Friday, March 16, 2012

The Hedgehog's (or maybe the ant's) Dilemma: An interview with KJ Hannah Greenberg

Today I'm talking with author, academic, and National Endowment for the Humanities awardee KJ Hannah Greenberg about her anthropomorphic animal-centered short story and flash fiction collection, Don’t Pet the Sweaty Things.


1) Please tell us about your collection. What sort of genres and tones does it include?

Don’t Pet the Sweaty Things is an assemblage of brief and briefer fictions about sentient hedgehogs, biker lizards, intergalactic entrepreneurs, and the like. This book allows folk to cautiously stretch their considerations of how they treat themselves and others. Since it’s less daunting to cheer on warring sugar ants than to confront bosses, to hope for the success of a Tuna Olympics contender than to give advice to adolescent children, or to think up salutations for a space cowboy than to properly word a greeting to new neighbors, this work concentrates on critters.

As such, this collection covers an array of narrative styles including: absurdist, dark, literary, mainstream, pulp, quirky, realistic, and surrealistic. What’s more, whereas most of the elements of Don’t Pet the Sweaty Things could be rubriced as “speculative fiction,” a significant minority belong in the “fabulist,” “magic realism” or “women’s fiction” categories.

2) Why did you choose to focus on tales of anthropomorphic animals?

The world of pretend is neither calorie laden nor bound by chemical side effects. Additionally, it’s fun to dance, even vicariously, with imaginary beasts. “Playful” beats “rueful” when navigating.

3) Do you have a favorite story in the collection?

I have several favorites; “Illusionary is the Hedgehog’s Strength: An Allegory,” “Kelev Liked to Suck the Marrow Best,” “Squamata’s Rumble: Certain Results of Biker Attitude,” “The Martian and the Potter,” “Nest Eggs and Cryptids,” “Guess my Vocation,” “Sugar Ants,” “The Inheritance of the Meek,” and “Not an Imaginary Figment.” Mothers don’t have to pick only one child.

4) What's your favorite animal? Is it featured in the collection?

My “brand” has been associated with a hibernaculum of imaginary hedgehogs. However, I adore the sweet spots of most beasts, real or mythical, webbed, scaly or bipedal.

5) Shorter fiction forms present their own challenges compared to longer works. This collection contains both short stories, a more conventional short form, and flash fiction. Can you speak to some of the differences between short stories and flash fiction, along with their advantages and disadvantages?

Flash is a lot like poetry in that a writer has to do his or her business in a brief span and be done with it. As well, readers can make time for quickie fiction even when they lack the resources to commit to a novel. As per conventional short stories, they are the cogs that spin literature. Many merits of narrative are adjudicated according to the traditions of short story writing.

6) You were a National Endowment for the Humanities awardee and a professor of rhetoric, communication theory, and many related topics. How does this background inform your fiction writing?

Save for a few bits of fiction in which characters are academics, or in which academic settings matter to plots, I’m not sure that my scholarship imprints on my creative writing. At most, my professional history evidences my long standing love of word play.

7) Can you briefly speak about some of your other work?

I’m eclectic. I am equally fascinated with rail guns and with whales. I’m as likely to write a dark fantasy as I am to shape a treatise on the impact of convergent media on women’s social status. I publish poetry, essays, and short fiction, and magazine columns and newspaper blogs. I’ve written novels and have seen one of my musicals produced, too. My rhetoric diverge among parenting, religion, other writers’ publications, and social movements. My poetics cover nature, relationships, heritage, and alien communities. I strive to keep my writing fresh and spent a lot of time researching almost everything I compose.

Past books include: Oblivious to the Obvious, Wishfully Mindful Parenting (humorous essays), A Bank Robber’s Bad Luck with His Ex-Girlfriend (poetry), and Conversations on Communication Ethics (academic works). Supernal Factors (poetry) is forthcoming, this summer. Soon, too, I hope to bring out The Lion and the Serpen t(a novel), The Ill-Advised Adventures of Jim-Jam O'Neily (short stories), Word Citizen (essays), and Not a Popinjay (poetry). Given the size of my hibernaculum and given the degree of hunger of the hedgehogs therein, I need to continue to produce and to publish.

Thank-you for letting me share a glimpse into my world. I hope your readers enjoy Don’t Pet the Sweaty Things.


Thanks for stopping by.

If you'd like to learn more about her, please check out her website:

Information about the collection can be found here: 

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