Thursday, December 17, 2009

An Interview With Len Kuntz

Len Kuntz’s “Summer Scalping; Scarecrows” appears in STORYGLOSSIA 37. Here, Len discusses where the story came from, his characters’ motivations and choices, and stories forthcoming in other journals.

Anne Valente: Where did the premise for this story coming from?

Len Kuntz: Much published fiction today (and I’m not being critical, because I’ve written my fair share) hinges on shock value or bizarre elements, and at the time I’d been reading Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy, which breaks most of the rules of writing yet is perfect. The lyrical quality struck me, but even more so was it’s simple and honest narration. So “Summer Scalping” was an homage to that type of tale, while also being a page torn from actual events in my childhood. Close to ninety percent of the story is true.

AV: Though the narrator is somewhat forced to steal from Mr. Henderson, it's ironic that he constructs scarecrows to deter scavengers when he himself is more of a thief than crows might ever be. Was it difficult to create a narrator that is both sympathetic and culpable?

LK: Most characters I enjoy are likeable, but conflicted or damaged somehow. They’re ultimately good people that maybe make a bad choice or two. In this case, the boy struggles with loyalty and allegiance. He’s pitted against a morality that is colored by his family’s brutal indifference.

AV: I love the moment where the narrator confesses to Mr. Henderson that he wants to be a fashion designer. Why did this profession in particular feel like the right choice for the story?

LK: It was meant to juxtapose a blue collar life of hard labor. Fashion can be frivolous, yet it connotes freedom of expression and individuality. The sweater (purposely a “sky blue” shade) that Mr. Henderson gives the boy symbolizes possibilities and hope. A designer, by nature, controls the way he or she shapes things versus environment or another person (i.e., his mother) having that power.

AV: Mr. Henderson is an endearing character, and feels like more of a parent to the narrator than his own mother. How does his personality contrast with the narrator's, or create conflict?

LK: Henderson represents the boy’s conscience, so he becomes a symbol of righteousness while unknowingly casting the narrator’s guilt and shame back at the boy. I’d like to think that each of us has a person in our life who’s filled a few cracks our parents either couldn’t, or didn’t quite want to address. So certainly Mr. Henderson becomes a father figure.

AV: What are you currently working on? Any stories forthcoming that we can point readers to?

LK: I’m halfway through a novel that I hope to have finished by spring and I have a few stories forthcoming in Mud Luscious, decomP, Prick of the Spindle, Cricket Online Review and others. I also have a really lame blog which is really just a receptacle for my writing:

Len Kuntz has pieces appearing or forthcoming in such places as Mud Luscious, Dogzplot, Elimae, Word Riot, Outside Writers and others. He sometimes blogs at

Labels: ,