Katey Schultz grew up in Portland, Oregon and is most recently from Celo, North Carolina. Flashes of War, her debut collection of short stories published by Loyola University Maryland, won IndieFab Book of the Year as well as a Gold Medal in Literary Fiction. Her stories have won more than half a dozen contests, been nominated for 2 Puschcart prizes, and appeared in print in the United States, England, and Afghanistan. Katey has received writing fellowships in 8 different states and is currently at work on a novel that takes place in Afghanistan. She lives in a 1970 Airstream trailer bordering the Pisgah National Forest.
Geosi Gyasi: What is your happiest moment as a writer?
Katey Schultz: I’m fortunate enough to say, with confidence and gratitude, that I’ve experienced many happy moments as a writer. Earlier on in my work as a fiction writer, I was awarded the Linda Flowers Literary Prize by the North Carolina Humanities Council. I wasn’t entirely aware of how special this recognition was until I showed up to at the huge auditorium (that year, the event was on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus) to receive my award. My parents attended, and the judge introduced me and said kind words about my work. It made the accomplishment feel quite real and memorable and fueled me for a long time. In terms of Flashes of War and the book tour, one of my happiest moments was learning that the United States Air Force Academy cadets were reading my book. This fall, I get to travel to Colorado to meet them and answer questions about the work. Another powerful moment was the day I received a photo of young Afghan men reading a copy of Flashes of War.
Geosi Gyasi: Was there any special reason why you decided to study at Pacific University?
Katey Schultz: Yes. I grew up in Oregon and although I’ve been living in Appalachia for 13 years (and counting), the basis for all my early writing models and love of the land (which I hope, also shows in my own work) were the great writers of the Pacific Northwest–Pete Fromm, Craig Lesley, Barry Lopez, William Kittredge, Debra Gwartney, Judy Blunt, Claire Davis, Molly Gloss and more. Studying in the low-res MFA program at Pacific University meant working with these masters as well as a chance to fly “home” twice a year to spend time at the writing residencies. More than anything, that faculty taught me passion for the writing life, body and soul. Yes, they also taught me technical and craft skills, but they embodied focus and commitment and modeled it with every syllable of every lecture. I’m still empowered by the memory of my time there, and pulling a book by any of these folks off the shelf is almost as good as having them right there at the desk with me.
Geosi Gyasi: I am curious to know anything about the 1970 Airstream trailer in which you live?
Katey Schultz: I bought the Airstream for a few thousand dollars back in 2011 and spent about a year and a half repairing and upgrading it with my dad. I lived in it full time for several years before I met my husband, and now the Airstream serves as my long-term writing studio (and a truly crafty, comfy, streamlined space). We also spend several months during summertime sleeping in a large tent (“the master bedroom”) behind the Airstream and sharing the Airstream itself as our mutual office, kitchen, napping spot, library, and bathroom. Those days are lovely and long and I feel like there’s no barrier (or perhaps, just a thin layer of aluminum) between myself and the natural world.
Geosi Gyasi: What has been the response so far about your book, “Flashes of War”?
Katey Schultz: Well, there have been lots of kind and informative reviews (link:http://www.kateyschultz.com/p/reviews.html) and, more than anything, great acceptance from the veteran and military communities themselves. Lovers of literary ficition, tightly formed flash fiction, and metaphor- or image-based narrative have also responded kindly to the work. More than anything, though, what I’ve learned is that this book is slowly but steadily finding its way onto the bookshelves of people who might not otherwise like to read “about war.” Whether by fluke, because of a review, or even just a book sale at their local indy bookseller,Flashes of War gets into their possession and they sit down rolling their eyes thinking that they don’t want to read about war…then they come away realizing they’ve read about people, and the everyday, impossible decisions for folks on all sides of conflict. This book explores conundrums of the human heart much more so than it explores any tactical or military might.
Geosi Gyasi: Are you working on anything new?
Katey Schultz: Yes, thanks for asking. I’m currently on the sixth revision of my novel, Still Come Home. The novel is set in Afghanistan and features and American soldier leading his platoon on the last mission of his last tour. It tracks his life and the life of an Afghan couple living in the town the mission takes him to, tracing their paths to a distinct and memorable moment of overlap. The novel is about how we behave and move forward when we find ourselves in situations where we can do everything right and still be wrong.
Click on the book cover above to buy signed copies of “Flashes of War”.