A Chat With Kara Vernor

Evan Fleischer: Which was the first question of the "Questions I've Asked My Boyfriend While Writing?"

Kara Vernor: Not sure, because I can't recall all of the questions I've actually asked. The questions in the story are a blend of true and made up. As in the piece, I do tend to ask him about men's perspectives, male anatomy, animals, and vehicles. He's the sort of guy who knows things about cars and can tell you the exact model of the airplane or helicopter that's flying overhead. Early in our relationship I did ask him how quickly a penis could go from flaccid to fully erect; that had to be one of the first. He's a good sport about it.

EF: What makes good implicit dialogue?

KV: I think establishing a context, tone, or dynamic that lets the reader know to listen for what's not being directly said, that makes them feel more tension than confusion when characters talk around something. With "Questions..." I tried to point to the way fiction itself can be a part of the implicit dialogue between real life partners. I can only imagine that the (non-writing) partners of writers wonder what's "real" and what isn't, how much the writer aligns or doesn't with their characters, and of course what that means for the relationship. I wanted to create a similar effect with this piece, to have the reader wonder which of the questions were "true."

EF: Regarding leaving readers wondering which bit is 'true' — do you have an opinion on the Cat Person essay in Slate?

KV: In a nutshell, I thought people were both understandably hard on her and too hard on her. It is strange when someone borrows details from your life to make fiction, but it almost never means what you think it means. The facts involved are a convenience to get at a truth that usually has little to do with them.

EF: If you could make one word repeated seven times be a grammatically correct sentence, a la "Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo,” what would it be?

KV: … Maybe "uvula?" It sounds like the verbal equivalent of a more-fun-than-scary roller coaster ride. Plus, you could emphasize different syllables for effect. YOU-vula, uv-YOU-la, uvu-LA....