person or first person when narrating a story?
<kim_edwards>Yes, I'm working on a novel.
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<kim_edwards>Again it's not really a decision I consciously make.
<kim_edwards> Getting the voice of a story is crucial to getting the story
<kim_edwards> Sometimes it comes very easily.
<kim_edwards> As in A Gleaming in the Darkness.
<Frog> This is Henry...using Frog's computer....do you think your male
characters in the collection were weak?
<kim_edwards>Other times I have to struggle a little more to figure out whose point of view the story needs to be told from.
<kim_edwards> No I don't think the male characters were weak.
<kim_edwards> Especially in the story Spring, Mountain, Sea.
<jc> Trevor has a story in the "Monica" issue of New Yorker. It's really good.
<kim_edwards>Which covers several decades.
<kim_edwards> I think I was able to write a convincing male character.
<Frog> What about in Rat Stories
<kim_edwards>Great, I'll look for the Trevor story.
<kim_edwards> Frog, what are your thoughts on Rat Stories?
<jessamine> What was your inspiration for "The Way It Feels to Be Falling?" I found the story very interesting and moving.
* chelak thought i smelled a rat in that story.
<kim_edwards>For The Way It Felt to be
<kim_edwards> Be falling.
<kim_edwards> This story grew out of an experience I had skydiving.
<kim_edwards> That part of the story is true.
<jc> You told the students at Colgate that "Falling" used to be titled
"Cords" and that it had changed a lot. What changes did you make to the
story? Did the focus or meaning change along with the title?
<kim_edwards>I really did jump out of an airplane the first time I was in one.
<kim_edwards> It was also the first story I ever wrote.
<kim_edwards> And I revised it probably 75 times to get the fiction part of
the story right.
<kim_edwards> JC, Do you have a Colgate connection?
<kim_edwards> Yes, it was titled Cords.
<kim_edwards> The meaning did change and clarify many times during the
<Frog> Among the people who read the story...we had a great deal of
discussion about the males in the story and the ultimate fate of the female
character...in "Secrets," the males seemed to be the villians, in
"falling"....the male had problems....Intentional?
<jc> No, I read about it online.
<kim_edwards>As for Rat Stories, what I wanted to write about there were really two different things.
<kim_edwards> First of all I'd collected all these wonderful stories about
<kim_edwards> ...during my years in the tropics.
<kim_edwards> And I wanted to use them in this story.
<kim_edwards> But also I wanted to write about people begin doing something
with good intentions
<kim_edwards> and the way those intentions sometimes get sidetracked or
distorted over time.
<kim_edwards> I didn't intentionally mean to make the male character
villianous and I don't think he is.
<kim_edwards> Just human.
* chelak thinks we all have a bit of that humanness sometimes
<DancesWithCats> You said "Falling" was the first story you ever wrote. How
long was this collection in the works?
<kim_edwards>Initially I didn't see the stories as a collection.
<kim_edwards> I saw myself just writing stories.
<kim_edwards> And most of the stories in the collection are more recent.
<jc> In "Fire King," whose child is Jubilee holding at the end?
<kim_edwards>But I thought that Falling worked thematically.
<kim_edwards> with the other stories.
<kim_edwards> And so I chose to include it.
<kim_edwards> It's her own child.
<n> How committed are you to the short story form? What are you working on
<kim_edwards>I'm working on a novel now, but periodically I take a break to work on stories.
<kim_edwards> I really love the story form and there are just some stories
that must be told in that form than in a novel form.
<jc> Yeah, but ... Is it the preacher's? Is it the bearded
<kim_edwards>So I imagine I'll always work in the story form.
<Frog> Can you us about your novel?
<kim_edwards>JC, that's the GREAT MYSTERY!
<kim_edwards> Only that my novel starts in Japan.
<kim_edwards> And then moves to the US.
<kim_edwards> I'm usually kind of secretative about works in progress.
<kim_edwards> Because they are still evolving.
<jessamine> "The Story of My Life" -- where did that one come from? It
seems different and maybe more political than the others?
<kim_edwards>I started the Story of My Life when I was visiting the U.S.between stays
<kim_edwards> in Japan in Malaysia.
<kim_edwards> There was a newspaper article about children being made to
lie down in clinic drivewasy.
<kim_edwards> And I think because I'd been living in other cultures for so
<kim_edwards> this action struck me as being bizarre.
<kim_edwards> I couldn't get it out of my mind.
<kim_edwards> And so this story grew from that experience.
<jc> In "Chain of Being," do you think Eshlaini is an entirely sympathetic
<kim_edwards>Again I think she's human.
<kim_edwards> And therefore she's going to be more sympathetic at some
times than others.
<jc> Does Eshlaini's father truly believe his accusations of
<kim_edwards>jc I didn't get the whole question.
<jessamine> I read in the book jacket notes that someone thinks these
stories are about people separated from the mainstream, but we keep talking
about their "humanness" Maybe they are not so separate. In fact, I felt
many of the characters were familiar -- just in exotic settings.
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<kim_edwards>Yes, I think they are human but I also think they do tend to be outsiders.
<chelak> i felt very close to some of the characters also, jessamine.
<n> When we talk about KY writers, we often talk about their sense of
place. Since the places you have lived turn up in your stories, I wonder if
KY will/if it's had an impact on you?
<kim_edwards>I wasn't really conscious of this while writing the stories. But of course my own.
<jc> Is her father just being selfish?
<kim_edwards>..position as an outsider in other cultures in to some extent even in my own culture
<kim_edwards> ...when I returned influenced the stories in this way.
<jc> Chris Offutt -- another Kentucky writer -- is leaving to go to the
Iowa Writers Workshop. Weren't you there once, as well?
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<kim_edwards>jc, It's partly selfishness and it's partly cultural.
<kim_edwards> It's not unusual for a daughter to care for an aging parent
<mary> have you been openly criticized for "The Story of My Life?"
<kim_edwards>But I also think his actions were driven by his own sense of fate and destiny.
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<kim_edwards>He believed he was doing the right thing.
<chelak> Welcom Svensir, we are chatting with author Kim Edwards.
<kim_edwards>jc, I was at Iowa as a student as was Chris a few years later. I think he's going there now to teach.
<jc> What do you think Chris will learn that he can bring back home (if he
ever comes back)?
<kim_edwards>mary, Actually that story has gotten a lot of surprising positive attention.
<kim_edwards> It was read by Holly Hunter at Symphony Space.
<kim_edwards> And then it was broadcast on public radio several times on
the program Selected Shorts.
<kim_edwards> And it's amazing but listeners responded so well to the story.
<mary> I wish I'dheard that- it's a really great story.
<kim_edwards>That it has recently been released on audiotape.
<Grace_B> I heard Holly Hunter read it on Selected Shorts; it was
wonderful. At the time, I hadn't read the story and I really enjoyed it.
<kim_edwards>jc, I really think that's a question for Chris.
<kim_edwards> mary, Thanks!
<kim_edwards> Grace_B, Thanks! I'm glad you like it.
<jc> "Fire King" seems loaded with a mixture of Roman Catholic and
evangelic imagery. I don't mean to pry -- and you don't have to answer --but are you a religious person?
<kim_edwards>jc, Let me tell you the story.
<kim_edwards> ...of how that came to be.
<kim_edwards> I was reading an old historical pamphlet from Iowa.
<kim_edwards> And I came across an article written by a man who had travelled.
<kim_edwards> ...with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at the turn of the
<kim_edwards> The article was a blow by blow description about to eat Fire.
<kim_edwards> I thought it was great and I made a copy. But I didn't know..
<kim_edwards> ...what to do with it until about a year later when I came
back from Cambodia.
<kim_edwards> I was living in Pittsburgh and searching for a radio station
<kim_edwards> I stumbled on this evangelical station where they were reading
<kim_edwards> from the book or Revelations.
<kim_edwards> And suddenly I had the main character and I knew what to do
with all the Fire Imagery.
<Frog> In "Gleaming" was the relationship between Marie Curie and her
husband based on research or fictional?
<kim_edwards>No it was true.
<kim_edwards> The narrator of that story
<kim_edwards> is fictional.
<kim_edwards> But everything about M. Curie was true.
<jessamine> Did you choose the Fire King as the title of the collection?
<kim_edwards>Yes I did.
<jc> Wow, that's great! It's a treat to get the "inside story" on something
<kim_edwards>jessamine, I felt the title was intriguing.
<mary> there are a lot of "ugly Americans" in your stories-is this something you've observed in your travels?
<kim_edwards> I've become very conscious of the way
<kim_edwards> ...different cultures interact and I'm interested
<kim_edwards> ...in the ways people perceive and misperceive things when
they are in a new place
<kim_edwards> ...but I think all cultures are equally guilty of this so I
don't really mean to single out Americans.
<Frog> Do you think that Rob in
<kim_edwards>Frog, we didn't get all of your question.
<Frog> spring, mountain, sea would have ever really understood Jade Moon if
he hadn't been faced with losing her?
<chelak> Can i get permission from everyone participating to post a log of
this chat on Kim's pages at the Bookclub@KET site?
<kim_edwards>I don't know. It's certainly a moment of epiphany
<kim_edwards>...for him at the end.
<DancesWithCats> Fine by me.
<kim_edwards>But I felt .
<kim_edwards> ..that he was struggling all through the story as was she.
<kim_edwards> ...to overcome the differences between them.
<kim_edwards> In a sense any marriage faces this but in their case
<jc> I noticed in the pictures here that you have a Macintosh computer. Has
word processing had any effect on your writing practices?
<kim_edwards>...they had the additional struggles with language and culture.
<kim_edwards> jc, I've always typed my work.
<Frog> It seemed that at the end they had worked into a fairly
<Grace_B> Although I loved the detail about how perfectly she spoke English
at the end.
<kim_edwards>Because I've found early on that it gave me a greater sense
<kim_edwards> ...of distance and made revision easier.
<kim_edwards> I like the wordprocessor a lot because it give me so much
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<kim_edwards>...to move things around -- cut and paste.
<kim_edwards> ..to experiment with different orders
<jessamine> Kim, Do you have a favorite or least favorite of your stories?
<kim_edwards>I really don't have a favorite except that the collection doesn't include all of my published stories.
<kim_edwards> So in a sense they are all my favorites.
<n> Still wondering if there's anything about KY that intrigues you ...
that might turn up in your work?
<kim_edwards>Yes I think a sense of place is important to me as writer.
<kim_edwards> And I'm sure that Kentucky will be important in my work at
some point in the future.
<kim_edwards> It usually takes some time for me to absorb a place. And for
that to trickle down
<kim_edwards> into my writing.
<jc> Before time runs out: THANK YOU! This is a great opportunity. More
people should know about it.
<kim_edwards>It's been a really great pleasure for me to chat with everyone.
<chelak> Kim, we appreciate you joining us tonight. This has been GREAT!
<jessamine> Thanks, Kim -- can't wait for your novel
<chelak> Thank you so much. Thank everyone for the questions.
<DancesWithCats> Any predictions on when that will be? ;-) (the novel, I
<kim_edwards>I wish I knew!
<chelak> Look for the transcript of the chat online...
<kim_edwards>Seriously I hope to finish it by the end of this year.
<Grace_B> Can you tell us what the setting of the novel will be?
<kim_edwards>Though, I have two small daughters which has transformed my estimates in the past.
<kim_edwards> Yes, it starts in Japan.
<kim_edwards> And then moves to Upstate New York where I grew up.
<n> Thanks for your time. I loved the stories.
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<DancesWithCats> Good night! Thanks, Kim.
<mary> I look forward to more stories, too- thank you so much!
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<Frog> Thanks,Kim Keep us posted on future adventures.
<Grace_B> Thanks--you have a beautiful clear writing style and a phenomenal
<chelak> Thanks everyone for the help and effort to make this work.
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Session Close: Wed Feb 24 16:04:22 1999