Q&A with KT Browne

1. If you were reviewing your own work, how would you describe its style or point of view?

At least as far as this story goes—Firebuddies—it's told from a young boy's point of view, Toddy. We get the sense that he's a bit of an odd fellow; he's got this ability to intricately articulate something 'abnormal' that he's been experiencing: Toddy's been hearing a mouse in the wall. The style of the piece is rather quirky because of this; we're taken as readers along the hiccupping path of the narrator's mind, a mind which we sense he has not yet developed the ability to fully control—Toddy is aware of himself being aware of the sound of the mouse, but not that this awareness is problematic, perhaps even delusory, for example. There's a lot of oscillation between sparse and complex prose within the piece. The advantage to this style is that the narrator's voice is able to move fearlessly between the little and large mysteries of an experience without the self-consciousness that often burdens a mature mind; the disadvantage seems to be that we're left split as readers between wanting to believe the narrator, and knowing in our better mind that he's probably off his rocker; that and, of course, a little dizzy.


2. Who are some of your favorite contemporary authors?

I tend to have trouble with this question, mostly due to the fact that I read the work of a lot of dead people. (http://passagesnorth.com/2013/09/writers-on-writing-56-kt-browne/) I'm well aware that I need to be 'part of the conversation' if I intend to contribute my own words to it, so I'm pushing myself. I've been reading a lot of Ali Smith, Micheline Aharonian Marcom, Jonathan Evison, Jennifer Boyden, Joshua Harmon. I'm always looking for the authors who seem to nail a balance between idiosyncratic lyricism and narrative that feels aware of itself as being derived from a single perspective at the end of the day. The voices seem broader to me that way, more attractive. In a recent interview, new novelist Catherine Lacey put it perfectly—"Good sentences and plots don’t do it for me if I feel like the writer can’t see beyond his own current cultural situation."


3. If you were told you couldn't write anymore, what job would you pursue and why?

I've always said that I'd be a taxi driver if I couldn't write, with the plan that I'd spend the short few minutes with each person I chauffeur helping them to realize something new about themselves, or to face something that's been haunting them. I'd like to help people help themselves. And so with this taxi driver dream, if each ride went according to my plan, every person would leave my car a better, wiser human. I had this idea my head for a long time actually, but then went on a lengthy road trip and realized that I hated driving. I can now say confidently that I'd be a teacher. I am a teacher. I'm preparing for the worst.


4. When you think of Austin, what comes to mind?

I think about how I've never been there before. I think of how I feel a little odd about now having a story in The Austin Review, being a writer who has never even been to the city the journal stands for. What's my current SkyMiles situation? Do I have enough miles saved up to take a little weekend trip down there? Maybe return a bit worldlier, or enlightened by what it feels like to both BE in Austin and have a story in The Austin Review simultaneously. Synchronicity. That'd be great. But I live in Taiwan at the moment, I think about that, and about hypocrisy. Cities. What "makes a city", if "things" even do at all? Things. I think of things, perhaps food-related or the color of the air in Austin in the summer with the dust swirling up and the bottled beer and all of that purplish smell that comes along with it; slow-paced life set to the pace of a pickup, and of how I'm aware that this is a wild misconfiguration of stereotypical, romanticized notions of life DOWN THERE. Passports. People say that you need one to get there sometimes. I'm from New York. Tell me what I know. I think of time. What time is it in Texas, currently? I'm taking NOW.


5. Answer the question you wish we had asked.

Alright, here's the question: Do you think that it's necessary to process an experience—meaning spend time thinking about it—before beginning to write about it? What good is the "just write" mentality when you don't really understand what it is you're writing about? Does understanding your material materialize before your fingers hit the keys, after, or both?

Woah. That's a multi-parter. I don't know. I have no answer to this question, but I wonder about it all the time. For example, let's take last Tuesday. I found myself in a tree house along the eastern coast of Taiwan. It was hauntingly beautiful. Mountains and mist in one direction, ocean in the other, a wobbly bridge to get in through the front door. So I was in this tree house, pacing around in there, telling myself that I should be writing my fingers numb and taking advantage of the remarkable space; but when I sat down, started to type, I got to thinking that I'm crazy for not just being in the space, observing every bit of it—staring at the bed handmade out of bamboo, or meditating, or catching the lizards crawling up through the woodwork. You see my dilemma? So here I've asked myself this question with the hope that a wiser part of me would have an answer. I still don't have an answer. And so, IF THERE'S ANYBODY OUT THERE WHO KNOWS ABOUT TIME AND SPACE WITH REGARDS TO WRITING, PM ME. THANKS, KT.  

About KT Browne

KT Browne’s work has appeared in McSweeney’s, Referential Magazine, Passages North, The Review Review, and elsewhere. She earned her MFA at CalArts, where she served as an Associate Editor for Black Clock Magazine. She was born in New York and currently lives in southern Taiwan, where she’s at work on her second novel. Visit her at ktbrowne.com