Storyglossia Issue 38, February 2010.

An Interview with Yvette Ward-Horner


Yvette Ward-Horner's "Dirty Girl" appears in Storyglossia 38. Here, Yvette takes a few moments to discuss the premise of the story, the narrator's position as an outsider, the physical world of fiction, and what she's currently working on.


Anne Valente: Where did the premise of this story come from?


Yvette Ward-Horner: Most of the time, my stories start with one scene that pops into my mind. Sometimes, these scenes grow out of some random person or thing that I spotted somewhere, but quite often I have no idea where they come from. In this case, the scene that came to me was the one in the hotel room and it rolled around in my mind for quite a long time before I attempted to fill in the rest of the story.


AV: You do such a good job of reinforcing the narrator's insecurities throughout the story, and her outsider status—former homelessness, being from Boston in a southern state, her choice of college (and Ben's derision of it). How did these elements fall into place?


YWH: The homelessness took me by surprise in the first draft. In subsequent drafts, I decided to emphasize it because I realized that many of her feelings of being an outcast and somehow "dirty" came from her experience of living on the streets. The college choice also popped up by itself. I wanted her and Tina to be in school together and that's what I ended up with. In the first couple of drafts, there was just a passing reference to the school, but it gradually took on more importance and eventually became something for Ben to sneer at. As far as the accent goes I myself moved from Massachusetts to the South several years ago and there was a definite sense of being an outsider for a while. I had a good friend from Boston who came down to visit all the time and sometimes people would mimic his accent, though mostly in bars late at night. So that grew out of my own experience.


AV: The narrator's sense of self-doubt really comes into focus when Tina assaults her—and instead of writing Tina off, the narrator thinks she should "hug her and apologize." Did this feel like a climactic moment for you too, while you wrote the story?


YWH: Her reaction to Tina's demands really demonstrates her lack of self-esteem. Just taking her shirt off in the first place is a pretty low point for her and then letting Tina "feel" makes it even worse. It mirrors her job as a stripper an unsuccessful stripper which is something else eating away at her self-worth. But this scene is also a turning point for her because in the end she does manage to push Tina away rather than totally giving in to her. And I think that sets her up to walk away from Ben in the end.


AV: There are many physical details of grime and dust here too. How does the physical world mirror the emotional world in this story, especially in regards to the title?


YWH: I'd say it mirrors it pretty closely. Her sense of being "dirty", i.e. worthless and unlikable, is so profound that it's become almost a physical sensation. In a way, she's afraid that people can tell by looking at her that she's just a homeless person pretending to be "normal". And because this sense of dirtiness pervades everything she does and is central to the story, I tried to reinforce its presence with the grime and dust that you mention in the settings.


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


YWH: Right now I'm working on a novel about mountain climbers. I'm an avid climber myself and I've long been fascinated by some of the moral questions that arise, and the things that drive people to risk their lives and put themselves through a great deal of physical suffering. There's a dark balancing act between an obsession with climbing mountains and obligations to family. How do you justify risking your life for no "good" reason when you have a spouse, parents, children, friends who would be devastated if you didn't make it back?


As far as short stories go, right now I have one up at Amarillo Bay and I have others forthcoming in Passages North, Night Train, and Cantaraville.


Yvette Ward-Horner lives in the Rocky Mountains, where she is working on her first novel. Her short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Passages North, Night Train, Necessary Fiction, Cantaraville, Amarillo Bay, The Writer's Digest 78th Annual Competition Collection and others. Find her online at