K. S. Dyal talks Buffalo, NY, multiple points of view, and writing about love with editorial assistant Carolyn Silverstein.

K. S. Dyal is the author of the novella It Felt Like Everything (Ad Hoc Fiction 2022) and work in or coming from Colorado ReviewCarve MagazineQuarterly WestCutBankHAD, and elsewhere. She writes from Washington, D.C. Find her online @KSDyal and ksdyal.wordpress.com.

Carolyn Silverstein: I first found your work when I read your story “Love Is an Animal We Can’t Catch” in the Colorado Review, which I absolutely loved, and I was really inspired to go through a lot of your other work, and I see that you have several short stories along this theme. You have “Love Is an Animal We Can’t Catch,” and “Love Is a Selkie Who Will Leave You Eventually” and “Love Is a Ghost Who Will Take Care of You.” You also have a beautiful line in the Colorado Review: “Love is a slippery little rabbit. We’re hunters.” I’m curious, what interests you when it comes to writing about love? 

K. S. Dyal: Thank you for the kind words! I have found most of my writing, not necessarily on purpose, does revolve around the theme of romantic relationships, or even platonic relationships next to romance and how those different relationships interact. That’s the kind of content I am most interested in reading, so my ideas tend that way, too. Romantic relationships can be really intense. There can be a lot of growth through them, and conflict, which I think is really good fodder for character arcs. Obviously, I’m not alone in that, since love has inspired art since the beginning of time! I just think love makes good stories. 

CS: Clearly I do too—I was so invested! I love how you’re not only playing with romantic love in this story, but you also have a lot of familial love, love for experiences, love for things and places. How do you balance those different dynamics in your work and what do you hope readers will take from it? 

KSD: Next to romance, I love writing about female friendships. I think female friendships are so rich and so deep. And in my own life, my female friends have been there with me through so many growth moments that seemed to me the kind of moments that would be good for short stories. I love exploring that kind of dynamic. And besides female friendships, I also—not in all my work, but in some of my work—I do try to have more of a hopeful or an uplifting angle. A lot of the stories that I’ve encountered since I’ve started writing are a little bit darker and grittier and weird. (Which is great! Some of my work is too.) But sometimes I want to read content that is slightly more wholesome. I think it’s hard to do that without being corny. I’ve struggled with how to write stuff that is on the lighter side. But I have been trying my hand at that, in case there are other readers out there who want slightly less dark stories too. 

CS: And I think you do a great job of balancing all of that. I also had the opportunity to read your novella It Felt Like Everything—I actually have it next to me—and I see how it really fits into these themes of love, and familial love, and of course romantic love. I’m curious, how did it come about? What was your inspiration for it? 

KSD: It takes place in Buffalo, New York, which is my hometown, and it kind of started as a love story to Buffalo. A lot of the details of place and details of growing up in that city are real, drawn directly from my childhood and teenage years there. And so I knew I wanted to set a story in Buffalo and use all these details that were in my brain already. I think I wrote a few of the chapters that are more Buffalo-centric first, and kind of developed the characters secondarily, which is not how I usually approach work. And while I was drafting it, I was also working on a young adult novel, so I was interested in exploring that coming-of-age voice and perspective. I think teenage years are a really rich time, a very formative time, which lends itself to story arcs. So I fit those two things together—coming of age in my hometown—and the novella came out of it.  

CS: I mean, you do such a beautiful job describing Buffalo in the novella, and your characters in there are so rich. We get to see the story from the point of view of two of those characters, Kate and Marin. How did you choose to split the novella in half in terms of those perspectives and what was it like writing these two different characters?  

KSD: Actually, in my first draft, it was in three parts and the third part was from the perspective of Marin’s mother. And I figured out pretty early on, it wasn’t working.  The mother’s voice was too different from the young adult narrators, and the mother’s arc didn’t gel with the other two sections, so I cut that and immediately the draft started to make more sense to me. I was able to flesh out the first two arcs much more easily. From those sections, I wanted two different perspectives on the same relationships and the same people. I think that’s fun, to get to know somebody and the world through their eyes and then switch and see the same people through different eyes. I love novels that are multi-POV, so it was really fun to write it that way. And to have each character noticing different things and having slightly different views about the same cast. 

CS: It worked so well, I really loved getting to know both these characters and [their friend] Martina, of course. For my last question, you mentioned that you’re at work on a novel. I’m curious how you feel like your short stories, your novella, and your flash fiction pieces are influencing the writing of your novel? 

KSD: For sure! I started writing fiction a few years ago during the pandemic, and I started with flash. I wanted to work on my line level craft first. I wanted to get the hang of how you even put together sentences and paragraphs, just the building blocks of writing. And I thought flash fiction was a good way to do that. Obviously, you have to really focus on each word. There’s just not a lot of space for stuff you don’t need. From flash, I moved on to short stories. My first short stories were really just flash moments put together into a longer narrative. And incidentally, that’s why I really like the novella-in-flash form, because it is that, too—kind of a story by data points. I think that form is really fun for the reader, because they get to fill in between these discrete moments. The arc is a little bit more subtle and it feels maybe a little bit more realistic, because life is just these little moments in a row. I found my background in flash actually to be really helpful when I was drafting my novel. There’s all this craft advice out there for novels about how to cut the flab from your early drafts, you know, cut the beginnings and the ends of all of your chapters, “start late and leave early” in scenes, that kind of thing. And I found that I was already doing that because you don’t have room for extra exposition in flash. You already are so economical with your words that I found my writing was tighter than it maybe otherwise would have been. 

Carolyn Silverstein is an MFA candidate in fiction at Colorado State University. Her writing has appeared in Archipelago, Vol. III and The Stonefence Review. Outside of her work at Colorado Review, she can be found ski instructing and spending time with her dog, Gatsby.