November 2019

Interview by Carolle Morini

KL Pereira is currently one of our Cataloging department interns and is a graduate student at Simmons University. Her debut short story collection, A Dream Between Two Rivers: Stories of Liminality was published in 2017 by Cutlass Press.1

Pereira holds a BA from Bard College and an MFA from Goddard College. Since 2006 she taught creative writing at Grub Street. Pereira’s fiction, poetry, and nonfiction appear or are forthcoming in the British Fantasy Award winning anthology Year’s Best Weird Fiction volume 5, Shadows and Tall Trees volume 8, Literary Hub, LampLight, The Drum, Shimmer, Innsmouth Free Press, Mythic Delirium, Jabberwocky, and Bitch, to name a few. Pereira is working on a collection of short stories called Where Your Flames Bite My Thigh, written in the voices of historical and imagined women who have been accused of witchcraft, both those who have eschewed the term “witch” and those who have embraced it. She lives in a Victorian garret across from a haunted cemetery with her feline familiar.

Q: Where did you grow up?

KL PEREIRA: Down the street from Lizzie Borden’s house in Fall River, Massachusetts. My grandmother told me tales of Lizzie and her sister being locked in the basement, and I spent a lot of my childhood trying to peep in those windows and see the ghosts. Lizzie’s story and the mystery surrounding the murder of her father and stepmother was one of my first creepy obsessions—I had to know what happened! When my book A Dream Between Two Rivers came out, I was lucky enough to do a reading in the house and sleep over (it’s now a bed and breakfast). Not only did one of my dreams come true that night, I had some pretty spooky experiences!

Q: Do you remember when you first wanted to write?

KLP: I come from a long line of storytellers, so I’ve always been obsessed with telling tales; I can’t really remember a time when I didn’t want to write them down. Luckily, my parents and my teachers were very encouraging. As a child I wrote a lot of what would now be called fanfiction; when I didn’t like the way a story ended, or wanted it to go on, I’d simply write my own endings or continue the story. I even wrote a sequel to Bunnicula, which my mother luckily saved, but for some reason, no one ever sent it in to James Howe (the author of Bunnicula).

Q: What do you like about writing a short story and poetry? Are there challenges writing in both forms?

KLP: Short stories contain infinite possibilities in a concentrated amount of space. Unlike the novel, which can be any length, the short story must create a complete narrative within a certain word count. For me, the challenge (and the fun) is to discover what can be done—within, say, 1000 words, or 500 words—what is necessary to create a fantastic, confounding, compelling experience. Poetry is even more concentrated, with the emphasis on language and sound and image rather than narrative. For me, it’s not difficult to write in different genres, because I’ve always written in both, and in fact, I think it’s an advantage to be able to experiment with the intersections of poem and prose, to play with form in a way that explodes our notions of what certain literature can be.  

Q: What was the best writing advice you received?

KLP: The best writing advice I have received is also the best writing advice I can give: follow your passions. If you’re not obsessed with the subject and form of your art, why do it? If you’re not obsessed with the subject and form of your art, you will not be productive, or what you do produce will not be meaningful to you (and how can your work mean anything to others if it holds no meaning for you first?). You must follow the paths that get you up at 2 a.m., that fling you down rabbit holes, that have you scurrying to the library to research for hours. Find the things that obsess you, and do not let them go.   

Q: What authors do you enjoy reading?

KLP: I read everything, and right now I’m reading a lot of weird fiction by Laura Mauro, Georgina Bruce, and Michael Kelly, all authors published with Undertow Press; YA horror like The Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand; and fantasy such as The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill. I’m eagerly awaiting the winter reading season, when I curl up with some Victorianesque epics like Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, and my favorite magical realist fairy tale inspired novels and stories by Helen Oyeyemi.

KL Pereira's book, from Cutlass Press

KL Pereira’s book, published by Cutlass Press.

Q: What made you want to become a librarian?

KLP: I truly love being in libraries, working with people and books, and preserving stories for many generations to come. I also believe that libraries are important egalitarian spaces that create support in and for the community. After working in education for many years, I wanted to find more ways to support and be a part of my community.

Q: Do you find working in a library beneficial to your writing?

KLP: It’s a boon to any writer to be surrounded by books. It’s especially beneficial to be able to work with people who love books and see their key importance in our lives. I am constantly inspired by my coworkers at the Athenæum, their passions, and the fascinating and strange stories in and of our collections.

Q: Have you cataloged anything in the Boston Athenæum collection that you think will one day show up in one of your works of fiction?

KLP: I’m very fortunate to have had the opportunity to catalog many amazing books! One book I can think of that sticks with me is a German biography from 1789 (Eigene Lebensgeschichte in vier Stücken by D. Anton Friderich Büsching) that was printed by a woman printer, something that wasn’t common in those days. The paper is handmade and the text itself is a beautiful fraktur style (German calligraphy). I can definitely see myself writing about this book and its creator one day.

Q: Is there any other information about your writing you would like to share?

KLP: Yes! An anthology that I am a part of, Year’s Best Weird Fiction, volume 5, just won the British Fantasy Award for this year! It’s an astounding and wonderful achievement, and I’m very lucky to have had the opportunity to work with the editors of this book, Michael Kelly and Robert Shearman. I’m also excited to be working on my next short fiction collection, and have finished both a poetry collection and a children’s book recently. Libraries are definitely featured!

Congratulations on the Year’s Best Weird Fiction award and best of luck with your writing and publications! I, and others, are looking forward to reading more works by you.1. Cutlass Press is the publishing arm of the independently owned bookstore Papercuts J.P. If you haven’t already visited, don’t delay any longer—you will find a lovingly curated roster of challenging and inspiring books by some of today’s most engrossing writers. And they put on events too! Find the listings here and support local business!