Gloria DeVidas Kirchheimer is the author of a novel, Amalie in Orbit (the Wessex Collective) and a story collection based on Sephardic family life, Goodbye, Evil Eye (Holmes & Meier), a finalist for the National Jewish Book Awards. Her short fiction has been published in The Antioch Review, Arts & Letters, Kansas Quarterly, New Letters, Carolina Quarterly, North American Review, Persimmon Tree, Lilith, and other magazines, and in several anthologies, including Follow My Footprints, Lost Tribe, Robert Olen Butler Prize Stories, Sephardic American Voices, Shaking Eve’s Tree, With Signs and Wonders and Keeping Time. Her stories have been broadcast over National Public Radio and read at Symphony Space “Selected Shorts,” and Stories & Stages (Colorado). Nonfiction has appeared in Music & Vision, The Yale Journal for the Humanities in Medicine, Sephardic Horizons, and Perceptive Travel (Silver Award, Solas Competition for Best Travel Writing). She is co-author of a nonfiction book, We Were So Beloved: Autobiography of a German Jewish Community (University of Pittsburgh Press).
In her other life she was a French-English translator, magazine editor, recorded folksinger, and editor for academic and nonprofit organizations. She also collaborated with two other authors in writing five gothic novels under a collective pseudonym.
Interview with Sandra Shwayder Sanchez, publisher of The Wessex Collective, in machinescanteatthis.blogspot.com
S: Why do you write and how do you approach your characters and create their stories?
G: When I’m not writing I feel half alive. I go through every-day motions like a zombie. Nothing equals the excitement of plunging into a story and not knowing where it’s going. I write in order to find out what’s happening, what the story all about. There’s fear as well as exhilaration. Will I be able to solve the problems? Will I measure up? Each time I begin a new story it’s as though I’ve never written anything before.
Writing has to be fun. And in order to have fun you have to squelch the fear and jump in, take risks joyfully. You can always revise the piece later—you must revise. Knowing that, you have the freedom to make mistakes, to digress all you want. Later is the time for cleaning up.
My work is almost always based on real people. I may know them well or maybe I just spotted them on the street and something struck me in passing. A little spark goes off in my head, the spark of possibility. The notion of “what if... ?” Taking what I see and know and moving into an imagined–but plausible–situation.
Sometimes, before I’ve actually begun to write, a line will pop into my head. My first impulse is to reject it. No, this is crazy, what a wild notion. But that’s how I wrote my story, “Goodbye, Evil Eye” (in Goodbye, Evil Eye: Short Stories). The line was: “It is not common knowledge that a woman sailed with Christopher Columbus.” And that was the start button for me. Don’t ask me where that line came from. If we’re lucky and receptive, these charmed moments come to us.
Nothing equals the joy of being in the middle of writing, except maybe a swim in the ocean. I want to immerse myself, play, splash around. That’s how I’ll find out what I’m doing.