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  • Writer's pictureLammergeier Staff

Featured Fiction Writer: Rebecca McKee

For this issue of Lammergeier, we interviewed Rebecca McKee, author of "Wholes." Join us for a discussion about chronicling anxiety, how we choose the images we use to define ourselves, and the 2002 film adaptation of Hansel and Gretel.

Ethan Brightbill: The relationship in this story is all-consuming for the narrator, so much so that no character other than the love interest directly appears. As powerful as the narrator’s love is, however, we’re also offered hints that this relationship may be less than perfect, and we never receive confirmation one way or another as to whether we should be rooting for it. What do you make of the connection between these two people?

Rebecca McKee: At the time of writing “Wholes”, I had recently entered my first (and turns out only–we’re married now) relationship, and had channeled a lot of my anxieties into this piece. I’m a classic over-thinker, and I found myself overanalyzing everything as the relationship progressed: is this going to last, how deeply should I attach myself to this person, am I calling too often? While the love interest in “Wholes” is not entirely reflective of my husband, the narrator embodies many of the anxieties I’d had at the time. As a result, my goal for “Wholes” was not so much to depict a good or bad relationship, but to document the truth of what I had been feeling at the time through the narrator. I think of “Wholes” more as two people living separate lives in separate places who are struggling to take their individual experiences and merge them into something shared. Whether that’s successful or not successful, good or bad, I think, is up to the reader.

EB: To quote my fellow editor, T Guzman, there is something “dreamlike, nostalgic, and ephemeral” about this story, making it feel untethered from a sense of place. However, some of the central imagery in this piece (like the corn fields and freight trains) ties it squarely to the Midwest, and it reminded me of driving along back roads at night when I lived in Iowa. How do you see this story’s relationship to place?

RM: I think space more than a specific place plays a central role in “Wholes”. The narrator in this long-distance relationship (like myself at the time of writing “Wholes”) begins to feel that the greater the distance between the two characters — both literally, in terms of miles, and figuratively, in terms of connectivity — the greater room there is for anxieties to grow. So, too, does it become more difficult to remember the details of a person when they’re gone, and to fill in the blanks. Some of the anxiety in “Wholes” comes from the idea that the two characters will forget who the other person is in their time apart, or that they will fill in the gaps in their memories with expectations the other person cannot meet. Will they be the same people when they meet each other again? Will they recognize who the other has grown to be while they were apart?

As for some of the more literal images of place, many of the images in “Wholes” do take place in Iowa and other parts of the Midwest. I was born in the Midwest and attended college in Iowa, and though I’ve lived in many other places since then, I consider the Midwest home. Many of the images in “Wholes” came from my childhood — my great-grandma’s wallpaper, stories my mom has told of my dad’s rusty car full of holes. As someone who moved many times as a child, I’ve always been fascinated by the images we choose to keep of the places and events we’ve experienced, the images that tether us to our hometowns and the experiences that make us who we are, and I channeled a lot of that interest

into “Wholes.”

EB: You have nonfiction forthcoming from Prairie Schooner, and the epitaphs in “Wholes” make it clear that you’re also comfortable with poetry. With that in mind, how do you situate your writing in terms of genre?

RM:: Great question. I’ve always thought of myself primarily as a fiction writer, but I’ve never limited myself to the genre if inspiration strikes elsewhere. When one genre starts to feel like pulling teeth to write, I turn to another to let my brain stretch in another direction. I’ve found each genre tends to inspire the others, and as a result, most of my fiction includes a little bit of truth and a little bit of poetry. Nonfiction is a bit newer for me, however, and I’m excited to keep dabbling in the genre.

EB: Your fiction has previously appeared in Apt, and you were awarded the Iowa Chapbook Prize. What’s next for you and your writing? What are you working on?

RM: Thank you for asking! The short answer is a little bit of everything. I have a handful of submissions out for fiction pieces I’ve resurrected from college, some more experimental short work, and an essay or two. I also wrote a novel this past year and am deep into the editing process for it. I have a hard time sitting idle, so even when some pieces seem to write themselves and others feel like they’ll never come together, I’m always tinkering with something.

EB: Finally, what’s your favorite bone?

RM: My favorite bone would have to be the chicken bone Hansel uses to trick the witch in “Hansel and Gretel”. But specifically the one from the 2002 eponymous film adaptation featuring Dakota Fanning. That bone specifically.



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