Right from the first line, Peter Kispert’s fiction grabs your interest and refuses to let go. It’s easy to see why his debut short story collection, I Know You Know Who I Am, earned raved reviews and a place on several best-of lists for 2020. Although these stories share a common intriguing theme of deception, each one is also a standalone treasure in its own right. Kispert impressively crafts well-developed, affecting stories that are full of depth and sharp prose. Readers will find themselves savoring each one. Kispert works as an editor at HarperCollins and is currently writing his first novel.
I started writing stories that were about liars, and I was able to broker that with issues of queerness and my own struggles. This is a book about self-betrayal and how far we can get away from ourselves. I think we often internalize a lot of toxicity, and these stories are about how we can become confused when we try to be different from who we really are for other people. I saw a pattern emerge in my work, and I followed that.
Shaping the story
Every story comes out in its own way. I start with particular and unique elements that personally resonate with me, though those may never wind up on the page. When I begin, I don’t have a set cast of characters. That comes out of the challenges that arise from what I’m trying to say emotionally. I’ll write a beginning a lot of times, and sometimes I also write the end – then I bridge the gap. Every story is different, and I try to honor story-making as an act of discovery.
Why short stories?
Short stories have affected and transported me, and I’ve found them to be more engrossing than any other form, even poetry or novels. There’s nothing like immersing yourself and being able to pull one out of the hat in a single sitting. As a young writer, it was my go-to in workshops. I like being able to fully articulate a world view quickly, and I also like the challenge of compression. I’m finding I’m relearning so much in the transition to novel writing.
I always find it helpful to read dialogue aloud. It’s helpful in figuring out which moments we really need to get that close to. It’s about listening and trusting yourself in that regard. Dialogue was always a concern for me as a young writer, and it didn’t come naturally. But I started seeing it as an opportunity to reveal character and see what has the flavor of truth to it.
My writing routine is reliably erratic. I tend to write best early in the morning, between 5 to 7 a.m. There’s something about the silence and the availability on the page that I couldn’t get after a long, cluttered work day. Sometimes I can write a little on the subway. Even if it’s only a few words here and there, I’ve created something. I have a near-constant obsession where I’m always thinking about stories and always turning a sentence over in my mind. In that sense, I’m always writing.
Allison Futterman is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, North Carolina.