An Interview with Jaime Netzer

10 Apr
Jaime Netzer's journalism has appeared widely, and her story,

Jaime Netzer’s journalism has appeared widely, and her story, “How to Die” was published in Black Warrior Review and reprinted at Litragger.

Jaime Netzer is a fiction writer and journalist living in Austin. She served as the L.D. and LaVerne Harrell Clark Writer-in-Residence in Smithville, TX, and the nonfiction editor for the literary journal Front Porch. Her fiction has appeared in Black Warrior Review, Parcel, and Twelve Stories; her journalism has appeared all over, including (most recently) Variety, USA Today Special Publications, Cowboys and Indians, and Austin Monthly.

To read an exercise on writing self-aware prose and Netzer’s story, “How to Die,” click here.

Michael Noll

The story starts really fast: right to the reality show and its irresistible hook. Did the story always start this way? Or was this a conscious decision that you made, to start in a way that would immediately grab the reader?

Jaime Netzer

I started this story in the thick of work on my thesis project at Texas State, back in the spring of 2012. I had been plodding away at this truly terrible attempt at a novel while also enrolled in a workshop with Tom Grimes, who asked me to turn in something other than part of the thesis, for everyone’s sake, I think. My memory is usually awful but I do remember the idea coming to me sort of whole, or something close to it. I wanted to write about a girl competing on a reality show to earn her own suicide. The published version is not that different from the version I sat down and wrote in one fell swoop—which is wholly unusual for me. Small things changed, but this story always felt more like play than work. Her voice was there from the start, which I think helped a lot.

Michael Noll

The story is set in Kansas City, which caught my eye, not just because I’m from Kansas, but because I so rarely read stories set in KC. In fact, I can’t think of another short story set there. Did you ever consider setting the story in a generic location, or did you always want to put it in Kansas City, at Arrowhead?

Jaime Netzer

I’m from Kansas too, just west of Kansas City. So I’ve sat in that weird concrete stadium and seen its shadows and felt the height and bowl-feeling of it—it’s an amazing place to watch a game, and it’s weird and cold and huge, and somehow that felt like the right place to start. The other part of this answer, honestly, is that I’m a chicken, and I don’t usually set stories places I haven’t had some serious experience with. The story is obviously a bit speculative, a bit not-here, not-now, but I wanted it very, very close to now and here. So I wanted to set it somewhere, and Kansas City felt right. Lawrence, the narrator’s name, is actually the name of my hometown.

Michael Noll

The thing I love most about this story is the demented sexuality of the narrator, the way she tries to seduce the guy who will interview her for the TV show. Her sexuality, and the way she wields it, is so unexpected. The story could have easily been about how the character lacks power and so wants to die, but the story gives her incredible power and control. Is this one of those characterizations that just appears in your head one day, or did you have to write toward a point of discovery, when you realized who the character was?

Jaime Netzer

She came to me fully formed, but I wouldn’t say her sexuality is demented at all, actually. And maybe it’s because she was always the voice in my head, but it doesn’t seem unexpected to me, either. Don’t we all wield our sexuality in an attempt to get what we want? I never saw her as lacking power, so in my head, the story hasn’t given power to her. She is the story, her power and control (and desires) are the story.

Michael Noll

A lot of readers will probably think of The Hunger Games when reading this story. I’m curious how much you thought about it. Did you read the books or watch the movies and feel compelled to write your own (different, weirder, better) version? Or is the connection coincidental or the result of reality TV’s prevalence in our lives?

Jaime Netzer

To be honest, I didn’t give The Hunger Games a moment’s thought when writing it—I saw one of the movies (now I’m curious about the timing) at some point, but it’s the opposite story, right? Those people are not fighting of their own accord, and they’re fighting to live. I have, however, long admired Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” and The Hunger Games‘ premise is fantastic. I actually had three people ask me if I’d seen Black Mirror after reading the story. I haven’t, but apparently it’s similar in tone and there may have even been an episode with a reality show of some kind.

April 2015

Michael Noll Michael Noll is the Editor of Read to Write Stories.

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