We recently published Christina Kapp’s nostalgic “Making Fire.”
Here, we ask her two questions about her story:
1) What I love about this narrator is that her voice is so authentic. That moment where she is considering selling a big lie to her classmates, but decides she will go with a smaller one, “because how will they know the difference?” is just so great! Was this narrator a character that came to you fully developed, or did you have to search for her and her voice?
This narrator’s voice always felt clear to me. She’s a little bit me, a little bit me projecting myself onto my daughters, and a little bit of the teenage girls that circulate in the periphery of my world. Not that any of what the narrator feels is new. I think the basic desire to have that which is just out of reach is fairly universal and always has been. We have so many windows into other people’s lives, but in each of them the view is so narrow. The public posturing we see, the gossip we hear, the social media we monitor, the unfulfilled desires we project. Even though on one level we always understand that a lot of the “self” everyone puts out into the world has always been at least part fabrication, in our more social media-driven life there’s a lot more urgency to the sense that you need to build something palatable. The funny thing is that the tension between what’s actually real and what’s plausibly real after the fact doesn’t just convince others, but often is what we need to convince ourselves. Maybe that’s the point. Anyway, the narrator’s desire for the real thing but her sense that some kind of facsimile of it will do well enough speaks to me.
2) The Michael character is another great creation — he’s the perfect boy to draw the interest of this narrator in this situation. I know this is a reach, but what do you think his future has in store for him?
Ah, Michael. I think I need to back up a bit to explain Michael.
I first wrote a version of this story about ten years ago. It was much, much too long, had too many characters and confused everyone, including me. In that version, Michael shows up to a group of friends’ camping trip at the last minute, takes nothing seriously, and completely messes with the narrator the whole time. They get blisters, get lost, and drink a lot of tequila. Michael pees on things, makes out with one of the other girls, and sets stuff on fire. There were things I loved about that version of the story, but I couldn’t sort out what the story was actually about eventually abandoned it.
Then this past summer I stumbled across Jami Attenberg’s #1000wordsofsummer hashtag/mailing list on Twitter and decided to do it. For prompts, I used abandoned or unfinished story ideas. (I seem to have a never-ending supply of these.) It was such an amazing project! I didn’t go back to look at any of the old versions, I just used whatever still lingered in my mind about them. All that was left of this one was the narrator and Michael, so they drive the story and I love it so much more.
But your question: What does the future have in store for Michael? Eh, he’ll be fine. He’s a rebel and a pain in the ass, but guys like him live with certain guard rails that make sure when they stumble they never fall off a cliff. No one ever challenges him and everyone is a little bit attracted to him in one way or another. He’s not stupid, and while he might not own it out loud, on some level he knows that this kind of masculine aura is not only permissible, but protective in a lot of ways.