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A Conversation With Debra Spark

Debra Spark is a bit of a fabulist—her stories skirt the tantalizing territory between what’s real and what’s imagined. In this new collection, The Pretty Girl, Spark’s imagination creates a group of stories that are wholly off beat. She talks to Lilith’s fiction editor, Yona Zeldis McDonough, about where she gets her inspiration, her attraction to the visual arts and her fascination—and occasional frustration—with toy theaters:

In your linked short stories you create radically different characters, settings and even time periods in each of your stories. Can you say more about this decision?

I wrote these stories over a very long period of time, so that may be part of the answer. I actually think of the stories as connected, despite the variety, since many of them circle around the theme of art and deception.

You have written both novels and stories; do you have a preferred form?

I think I like novels better, since with a novel you only have to think up a new idea every few years, but with stories you have to do it ever few months!

The freshness and originality of your dialogue is really notable. Do you have any interest in writing a play or any other dramatic form?

Thank you. I love the theater, and I would love to write a play at some point, but I just don’t think I have the skills. I frequently go to the theater here in Portland, Maine, and whenever I do, I am newly amazed. Often when I know a play’s conceit in advance, I try to imagine how things will unfold, before I actually see the play. Invariably, what is to come is far richer than what I am able to imagine.