Writer in Training


Writer in Training

Interview with Elena Kaufman


Today I'd like to introduce you to Elena Kaufman, another of my fellow Unbound authors. She is the author of Love Bites, a collection of short stories inspired by her travels. Nowadays, the short story seems to be harder to find with fewer authors turning their hand to the, often undervalued, short form. I'm really glad to see such a collection on Unbound. You can read an excerpt and pledge your support at https://unbound.com/books/love-bites  

1) To start with, could you introduce yourself and tell us about your current project?

I’m a Canadian writer and actor who has lived abroad for many years. My project is a short story collection called LOVE BITES which is being crowdfunded on Unbound right now.


2) Would you mind sharing an excerpt with us, or a favourite quote?

This is the first line from PHANTOM APPENDAGE: “Some people swear by their inner child but Juliana has something more unique. It’s lying sideways, resting on her leg; an earthworm, pink and new, with one slit eye staring up at her.

I had a lot of fun writing this story even though it might come across as dark. Many women probably imagine what it would be like to have a penis for a day.


3) What was your inspiration for your current project?

My short stories reflect some of the experiences I’ve had while being an expat in Paris, London, and Hamburg where I now live. Of course, fictionalizing biographical accounts allows for alternate visualizations of events and new endings. As an actor who learned to build characters in order to play them I like to explore my characters through writing in order to discover what happens to people when placed in odd scenarios or in conflict. One’s reaction to conflict shows who a character is and what she’s made of.


4) Do you have any other projects on the sidelines?

Yes, I also write plays and am cleaning up a one-act DIVINE MONSTER about the incredible French actress, Sarah Bernhardt who lived during the Belle Époque era. It was produced in Canada last year and I’m editing it based on what I learned from the production at the University of British Columbia. Also, for the past few years I’ve been working on a novel which is about family history and retribution and is set on the St James’s Way pilgrimage across Spain A HISTORY OF WALKING.


5) What draws you to the genre you write in? Have you always been drawn to it?

I’m not sure why fiction rather than non-fiction drew me in except that I saw stories in the world around me. Perhaps when a child I wanted to rewrite the ending to my parent’s divorce and family break-up. Or maybe it’s just that I find it an engaging activity which can have an entertaining or educational or curious impact on its readers.


6) What made you want to do a collection of short stories rather than a novel? Do you think the short-form story telling has an advantage over long-form works?

The short-form is unique in that it has to say so much with so little. It’s a sprint with words. The writer of stories has to find a way to reveal a deeper world with less text or dialogue than a novel. It’s a challenge that I love. Alice Munro, Mavis Gallant, and Lauren B. Davis are able to create full worlds populated with believable characters that exist beyond the end of the story. That’s magic. Also, reading short stories is an intensive experience wherein one can step into this temporary world fully and for a shorter period of time than it takes to read a novel. The form suits our times.


7) Did you face any particular challenges in working on this project?

Stories are so subjective and sometimes one takes too much out and the reader feels disconnected or cold to the story. It’s a difficult balance to know how much to write in, how much to trust that the reader gets it, how much to leave out and let the reader work it out. It’s a balancing act.


8) Which part of the writing process is your favourite, and which part do you dread?

I love the energy at the beginning when ideas begin to weave together or an image stays in my mind until I write it down and figure it out on paper. I could write and write and write but then there’s the most necessary part: editing, shaping, getting reader feedback, re-editing, letting it sit, stew, shape itself. It’s a mixture of letting the imagination make connections, being true to your characters, and then letting go of the story for a time, going back to it with fresh eyes and taking the necessary scalpel to it. The process can be painful, unnerving, and unsettling. Is a story ever really finished?


9) What is your number one distraction?

Social media, the internet, what people on the other side of the world are doing. Lack of structure, sometimes a lack of discipline.


10) Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’m a complete pantser who wants to be more of a plotter. It upsets me when I see all of my attempts to plot and my worries about going off plot and how that takes me out of trusting my instincts and in the end getting overwhelmed and not writing at all. Better a messy but blood-filled first draft than a clinically correct bloodless draft.


11) Tea or coffee?

Coffee, more coffee, and then maybe some tea.


12) What are the most important three things you've learned about writing, editing or publishing (or all of the above!) since you started your journey?

Words on the page are what counts first and foremost. Finishing projects is really important otherwise the energy for new projects is blocked by unfinished business. Morning pages – as prescribed by Julia Cameron has helped me immensely. In terms of publishing, treat it like a lottery by sending out as many stories to as many publications as possible. If you truly believe your story is done and has been seen by trusted readers and is ready to be released it’s only a matter of time before you find the right publication for it. Don’t take rejection personally but save your energy for re-submitting a rejected story. Keep the ball rolling.


13) What's your favourite quote on writing?

“Everything in a novel comes down to people making choices. You must know in advance what those choices are.” (Marion Zimmer Bradley)


14) What is the best piece of advice you've received?

Keep on keeping on.


15) Where else can we connect with you?




twitter @elenadkaufman