Interview: Callie Leuck

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Callie Leuck is a writer, dancer, tea-drinker, amateur photographer, and Oxford comma enthusiast. She is a science-medical writing graduate of the Johns Hopkins University. Her current city of residence is Indianapolis, IN.

Describe the inspiration or process of creating the particular piece you wrote for this issue from the prompt you used.
I started with the January 2014 Run With It prompts.

  • As I shut my car door, I heard tires skidding and glass shattering, and a single rain drop splashed the back of my hand.
  • She thought online dating would end her search, but the list of eligible bachelors left her feeling…
  • He strutted out of the club at 1:00 am, only an hour into the start of a new year, with a ticket in his hand and a bottle of stolen wine.

I saw a story about a search for love that kept meeting with bad, bad matches. As I personally quickly suffer First Date Exhaustion when attempting online dating, I imagine that anyone who can keep picking herself back up and going right back out there has a particularly resilient spirit, or possibly sees every new man as the potential Perfect Match — a girl with stars in her eyes, perhaps.

The idea about “Ashley-ifying” men is one that has stuck with me since I first swiped my mom’s copy of Gone With The Wind and thought that Scarlett’s fatal flaw was idealizing Ashley. I have used it as shorthand in my own life — “Don’t Ashleyify” — to remember to try to see people as they are rather than trying to force them into being perfect idea. Thinking about a love-seeking young woman who has repeated and frequent romantic failures but just keeps getting back up and going out there again resulted in Christine.

Describe your creative process generally—is there a certain way you normally set about writing something?
One of my goals is to not write a story that fails the Bechdel test. To pass the test, two women must talk about something other than a man. This is always difficult in a short story, and it was definitely a bit difficult in a story originally conceived as about a woman searching for the perfect man. It was a good challenge though because, as I reflected on it, I realized that even when I discuss men with my girlfriends, that’s rarely if ever the entirety of the conversation. Therefore Holly and Christine’s conversation is about Christine’s upcoming thirtieth birthday and even Holly and Brooke’s coversation in their office’s break room, ostensibly about Christine’s love search, meanders into teasings about Brooke’s recent motherhood and Holly’s upcoming visit to their friend Dezi. I think that actively trying to pass the Bechdel test helped me make the story more natural and less super-focused on romance, hopefully giving it more depth and interest.

What subjects or forms come most easily to you? Is there anything that you have just never been able to write, or write about?
In the last few years, I have mainly written nonfiction (which is what I studied at Johns Hopkins and what I write professionally) so it’s been quite a while since I’ve written fiction. And even when I do write fiction, it is typically fantasy. So this time I tried to do something new: non-fantasy fiction. Romance is also new to me, which is probably why it’s only sideways a romance and not directly!

What was the first (or an early) work of literature you remember falling in love with? What appealed to you about it?
I am still in love with The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle. It is the first in a fantasy trilogy for young adults, and it features goblins. I was absolutely fascinated by the goblin culture; it was unlike anything I had ever read before. I wrote the author a gushing letter to tell her so and she very kindly wrote me back and explained her creative process. I still write her occasionally, and she always writes back. She is very nice, and I read all her books even though I have clearly aged out of her target reader group. (She pointed out that she has, too.)

What is something you’ve always wanted to see written about, or have always wanted to write yourself?
I want to actually write the epic fantasy that I’ve been toying with for, my gosh, over ten years now. I either want to actually write the damn thing or just give it up entirely and stop being one of those people who’re going to write a novel one day.


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