Jani Krulc has an MA in English Literature and Creative Writing from Concordia University and a BA (Hons) in English from the University of Calgary. She lives with her partner and their animals in Calgary, where she writes and edits professionally. The Jesus Year is her first book.
How did your first book or chapbook change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
The book has made this – I mean writing – feel official.
How did you come to fiction first, as opposed to, say, poetry or non-fiction?
I think in narrative – all my ideas appear in story form. Poets fascinate me, how they can avoid or explode narrative and play with language. I tend to lie too much for non-fiction.
How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does it initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?
I write and rewrite many times until I feel I have a caught a part of the narrative. Then I usually realize I’m wrong and I have to rewrite until the story takes the shape it wants to. I began some of the stories in The Jesus Year four years ago. They look nothing like the stories in the book. Maybe the setting or a name or a singular event has survived. There’s one exception – the story just came and then it resisted my rewriting it.
When does a story usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a “book” from the very beginning?
Anything can ignite a story - a stranger's gesture on the train, a disaster on the news, my current fashion obsessions. But my stories usually start from something concrete in the world that I can't shake off, that keeps returning to me. For my next short story project, I plan to apply some organizing pressure. It took a while for The Jesus Year to come together as a book. But I never know until I start to write.
Are public readings part or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I read my work out loud all the time – it’s part of my writing/re-writing process. Eventually I imagine reading to an audience and I ask myself – does this sound terrible? I’m always interested to see how an audience reacts, or what it finds funny, or doesn’t. I’m usually surprised.
Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
I am a feminist, and this position informs my writing. Is it perceptible in my writing? I’m not sure. I am interested in exploring my characters and their lives as fully as possible, and revealing the messy bits, the rot, as it were, that lies beneath. In the past, I’ve found writing towards theory has swayed my stories, or clouded the direction of my narrative. What I'm mostly interested in is motivation – why do people do what do they?
What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
One possible role of the fiction writer is to pay attention, to hone in on the particular and to rearticulate the “universal.” It is also to offer a story that requires compassion from the reader, and a reexamination of the reader’s subject position. And to break the reader’s heart, if possible.
Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential or both?
A good editor will highlight what you are taking for granted, and tell you when you can stop refining small details. At some point in the process, editing just makes the story different, not better. A good editor knows when that point is. So, yes, working with an editor is essential, and I’m very happy that Jon Paul Fiorentino was mine. He talked me down a couple times.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve heard?
Kill your babies. Or is it darlings? Either way, if I’m particularly attached to something in the story – a line, a scene, even a character – it’s usually the first thing that needs to go.
What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep? How does a typical day for you begin?
When I'm in the thick of it, I have to write every day. Because I work full time, I also have to fit my writing around my work day, so I usually write at night. I practice yoga most mornings, or I’d write then. I finished writing the book while I was in India. I would practice yoga for a couple hours in the morning and then write throughout the day; it was pretty ideal.
What other writers or writings are important for your work?
The writing community in Calgary is important to both my work and my life – I think it’s essential for writers to congregate and support each other, to commiserate and lament. Also, they’re fun people to hang out with. Reading short stories is very important as well –that’s another good piece of advice I’ve heard: read what you want to write (and if you want to write short stories, then…). I adore Mavis Gallant and Alice Munro, of course, and Sarah Selecky, Lydia Davis, Miranda July, Caroline Adderson, and so many other writers - I go back to short stories over and over to try to figure out how a story works, and to figure out why mine isn’t if I’m having problems. And also because it’s joyous to read short stories. It makes life better.
If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be?
An actor. What a terrifying job. More likely, a lawyer.
What made you write, as opposed to doing something else.
I think writing is a compulsion, something I have to do. There are few other reasons, maybe no other reason, to do it.
What was the last great book you read?
Drunk Mom by Jowita Bydlowska. The book is engrossing and terrifying; it asks for a reader’s understanding but never for pity. I’ll say Breaking Bad, even though it’s not a film. I had to take a break from the show, though, because I was becoming melancholic and somewhat paranoid.
What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Travel to China.
When your writing gets stalled…
I write the same scene over and over again until something shifts and breaks open and I can enter the story again. If that doesn’t work, I usually read a story, or I go for a walk, or I practice yoga. I try to shake myself up.
The foothills where I grew up have a particular nippy, fresh smell in the Spring, like melting ice cubes infused with grass and lilac. Also, my mom is Greek and an excellent cook, so food: garlic, roasting meat (which I don’t eat anymore, much to her chagrin); fresh tomatoes with olive oil, that sort of thing. That’s home.
David W. McFadden once said that books come from books…
I tend to become obsessed with random activities, like finding rental properties on kijiji, researching the best vegan restaurants in cities I want to visit, or imagining the interiors of other people’s homes. These obsessions inform my writing, or sneak in and take over the narrative. I used to play classical piano, and I think my musical background influences the cadence of my prose. My yoga practice also informs my writing. I treat my writing as a practice, and I try to detach from the results, good or bad. It’s all just play in the end.
What are you currently working on?
12 or 20 (second series) questions;