Your story “The Guessing Game” appeared with us in our KINTSUGI issue. Can you tell us a little bit about your inspiration for the piece, and how you feel like you’ve grown as a writer since having it published?
I grew up in Japan in a mixed family, and many of my friends were also in mixed families. It can be tough, and as a child especially, it’s scary to hear your parents revert to their native languages when they fight. In an odd way, you can understand the force of their anger in ways that neither of your parents can. As for the wedding games, that’s pretty common in Japan. It can be dopey and a little sweet in all the ways a wedding is supposed to be, but it also seemed like a frame that could function in a piece of fiction to expose the leap of faith that happens when you commit to a lifelong relationship in your second language.
What advice would you as a writer now, give you as a writer then?
I’ve always felt that my biggest weakness (among many) is plot. It’s why I write so much flash fiction! I just don’t seem to have the nose for those beautiful, intricate plots that unfold over thirty or forty pages. To my past self, the advice I would give is this: don’t sweat it. There’s a whole world of character-driven fiction out there for people like me.
What time of day do you do most of your writing? Describe your writing rituals and your creative space.
I do most of my writing during the day. I work as a translator, so I can find time for writing in between assignments. When it’s easy, I have no rituals—I don’t need them. When I’m stuck, I have a cup of green tea, a book of poetry, and a YouTube video of the view out the front window of a certain monorail back home. It puts me in the right frame of mind, I think. As for the poetry, I’ve found that Natalie Shapero and Ted Kooser are equal to any bout of writer’s block.
Are there repetitive themes within your writing? Where do you draw inspiration for these themes, and how do you find yourself drawn to them?
I’m drawn to themes of identity. The inspiration comes from my life.
Our goal is to publish absurdly unclassifiable literature. Do you have a favourite piece of writing that goes against the grain?
I have a 170-word story that I’m very fond of. It probably doesn’t have all the things a story is supposed to have—plot, dialogue, some kind of epiphany or transformation—but it says exactly what I want it to say, and I have confidence in the central insight. I have another story where the protagonist is half dolphin, but I’m not sure surrealism really counts as against the grain.
What pieces and/or projects are you currently working on?
I’m working on putting together a story collection. I’m excited about it because I have this hope that my super-short stories will take on more meaning and more subtlety once the reader gets to see them in a larger context. I’m also working on some poetry, which I’m new to, but I’m really enjoying them. Prose would be so much more convenient if you could have line breaks!
Gen Del Raye was born and raised in Kyoto, Japan, and currently lives in Minneapolis, MN. His fiction can be found, among other places, in The Best Small Fictions, The Monarch Review, and at gendelraye.blogspot.com.
Photo by: Sofia Slep