Contributor Interview: Elena Norcross
Updated: Apr 25, 2019
Elena Norcross' fiction piece, "Kris," is featured in the most recent issue of Spectrum.
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Q: In your short story “Kris,” the protagonist Kristina is tasked with taking care of her boyfriend’s bunnies for his latest startup scheme. She is portrayed as a neurotic, fast-paced woman who does not seem to fit in the life she is living. There are a couple parts where you relate her with wolves, and describe her as having animal like tendencies: characteristics that typically are not used to describe women. Is there a specific reason why you chose to portray her this way? What was the intended effect you were going for by comparing her to wild animals?
It was intentional to portray Kris this way. Why does the lead character have to be likable? Why does a female protagonist always have to be likable? These were some questions that made me start writing "Kris." Women in most societies are expected to be poised, clean and polite to incredible standards. As a woman, I have felt that if I acted in anyway outside of these parameters, I would be alienated by the people around me. Kris is a woman, but also a very intense person dealing with her own personal issues. I wanted to give her animalistic traits, like anti-social behavior or lashing out at containment to highlight even more that Kris was a "different" kind of woman. Probably one most women actually feel like in their hearts: they have needs and wants and probably make compromises to fit our culture's idea of what a woman should feel and act like.
Q: While reading this piece, I expected it to take a supernatural turn, especially at the end. You mention spirits throughout the piece, and Kristina’s resemblance to an animal paired with the feeling of something secret throughout led me to believe she had a supernatural side to her. When you were writing this short story, did you consider adding something supernatural? Or did you just want to create that sense and leave the audience wanting more?
I always seem to have a supernatural or spiritual element to my stories. This probably comes from reading too much Ray Bradbury as a kid! I was raised in the Western part of the country and native spiritualism was something that always interested me. I guess that's why I included the thought of the shaman in the basement, Kris' one moment of thinking she might be punished for her behavior. I also had a mother who loved to tell me ghost stories about her family, so the fantastical always finds its way into my writing!
Q: Can you share what inspired you to write this piece, and a little about your personal writing process (How do you come up with ideas to write about, how long does it take you to finish writing a story, where do you generally start when you have an idea for a story)?
My sister actually inspired this piece. We are twins, but very different. I often think that the way she sees the world is in opposition with how I do. Many of the protagonists' behaviors are taken from my sister. When I wrote this, my goal was to understand her better, as well as my own struggles with anger and self acceptance. Concerning other projects, I write long hand in a notebook with very messy handwriting. My ideas can come from a news story, an old family rumor, or an attempt to highlight issues that I believe are forgotten. I then type it up and edit as I go, which leads to a lot of moving whole paragraphs around! I try to write a short story a week, let it rest and then edit it.
Q: How long have you been writing, and when did you decide writing was a career you would like to follow? Was there a specific moment, or have you always wanted to be a writer?
I've been writing since I was eleven. Of course, I have always been a big reader and I wanted to write stories that I couldn't find in the library. I wrote with pencil in notebooks at first and then started entering my stories into contests. I decided to seriously follow this art after high school when I decided to move from a potential career in dance to focus more on my writing, which was always my first love. People's stories throughout history and even the people around me have always sparked my interest and I guess that's why I write. To understand people and their lives better.
Q: What has been the hardest part of your writing career, and what has been the most rewarding? Do you have any advice for our readers?
The hardest part of my "career" has been trying to get people to understand that even as a young writer (23 years old). I have experience and knowledge that I want to explore with my writing. Being considered "too young" or having nothing to say of substance really grinds my gears. Of course, rejection is a hard part of writing but I've accepted that it comes with this career! Advice? Read a lot. That's how I picked up the rhythm of writing and learned what works and what doesn't. I can't stress enough that writers need to take the time to read. Like I tell my students, improv comedians or jazz musicians don't just pick up a mic or saxophone and go at it. They have to have an understanding of the fundamentals, like how to tell a joke or read notes.
*This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.