Friday Feature: Interview with Ani King

Each week, the editors of Jenny Magazine sit down with either fellow literary magazine editors or past Jenny contributors for short interviews. This week’s interview is with Ani King, a past contributor of Jenny Magazine.

Describe your first publication. Where was it, when, and what was the piece about? How old were you at the time and how did it feel?

My first publication was a poem that I can’t remember anymore, that I submitted to one of those mail-in poetry scam books. The ones where you would submit and then they’d hit you up for thirty-five dollars, or something along those lines. I believe I was twelve or thirteen.

My first publication after that was a fifty-word story for 50-Word Stories called “Furies.” It was about young furies casting a spell on a neighborhood bully to get revenge. This was just a couple of years ago, and it felt great to get that acceptance. Especially since I hadn’t really written in over a decade.

What inspired your piece in the Jenny?

I was raised in an Evangelical Christian environment, so I have this store of Old Testament stories that still rattle around at times, even though I’ve long since stopped participating in religion on the whole. The stories about Sarah and other women, which are often particularly brief and told from a male perspective, have fascinated me since childhood. I wanted to know the mundane details — what did they eat, how did they feel about all these tremendous events that were largely out of their control?

And Sarah in particular, as I get older, has weighed on my mind. She was old, even if you consider the likelihood that she was not close to a hundred years in age, and suddenly she’s having a child. After so much drama and prayer, and I loved that her reaction was to laugh. So it felt natural to explore the way that scenario might play out over different times and cultures. However, the exact inspiration was cutting open a pomegranate to show my daughter what it looked like inside, and watch the juice run across the cutting board, having it stain my fingers. I started writing the piece before I washed my hands.

What got you into writing?

My family has always placed high value on reading, which I think lead to writing. Honestly, I don’t know that there was an inciting event. For as far back as I can remember I’ve written in some capacity, whether it be terrible New Kids on the Block fan fiction in the early nineties, or letters, poems, journals, short stories. I didn’t consider making it more than a private hobby though until 2014, in which I furiously wrote this terrible novel in about six weeks. At the time I thought it was terrific, which was enough to get me writing again and then say, okay, but really, how do I do this well? I ended up joining Scribophile and finding this amazing group of people who are all terrific writers.

What do you like writing the most? Is there a certain style you prefer?

Second person point of view is probably my favorite tense, and I gravitate towards either very lush or very sparse prose, depending on the mood of the story.

What are your influences? Who are your favorite writers?

There are so many authors to love, that I’m just going to name the first five to spring to mind: Catherynne Valente, Ken Liu, Karen Russell, Kelly Link, and N.K. Jemison. I’m always amazed at the way they can wordsmith these ideas that are so unique, so well, and I think they make me want to reach further when I write, every time I read them.

What’s your proudest moment as an author?

More than anything, I struggle to believe that I’ve actually created a thing that’s pretty great, so when a fellow writer and staffer at Syntax & Salt told me that one of my stories inspired them to try their hand at flash, that was such a great feeling.

How has your writing developed over time?

More than anything, I think I’ve become more confident in playing to my strengths, which are usually voice, mood, and tenor, and in doing so, my weaknesses have required developing — which alas are story arc, and sometimes story itself. I love writing moments, characters, painting pictures, but often I’ll develop a character and think, well shit, what are you going to do now, little beast?

Are you currently working on anything?

I am always working on too many unfinished things! But right now, I’m heading into a second draft of a story called “The Daughter Garden.” It’s pretty creepy, and I love what a turn it took from the original scribbles.

What’s your writing process?

Usually it’s something like take a walk, hear a song, get an idea, rush to get it on paper, think it is amazing, come back to it, hate it, revise, revise, revise, and then get feedback.

What are you currently reading?

I just finished Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit and have started Difficult Women by Roxane Gay.

Have you ever worked with a medium other than writing? Or collaborated with someone in another medium with your writing?

I always intended to be a visual artist when I was younger, but didn’t sustain the effort that would have made that viable. I still like to paint, sketch, and so on, but writing is where I feel most likely to create something that takes on a shape I’m happy with. I would love to do a graphic novel some day — I have so many ideas, but not quite the skill level to pull it off myself.

Ani King’s story “Our Mouths are Stained with Bitterness: Raising Isaac” can be found in Issue 11 of Jenny Magazine.

Are you a past Jenny contributor or an editor at a literary magazine and interested in an interview? Send us an email.

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