Interview with Kit Reed

Rob Bedford
Kit Reed

What brought Tom’s story to you? Did he speak to you first or did the premise come to you first, followed by Tom?

I was sitting in the library of this wonderful place in the city and I heard him coming. He said, “I am very good at what I do,” and that was Tom. I realized that I knew him quite well, he sounded pretty arrogant and what he does, taken in the abstract is rather monstrous– stealing kids! but the more he talked, the better I liked him and I knew he must have good reasons for doing what he did. The rest was me listening and him talking… and together, us figuring it out.


That he perceived the children he stole as unwanted. That he thought he was doing the right thing for them and for his clients… and why. He’s actually, for a guy who STEALS CHILDREN, an extremely moral man. Which I hope became evident to you…


It did, and I think that is part of Tom’s appeal. Tom wasn’t too quick to share his past, with you, and in turn, the reader. Was he trying to rationalize all these actions or was he not thinking about the consequences of his actions?


I think he believed in what he did. He’s a nice enough guy, I think, that he doesn’t intend to hurt anybody. He honestly thinks he’s helping. My guess is that we all rationalize our actions to some extent, like: hey, if I’m doing this, it must be right!


Why the shifts in narrative voice throughout the novel?


The world is a veeery complicated place. In a society where the borders are closed (disease control) and newborns are micro-chipped the way high-end dog owners microchip their pets to prevent theft, things that have to be said that can’t be said from the point of view of a single character. Never mind the near future, the present is too complex for that!


I needed the other voices– Sasha, the beautiful girl who’s just about to have a baby she doesn’t want– and Maury, the woman desperate to have a baby she can’t have– and Daria Starbird, who called Tom Starbird her “mistake,” and the others, all the others, to fill out the picture. Tom isn’t omniscient and neither am I. The other voices you hear belong to people who know things Tom doesn’t know and they know things about him that Tom doesn’t know about himself.


And, what else…


Tom is written as the protagonist, yet he does some less-than heroic things. Did you find it difficult to write such a character?

Actually, that was the easiest part and I can’t tell you quite why except that he and I were so tight that I totally got him, and what he thought he was doing. I liked the guy. I think most of us like ourselves well enough not to beat ourselves up over what we’re doing. If we didn’t believe in ourselves, how could we keep going? In fact, whatever we decide to do, we sing a little song to ourselves that goes, kind of la-la, I’m right, I’m right, I know I’m right… even when at heart we’re wondering, is this really what I meant to do? Kind of Pinocchio, “whistle a happy tune” time.


Without naming names, was Jake Zorn inspired by real-life newsmen, or all rich and powerful people?


I don’t think I had anybody particular in mind, just a ruthless guy who love’s his wife… and his own self-image… enough to do anything to get what he wants.

When you wrote this did you think to yourself, I want to write an SF novel, or I want this to be a thriller, or simply, I want and need to tell a good story?

It began with Tom, his voice, and expanded into the world that surrounded the story. I never think “I am going to write an X (you fill in the blank) I think: I have to write this because I have to write it because I have to write it. And when I’m done I look back and try to figure out what the hell it is..


You’ve written a number of short stories, as well as novels. Do enjoy one over the other or find one more rewarding?


I have a novelist friend who said he liked short stories but beginning a novel was like going on an ocean voyage with an old friend. Stories, no matter how long they take, are finite. I may not know how I’m going to get there, but I know there will be an end. With a novel, I usually have no idea where it’s going and I have to blunder around inside it until I find my way out. In an odd way, it’s the novels I love because in every novel there are accidents and surprises It’s a high-risk adventure at the end of which… I just may fall on my ass.


Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what drew you to the writing craft?


God knows it wasn’t the money!

I’ve been telling stories since I was four and a half; it’s all I ever wanted to do; by the time I was in first grade I was writing them instead of dictating to my mother. It’s who I am.


Specifically, what attracted you to the Fantasy/Science Fiction genre?

Probably the Oz books, fairy tales, anything that was slightly weird, so there was a natural segue into reading SF which I did a lot of during college; at some level we all write what we read. I read everything and for whatever reasons when I began to write short stories in earnest, a number of them were very weird. Tony Boucher bought my first story for F&SF. There was one my then-agent told me was much too odd for her to sell As you probably know, I’ve published both in and outside the genre. I do what I have to do and hope to God somebody will want to take it when I’m done.


You’ve received awards and critical acclaim for your writing. While the specific goal of each novel and story may vary, what are you ultimately trying to do every time you write?


I may have just answered this question above: I do what I have to do because, OK, I have to do it. And I hope to God somebody will take it when I’m done.


What’s the next writing project?


Um, that’s a question I never answer: bad karma. George Raft, an old movie star, thought if he played in a movie where his character died, he would’t get paid in the end. Me? I’m pretty sure if I TELL what I’m working on, I won’t get paid at the end!


Is there anything you would like to add, perhaps about the writing craft itself?

With writing, there are always questions and more questions, to say nothing of answers that won’t stay answered, especially with fiction. Nothing is cut-and-dried and everything’s open to question. It’s the mystery– what to say, how to say it and how to say it right that keeps us going. It is particularly true, I think, for people who write SF– whether you mean speculative fiction, which is, essentially, what I do. Fiction is all speculative, and that’s the area of risk and excitement. The adventure.

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