An Interview with Kim Magowan


This story centers on a woman unhingedfor better or worse. What influenced this piece? 

In the spring and summer of 2015, I wrote 5 stories that featured girls who were struggling. None of them were receiving adequate support from the adults in their lives. Three of those stories were linked. Bird's Thumb published a story last October about Laurel's friend Ellie, where Laurel makes an appearance; in June 2015 Word Riot published a story from Laurel's perspective (a story I picture as showing up in that green vellum journal that her mother Alice decides not to read). This story, "Warmer, Colder," was the first of the set I wrote, and the most disturbing of the three. Afterwards, I wondered what was going on with Laurel's mother that Alice would be so checked out, so oblivious to her daughter's circumstances. I remember many years ago, my mother telling me she thought she was a good mother, "Within the limits of my personality." That phrase stuck with me (I was 18 or 19, when she said it, and I remember thinking, "I need to use that line in a story some day." Indeed it does show up in the novel I am currently working on. What can I say? Writers are thieves!) Especially after having my own children, I feel struck by how parenting makes peopleat least, responsible parentstable their own emotions, rage, despair, self-destructive impulses, anarchic desires, for the sake of their children. Alice has crossed a line where she can't do that anymore: She's an artist who has gone a bit blind. Alice cannot protect her daughter or herself from her state of coming unstrung. That is, she can't, until something forces her to take a look at Laurel and to see the damage that her self-absorption and depression are helping inflict, but also inducing Alice to miss. I like the way the story landsliterally: Alice coming back to earth, beginning to pay attention, to open her eyes.