Interviewer: The relationship between Kelstrom Nor and his young interrogator is certainly fraught with both dislike and interest on both sides. How did that twist ending amplify or expand these emotions for you as both a writer and a reader of your own story?
T.B. McKenzie: Interest was an easy emotional score to write about; as when any two characters first meet, there is some amount of interest about what each other might want. Actually, keeping interest from morphing into something stronger like intrigue or infatuation was the tricky part. But dislike was a harder nut. Dislike in the real world is a downvote on Reddit, and I wanted the interrogator to be able to walk away from the interaction in a similar way. So the twist creates (I hope) a heightened interest in the reader about how exactly the world of the story works while at the same time giving the young girl a way to figuratively block Kelstrom from her Twitter feed. For myself, though, this twist was the entire genesis of the idea. See below for more on this.
Interviewer: Besides your emotion assignment, where did you draw the inspiration for your story and the story’s ending?
T.B. McKenzie: I live in Victoria, Australia, and we have a local legend of a bushranger called Ned Kelley. Recently I took my family on a road trip and passed through the town that is home to the Ned Kelley museum. There is something so melancholic about a gift shop where you can buy miniature armour that was worn by an outlaw and it got me thinking. Australia has turned Ned Kelley into a folk hero, but it struck me that if my 10-year-old was to actually meet the real outlaw, he would not come away thinking he’d just met Iron Man.
Interviewer: After finishing your story, what was the single most valuable takeaway from the experience?
T.B. McKenzie: I am an English teacher, and at the start of each lesson, I make my students do a 15 minute ‘free writing’ warm-up which is not free at all. I structure each task with very rigid activities because these requirements unshackle their creativity. It turns out I still respond well to limitations and restrictions too, and Score reminded me to seek these out more, or at least try and give them to myself.
Interviewer: Given that this is a “score” anthology, what representative piece of music would you connect to “The Interrogation of Kelstrom Nor”?
T.B. McKenzie: I am currently polishing a MS called ‘Vampires in Space’ and have been editing exclusively to a David Bowie soundtrack. Without a doubt, this short story was infected by ‘Look Back in Anger’ from his 1979 album, Lodger.
Buy the Score anthology, which includes T.B. McKenzie’s story “The Interrogation of Kelstrom Nor” focused on Interest and Dislike!