Kiley Reid lives and writes in New York City. Her fiction has appeared in Corium, One Throne Magazine, Birds Thumb, Birds Piled Loosely, and others. She works the front desk at a design firm called IDEO. She’s written three novels, two that she’s really proud of. She’s applying for an MFA in Creative Writing for the fall of 2016. See more at kileyreid.com. Her twitter handle is @kileyreid.
Geosi Gyasi: How did you come to write “How Long My Body Was”?
Kiley Reid: My friend Molly Rosenberger told me that when she was in grade school, she had a seizure in the back of the car on the way to Hebrew School. It struck me as the first line of something. The rest is fiction.
Geosi Gyasi: How do you often start a story?
Kiley Reid: I start a story maybe 3 or 4 times a month. I start prose pieces on my phone in the subway probably every other day.
Geosi Gyasi: Do you have a specific place where you sit to write?
Kiley Reid: I sit at my kitchen table. I bought the table from craigslist when I wasn’t making much money after college. The picture posted of the table looked very normal online, but when I showed up, three of the chairs were painted red and one was left as natural wood. I asked the owner why she left one unpainted and she said she that got bored and forgot about it. She also asked me if I needed a bunch of tissue paper. I said no. I sit in the chair that’s not painted.
Geosi Gyasi: From where do you get the names for your characters?
Kiley Reid: Baby name websites. People I meet at work. I used to work at a craft studio where we did birthday parties for children and I ended up using a lot of the children’s names.
Geosi Gyasi: How did you hear about One Throne Magazine?
Kiley Reid: I heard about One Throne Magazine through Duotrope. I saw that it had a strong following and I think Yukon is fascinating.
Geosi Gyasi: What is the best time to write?
Kiley Reid: Now! Just kidding, that’s really lame. I write in the evening. The goal is from 8-10pm. Friday is my scheduled writing day. No friends or boyfriend or events. I sit at my table and write for a few hours. I type lines or plots into my phone on the subway a lot. Sometimes at work I’ll write a small piece of dialogue and email it to myself so I can work on it later. I’ve always wanted to be one of those writers who rises with the sun to put down ideas while I’m drinking something green and healthy and expensive, but I’m just not. I think the best time to write is the time when you can have a glass of wine at the same time and not feel judged.
Geosi Gyasi: Could you tell me about the inspiration behind your story, “Apple Care”?
Kiley Reid: Apple Care developed in the same way as How Long My Body Was. A friend of mine went to the Apple store to get a new computer and accidentally left it on the hood of his car. He found it on the street after he got home, completely ruined. He actually took it back to the store and they told him there was nothing they could do. He cried, in the Apple store, and they gave him another one. For free. That’s a pretty solid story in itself but I just used the first part and created a world around it. The computer owner in my story is a fairly selfish person, and quite unlike the person who inspired me to write about it.
Geosi Gyasi: Who is/are your favorite writer(s)?
Kiley Reid: My favorite writer is Curtis Sittenfeld. I love reading and writing about adolescence and I think that she does it best. I also think she has a way of taking everyday occurrences and making them have very high stakes. Another writer I’ve recently become obsessed with is Megan Martin. I love Caketrain and that lead me to her book of prose called Nevers. I think I’ve read each story three times over. They’re unnatural and gritty. It’s also a book that seems super unapologetic while also very conscious of itself. Megan Martin has the most proprietary voice as a writer that I’ve come across.
Geosi Gyasi: What are your future literary ambitions?
Kiley Reid: I am applying to MFA creative writing programs for the fall of 2016. Hopefully this is my first and only year applying but if it isn’t, I’ll apply again. I’m looking to craft my work, be a part of a writing community, and see what happens when I can focus on just writing. I’ve written two novels that I would love to see published. I’m interested in brand writing. I also just want to be the next Toni Morrison. Also dreadlocks.
Geosi Gyasi: What do you gain from writing?
Kiley Reid: Writing lets me live outside of myself. I think it’s super important that we become obsessed with things that have nothing to do with us. Writing also aids in my intuition. I think that there are often things that happen to us that we don’t care about, but we say to ourselves, “This is something I should care about so now I’m going to care about it.” I think this is a waste of time and effort. Reading and writing has helped me see that some big things are not important, and some small things are critical. And that my body will tell me which is which.
Geosi Gyasi: Do you have a specific audience you write for?
Kiley Reid: I write for… like, a 20-30 somethings woman whose parents don’t support her. She buys cheap wine and she always looks like she’s annoyed. She gets excited when she’s asked to be a bridesmaid but then she remembers that she hates everyone. She’s tired. She wants to lose like, seven pounds. She doesn’t realize how smart she is.
Geosi Gyasi: Could you tell me about the work you do at IDEO?
Kiley Reid: I work the front desk at IDEO New York. I answer the phone, I cater client meetings, I host events and put on baby showers and happy hours. The people at IDEO have been really lovely to me, especially with my writing. I attached my short story “The Things I’d Tell You If This Weren’t A Date” to my resume at my first interview. They shoot writing opportunities my way when they present themselves. Sometimes it’s copy for an upcoming event. Sometimes I get to brainstorm with clients on mission statements or hashtags. I see myself coming back here after grad school (fingers crossed).
Geosi Gyasi: Which books have had great impact on your life as a writer?
Kiley Reid: Nevers, as I mentioned earlier, had a huge impact on my this year. It was a weird “I didn’t know you were allowed to write like this” moment that was really important. Everything Donna Tartt has written has shown me how loud a setting could be, and that it should be treated like another character. The History of Love was another game changer. It’s a book about another book and I think it showed me to only put in the important parts.
Geosi Gyasi: Are there times you feel like not writing?
Kiley Reid: Every day. When I’m tired. When I’m hungry. When I feel like people are watching me. But there are very rarely times where I feel like I want to stop writing and I try to focus on that.
Geosi Gyasi: What is the greatest fan mail you’ve ever received from any reader of your works?
Kiley Reid: Do you mean fan mail as in a physical letter or fan mail as in an email? Either way, I’ve received none. Jk, that’s not exactly true. I’m a very new writer and have yet to receive anything that truly constitutes as fan mail. One of my published pieces received a comment that said, “Reading this was like finding a disgusting hair on the shower wall and then realizing it’s your own.” I liked that one a lot. And there was one time where a friend had seen a published essay I’d written on the 2008 election and read it to her 5th grade class for discussion before she knew it was mine. That was fun, too.
Geosi Gyasi: Is it true that short stories are difficult to write as compared to novels?
Kiley Reid: Eww, no. Who told you that? They lied. Novels are like… long. I find it much easier to maintain a consistent voice throughout a short story than a novel. I am definitely more excited when I’m writing a novel though.
Geosi Gyasi: Do you remember your first piece of writing?
Kiley Reid: Yes. It was a complete copyright violation. I was six and my dad had just gotten a computer. I heard a story about a leprechaun at school and I went home and tried to copy it down word for word. One of my first original pieces was a poem I wrote and read at a talent show in 3rd grade. It was about an ant who shot a bear with a water gun. I remember a line that went, “And the ant shot at the bear so strong // And the bear came down with a clang and a clong.” There were no winners at this talent show but, come on, we all know who won.
Geosi Gyasi: Can you define your voice as a writer?
Kiley Reid: Not really. I know it’s simple. It’s a bit crass. In this process of finding my voice as a writer it’s much more clear to me what my voice is not rather than what it is. I know it hates cliches. It sounds like someone is talking. It sounds young. That’s all I know right now. I do hope that one day my voice is a clear ring that sounds like Curtis Sittenfeld and Toni Morrison’s love child who cusses too much and went to community college in Arizona.
Geosi Gyasi: What do you often do at your spare time?
Kiley Reid: I take trips with my boyfriend and watch horror movies with my best friend. I google MFA acceptance rates a lot and then I get really sad. I go to Soul Cycle and then I check my bank statement and wonder if it’s worth it (it is). I also try to analyze the subtext in my lit mag rejections (there is none). And I watch the Bachelorette and Project Runway. Also lots of tacos.