Brandi Wells is an MFA candidate at the University of Alabama. She is the author of Please Don’t Be Upset and blogs at http://www.brandiwells.blogspot.com.
UFR: First, do you consider yourself a writer? What does that term mean, exactly?
Brandi Wells: Sure. I’m a writer because I write things. I’m an eater because I eat things. I am not a runner, because I do not fucking run places. Seems easy enough.
Wells: I like constraints and obstructions. I like to see what I can do with different types of spaces. Though lately I’ve been thinking about traditional linear narrative and how it’s quit feeling fun for me. Whenever I enjoy someone’s linear narrative, it’s because it’s slightly fucked in some way. I really only like things that are slightly fucked.
UFR: What’s so distinct about your stories is that they’re so in-your-face and loud, but at the same time tender and small and simple, the kind the reader can’t help but relate to. Do you think that’s true? How would you describe your voice?
Wells: Sometimes I’m in a workshop and someone calls my narrator crazy or gross or disgusting. And I know, this person is not for me. Because my narrator is me. Maybe I am crazy and gross and disgusting.
UFR: Your recently published book of stories, Please Don’t Be Upset, is stellar. Can you talk a little about the book? How would you describe it? What did the process of putting it together look like?
Wells: I love that little book. Roxane is so great and the cover is beautiful. I really appreciate her, her writing, the projects she constantly has underway. She is very on top of things.
For the book I tried to pick stories that still felt current, that still seemed to depict who I was as a writer. Constantly I am thinking about relationships. I am thinking about control. One of my friends says my aesthetic is “things inside other things,” and that seems right.
UFR: An interesting question about fiction, I think: How much personal experience do you draw from in order to produce your stories? In other words, does writing inform your life or does life inform your writing?
Wells: I used to base things on myself and my relationships and that writing feels different than what I’m interested in now. I don’t want to write stories about some significant other or some failed relationship of mine. I feel done with that. Now I am thinking kittens with laser beam eyes, etc. Because that’s what I want to think about.
UFR: When did you first start writing? Do you remember your first time trying to put a story together?
Wells: I wrote short stories for my dad when I was a kid. He asked me why I couldn’t write happy stories. I remember trying to write happy stories. Trying to write stories that were just a group of people having a picnic and hanging out. And these were practices in descriptive writing, but very, very dull.
UFR: When you write, what are you trying to do? Are you trying to say anything? What are you looking to find?
Wells: Writing is just a way of entertaining myself. It’s not very different than reading book, but I have more control. I am picking what happens, when it happens and who it happens to. At last, I have control over something.
UFR: Do you usually map our your ideas or are you open to improvisation?
Wells: I NEVER map anything out. I can’t imagine working with outlines or plans. Things happen and I don’t expect them. It’s exciting. If I knew what was going to happen, it wouldn’t be any fun. But my work would probably be more organized if I mapped things out. Organized and dull.
UFR: Who or what are some of your creative influences?
Wells: Oh man, I love everyone. Right now I love Jesse Ball, Sabrina Orah Marks, Zachary Schomburg, Mathias Svalina, Maggie Nelson, Brian Evenson, Ariana Reines, Amelia Gray, Mary Ruefle, Jenny Boully, Alissa Nutting and my close friend Leia Wilson.
UFR: What are you currently reading? How is it?
Wells: I am reading Ben Marcus’s Flame Alphabet and it is amazing. He’s kind of larger than life.
UFR: What are you currently working on?
Wells: I am working on a novel length fiction that involves torsos, hamburgers, mutant cats, yard gnomes, cake frosting and Yeats. It’s the most fun I’ve had writing anything.