“Le Problem Being,” a short story by Kate Osana Simonian, appeared in Issue 18 and can be read here.
We’d love to hear a little more about “Le Problem Being.”
This is the only story I’ve ever written that came out practically done. Most of the time, I take stories through twenty drafts, but “Le Problem Being” was a gift from the Gods: I simply heard the chatty opening and played amanuensis. I expect that this will never happen again. Given this rather slap-dash genesis, “Le Problem Being” has a misshapen, unstable feel that is my favorite aspect of the story.
What was the most difficult part of writing this story?
The most difficult part of this story was peeling fiction from the reality beneath. I have a lot in common with Tracey. Brian is based on an ex-boyfriend. The holiday feeds off a real trip I took with my parents. I remember going to France with them and feeling sad about my ex-boyfriend, then thinking about what could make my situation worse. That’s when I thought of how it would feel to be dumped by one’s fiancé after contracting HIV. I was mining some of my real depression in this work, but I had to invent details pertaining to the disease and then add a satisfying dramatic arc. It was hard to create new details because there were ready-made (and true) details available, and so after writing the first draft, I had to go back and replace some specifics with more resonant alternatives.
A separate but related issue has been how people react to the story, especially those close to me. My parents and others have inferred that I must be Tracey and am writing about true filial contempt, or that I am deeply immoral, or that I have HIV. It has been tough to struggle against the conflation of myself as an author with a main character who looks like me on the surface.
Recommend a book for us which was published within the last decade.
Read S, by Doug Dorst. It was produced in conjunction with J. J. Abrams and is comprised of a facsimile of a book written by an invented author, V. M. Straka, called Ship of Theseus. Ship of Theseus is made to look like a library book (complete with creases and acid-treated pages) and is a rollicking adventure novel. On the pages of this “book” unfolds a paratextual love story between two readers writing in different pen colors in the margins. Artefacts like photos, letters, post-cards, maps, and a codex, are folded into the pages. It’s a vital read for fans of mystery, postmodernity, and Nabokov.
If you could have a drink with any living author, who would it be? Why?
Lorrie Moore. Her work does so many of the things that I am trying to do, only better. I also think she’d be wicked fun.
What are you working on now? What’s next?
I’m finishing up a linked short story collection based on a bi-racial family from Sydney. It’s called Australialand, and “Le Problem Being” is taken from it. Then I will begin work on a historical novel based on my great-grandfather’s experiences during the Armenian Genocide of 1915. If you like, add me on Twitter (kate_o_simonian) or check out my website (katesimonian.com) to stay abreast of my doings.
Our thanks to Kate for taking the time to answer a few questions and share her work. Read Kate’s story, “Le Problem Being,” here: https://www.sequestrum.org/le-problem-being.
Kate Osana Simonian is an Armenian-Australian writer hailing from Sydney. She is on a Presidential Fellowship at Texas Tech (2015-2020), where she is completing a Creative Writing PhD. Her work has been published by Kenyon Review Online,Colorado Review, Ninth Letter, Chicago Tribune, and Best Australian Stories. Some of her honors include the Nelson Algren Award, a Tennessee Williams Scholarship to the Sewanee Writer’s Conference, and a position as the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Writer-in-Residence, and she is an associate editor for Iron Horse and fiction editor for Opossum: A Literary Marsupial. Check her out at katesimonian.com.