Interview with Carissa Halston
In our final contributor interview from Issue One, we spoke with one of our own, Carissa Halston, about her short story, Hurricane Light.
1/ Several of your stories, including Hurricane Light, deal directly or indirectly with science or math. Is this based on a personal interest in either subject or an interest in scientists and mathematicians, or something else altogether?
I do have a meandering interest in math and science, yes. I blame it on the short film Donald in Mathmagic Land. But I haven’t seen that in years, so I blame the themes’ persistence on the fact that so many people have to deal with math and science in life. For most, it’s a source of tension. Tell a group of artists they have to figure out a 15% tip and they’ll glower at you. But for people who get the logic of complex systems right away–people like Kiley–math and science are sources of comfort. After she’s been incapacitated, Kiley retreats inward and the only thing she has left is knowledge. Her theories are all still there and through them, despite her trauma, she retains a bit of solace. That, to me, is interesting. So maybe I’m not writing about math and science so much as the relationships people have with them.
2/ Your recent writing has also focused to a great degree on what is not there/what is omitted/what has been removed. Is it freeing in a way to write about what is missing versus what is still there?
For a brief time, I studied studio art. A professor of mine had a lesson on asymmetrical balance and it was founded in the economic use of negative space. How can we take a visual emptiness and, without filling it, charge it with enough life to warrant attention? We could enclose it. Or surround it with modal elements to set off its shape. Similar approaches yield interesting occurrences in fiction. To focus on absence is to diminish what is still present. But to highlight the edges of the remaining objects or to insert a figurative object inside something intangible–like a face within a light, which doesn’t actually happen in life, but what we see is as good as reality sometimes–ignites the void. It’s freeing insomuch as I enjoy setting up little hurdles for myself. It actually takes a great deal of compression and revision when done right. Or at least when I do it.
3/ Hurricane Light uses light and darkness as a metaphor for Kiley’s tragic resignation but also her hope. How much does the inherent duality of human life and the concepts we use to signify the resulting struggles (like the light/dark dichotomy) influence your work?
Duality is the word we lend to a system we need in order to be mentally intact. But what does that even mean? It means that we need things like light and dark, good and evil, high and low as labels because they help us measure our own moral compasses. I fear I’m getting too existential here, but that’s also insinuating that anyone will read this. Let me start again. Duality is necessary in fiction writing. How often do you read a story and think, “I wish that had ended differently.” There might be a lack of resolution or a series of moments that promised tension, then neglected to follow through. Or the ending could have been boring (though no writer would ever call a story boring because we all know so many other words). Regardless, duality figures in my work because of the importance we place on it and because of its subjectivity. If that’s unclear, consider the definitions for honesty, deceit, and honor. Lying through omission–is that actual dishonesty or an admirable sense of moderation in the name of good taste? It depends on what’s being omitted. And how often does that person outright lie, that is, fabricate? Do lies diminish our true selves or can “liar” be a label that is part of a person’s “true” identity? As a reader who really likes flawed characters (and really likes her characters flawed), I hope the answer is, “Yes. Both.”
4/Sum up your work in apt in five words! Go!
Fill the void with light.
Carissa Halston’s short story, Hurricane Light, appeared in the first print issue of apt, which can be purchased here.