We are pleased that Kit Reed, the author of Enclave, has agreed to be interviewed for us. She is also the author of many other books, many of which are mentioned in this interview, like The Midnight Children, Thinner Than Thou, The Baby Merchant, and the prestigious Tiptree finalist collection of stories, Seven for the Apocalypse. She has also been nominated for the World Fantasy Award.
Were there any books or authors who influenced you in your career, especially with your latest novel, Enclave?
Kit Reed: I’m never able to say exactly, as I’ve read everything I could get my hands on, just about forever, but the names that float to the top are the Oz books when I was little, I read them over and over. From them I learned how to keep several things going at once. After that it’s Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene; of genre writers, Theodore Sturgeon most of all. Of particular books? Enclave didn’t come from a book. It came from a dream.
I dreamed I was in front of a computer in a Gothic boarding school, the system was going haywire and at the same time I was aware that elsewhere in the building kids were getting sick and if I didn’t fix the crashing computer, everybody was gonna die.
In Enclave, you write about the end times, or at least the selling of the possibility that the people of the novel are living in the end times, and Sarge Whitemore is the major salesman behind this idea. He’s a Captain Ahab-esque figure in charge of the Academy, a dystopic enclave where he’s gathered together misfit kids/teens of rich parents who have paid top dollar to both be rid of and supposedly to protect their precious darlings.
Of course, you didn’t get the idea for the Academy from Wesleyan University where you are the Resident Writer- it’s a fine, beautiful institution of higher learning – but, where there any schools/teachers who you based the Academy and its teachers on in your own life?
Kit Reed: Probably it came from the fact that I’d been on Navy bases where my father was attached when I was small; then I spent two years on a Marine base when I was in high school, and when I was in college had a lot of friends in the Naval Academy, so I know how things in the military run, so there’s that.
To that, add the fact that I got yanked out of public high school for senior year and put in a boarding school run by nuns. You learn how institutions work, and at some level, whether it’s boarding school or the state pen, institutions are all the same.
Enclave and your other novels, like Thinner Than Thou (in its third printing) and The Baby Merchant, have many memorable, well-drawn, three-dimensional characters in them, like Sarge, Cassie, and Brother Benedict (Benny) in Enclave.
Kit Reed: Thanks!
Do you generally come up with the characters first who populate your novels and short stories, or the plot line(s)?
Usually these things happen more or less at the same time. They develop together. When I started thinking about Enclave, although I was the kid in that dream, the first voice I heard belonged to Sarge. The next was Benny’s. He wasn’t exactly speaking, at least not like Sarge does, he’s telling you how it is and he’s inclined to rant. With Benny, it was about who he was inside his body, what was going on inside his head. It’s about cadencing. Speech patterns and rhythms, the way they occupy their bodies.
Usually I hear my characters coming. I know how it sounds inside their heads. I may know where they are at the beginning, in Enclave, they’re trapped in the mountain, but it takes me a while to figure out what’s going on, and even longer to figure out what’s going to happen to them! For me, characters build story, not the other way around. Who they are makes what happens, happen.
Who’s your favorite kid/teen character in Enclave, and why?
Kit Reed: Oh, of kids, I’m torn between Killer Stade, who’s twelve and got his name because he accidentally killed a guy, and his best friend Teddy, the beautiful prince of an obscure country who’s been shipped off to Mount Clothos because he has seizures and the king thinks that makes the family look bad.
Was it your idea or your agent’s to write under the name Kit Craig for the psychological thrillers you’ve written, such as Gone and Twice Burned? Why was this name chosen – is there a story behind it?
Kit Reed: My agent’s– and mine. We did it to signal that this was something completely different.
Living in a MegaMall like the teens of your YA novel, The Night Children, is the dream of many teens. But, sometimes it’s a good thing to be careful what you wish for, as they discover, especially when the said mall is ran by someone who is spidery and evil, like Amos Zozz, in your book.
Kit Reed: Theron, in Enclave, presents a different type of evil to the Academy – he carries with him a plague that spreads like wildfire among the residents.
Going off the board for this question – Which of the two novels took you longer to write, and do you prefer writing YA novels or writing for adults?
Kit Reed: I’d never done a YA before, so in a way it took longer– many specific notes from my editor to make it more, um, young-reader specific. Several drafts. People in teen novels, I’m told, can’t just have experiences, they have to LEARN from them. All things being equal, I’d rather write for grownups, whether it’s speculative fiction or what I suppose you’d have to call “mainstream,” and although recent novels qualify as “SF,” I’ve done both.
Enclave knew what it was and where it was going from the beginning, and although it seemed agonizing to write, it went very fast. Right now I have another adult novel that I’ve been working on for five years. Every book takes exactly as long as it wants to take, and you never know.
Weird Women, Wired Women and Little Sisters of the Apocalypse were finalists for the Tiptree Award. Do you have any other collections of short stories planned to come out soon?
Kit Reed: PS publishing in the UK is doing the next one in spring ’11; it will include two stories that are appearing in the Kenyon Review. Meanwhile it was Seven for the Apocalypse that was a Tiptree finalist; it contained Little Sisters of the Apocalypse, originally a Fiction Collective Black Ice book, and “Voyager,” which appeared in The Yale Review, so you can see I work both sides of the street.
If so, do you have a proposed title for the collection(s), and what does it take to win that award, anyway?
Kit Reed: We’re veering between “What Wolves Know,” after a story that appeared in Asimov’s and, from a story that was up on the late, lamented SciFiction, “The Song of the Black Dog.”
I’m going to go out on a limb (rather unusual for me to do so, unless in the pursuit of biological specimens) and predict that Enclave will win both the Hugo and Nebula Awards.
Kit Reed: Aren’t you nice! From your lips to God’s ears.
Sarge Whitemore seems to, at least in part, sincerely want the best for the students at the Academy, and wants to protect them from the world’s evils. Yet, he also is preying on the fears of the kids’ parents that the end times may be upon us.
With the character of Sarge, were you influenced at all by the current war on terror and the Iraq War and W’s views on world affairs?
Kit Reed: I probably was in at least a subliminal way, it’s hard to write anything these days without knowing 9/11 and the mess in Iraq are looming, one in our lives right now and the other always in the background. Sarge is, however, a lot nicer, more well meaning and considerably smarter than Dubya. He’s an idealist who thinks the only way to save the world is by creating order, and he’s trying to do that for these kids, the best way he can. As you’ll note, he ‘s horrified and shamed by things he had to do, disgusted by our stupid, endless wars, and he’s trying his clumsy best to find a better way. He’s an anti-Dubya kind of guy who honestly thinks he’s doing The Right Thing.
If you could choose a place anywhere in the world you’d like to set up your own private enclave – not one like in your novel, but one to live the rest of your life, other than where you now live – where would you choose, and why?
Kit Reed: Annie Dillard once offered me this shed she had in her back yard, like we should have it moved to our yard so I could leave the house and go work in this shed instead of inside. I looked at her in horror and said, “I work in my office.” I’m happy where I am, university town in Connecticut, close enough to the city so friends can come and I can buzz in and out, and the idea of living in a group situation gives me the cold shivers.
So where I am, but sunny year-round, so I never, ever have to rake leaves again. Or shovel snow.
What are your plans for the future -like, what are you writing currently, and when can we expect new stories, novels, and short story collections to come out?
Kit Reed: Oh, I never, ever tell what I’m doing in any detail. I might get hit by a bus before the next thing. There are two stories coming in Kenyon Review, two in Ellen Datlow’s invited anthologies, one in an anthology Al Sarrantonio’s doing, one in Postscripts in the UK… the next novel? I’ll tell you if I don’t fall under that bus!