Julie Innis‘s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Gargoyle, Prick of the Spindle, BLIP, Slush Pile, Lit N Image, Fogged Clarity, Pindeldyboz, The Long Story, and Underground Voices, among others. In May 2009, she was a finalist for the Glimmer Train Short Story Award for New Writers and in May 2010, she won the Seventh Glass Woman Prize for Fiction. She has high hopes for May 2011.
Susan Tepper: Julie, your story “My First Serial Killer“ is an eyebrow raiser right from the get-go. So it’s the narrator’s first serial killer, does that mean she anticipates and even desires other serial killers?
Julie Innis: I don’t know how much this character desires serial killers as much as she desires meaningful attention from men. This is probably a sad commentary on the state of Manhood today. This story grew out of the title — which is pretty unusual for me. There’s a toy called “My Pretty Pony” and I’d been playing around with riffs on that: “My Pretty Pitbull” etc. and somehow managed to stumble onto the idea of “Firsts” and having a first serial killer made a lot of sense to me at the time, probably because I’m from Ohio, birthplace of a number of presidents and serial killers.
ST: Desire, yes. And connection. She talks politics with her serial killer while he inflicts pain. Is this a form of sexual transference going on?
JI: I free-associated a lot of this story, probably more madness than method, admittedly. The Dorothy Hamill haircut made me think of Ice Castles which reminded me of Robby Benson and then to Lloyd Benston. That I imagine this serial killer to be a Republican I hope makes clear the perilous situation our liberal-minded narrator finds herself in! Had I written this story within the past year, perhaps he would have been a Tea Party member, though I hope my serial killer comes across as being somewhat well-educated, aloof, and fiscally conservative as opposed to rabid, insane, and fiscally suicidal.
As far as sexual transference goes, there’s a great deal of impotence involved with a serial killer who uses a dull knife. (I’m sorry, Mom, if you’re reading this, but it had to be said.)
ST: HA! I’m sure your Mom will forgive you for the sake of art. The narrator and her serial killer interact like a severely dysfunctional couple. You write: Our days together fall into an easy rhythm–breakfast then a trip to the bathroom, his eyes politely averted…
It’s totally zany and funny despite the horrific aspect of torture and confinement. Not an easy thing to pull off, Julie, yet you did. How so?
JI: I should admit that I wrote this story in large part to amuse myself, so it’s a huge relief to hear that someone else besides me finds it zany and funny. I have been known to have a sick sense of humor.
True story: I have not shown this story to my mother who would definitely not find it zany or funny, though my aunts (my mother’s five sisters) somehow managed to stumble across this story on the internet in the past year, circulated it among themselves, declared it ‘bizarre’, swore to never show it to my mother, and then agreed that it was typical of me since I’ve always been ‘the weird one.” Ah family.
ST: Julie that is exactly what I do. Write to amuse thyself! Why else write?
Well to add insult to injury (literally), her serial killer starts having girls over at night, which is an absolutely fabulous plot twist. Total story insanity at this point. Does this upset her?
JI: Yes, the clack of those high heels is much much worse than any of the shallow knife passes or cigarette burns. That he loses interest in her is the deepest cut of all.
ST: I won’t give away your ending which is the cherry on the cupcake. But did you know where this story was going or did the ending kind of fling itself at you?
JI: I’ve read a lot of writers who talk about discovering the story as they go. It always seemed like something that would happen to other people, but not to me — like being crowned Prom Queen, or getting a reality TV show. So when it happened with this story, this ending that yes, exactly as you put it, flung itself at me, I thought Finally, now I am a real writer and big things are going to start happening.
This was over two years ago and I’m still waiting. But I was glad to experience, if only briefly, the magic of the organically realized ending.
Read “My First Serial Killer” by Julie Innis
Monday Chat is a bi-weekly series in which Susan Tepper has a conversation with a Fictionaut writer about one of his or her stories. Susan is Assistant Editor of Istanbul Literary Review and hosts FIZZ, a reading series at KGB Bar.