All The Ghosts We’ve Always Had is Jules Archer‘s debut collection of flash and micro pieces published earlier this year by Thirty West Publishing.
“All the Ghosts We’ve Always Had exemplifies the magic and power of flash fiction: here we have the heft of a novel told through almost weightless gems of lyrical compression. Jules Archer writes with startling clarity, and line after line echoes, aches, and crackles with wit, delivering an unforgettable story of one woman’s journey from childhood to motherhood that wholly satisfies, yet leaves me hungry (pass the pie, please) in the best possible way.”
–Sara Lippmann, author of Doll Palace
1. As a practitioner of microfiction, did you set out to write a collection of tiny, tiny stories or is All the Ghosts We’ve Ever Had a Sunday morning epiphany, the realization that most of what you’d previously written shared a certain something, that there was a red thread waiting to be discovered?
Initially, I had no idea where these stories would lead. They were originally written in a Kathy Fish Fast Flash class. I had about maybe five or eight done and Kathy inspired me to keep going with them. And when I did, writing about 15 more and telling a bigger story, I thought they could be a chapbook. I loved the white space and how each tiny micro could stand on its own, or work together to tell a bigger story. So I thought that was pretty fucking cool.
2. In this collection, there is a lot not said–by the characters, by the author. There are subtlety and mistrust in other people’s understanding of us, which is one of the postmodernist themes, the self’s fragmentation and loneliness even in the crowded metropolis. The question might seem devoid of connection, but why writing a collection and not a novel (besides the length issue)?
I think the story that was in my head didn’t lend itself to a novel. I mean, when it’s done it’s done, right? I just felt it. I wrote the 26 or so micros and I tried to keep going but I couldn’t. The story was over, what needed to be said was said. I knew it in my bones, it was time. The characters were like “put a goddamn cork it in.”
3. What’s the ghost that haunts you most?
Probably all the books I’ll never get to read before I die.
4. How has your creative process evolved over the years, if at all?
Oh yeah, in a way, yes, it’s evolved, and in a way, no. I still write best in mornings. I still love fast drafting. I still write in long sprints. But I think I’ve definitely evolved a bit more maturely by asking “why” when I write. Maybe 10 or so years ago, when I started out there was no meaningful craft behind it. Which isn’t to say I’m a 100% “technique” or “craft” or whatever writer. Write because you like it. But I think sometimes the more tools you have in your brain, the better story you can shake out. These days, I ask myself questions like, “Why do I have this sentence? Do I need it? Why does this happen next? Why is this character here?” Just being more mindful of why something is happening, word choice, character decisions, etc. Fancy stuff like writing with intention.
5. Do you remember what the first fully-fledged story you’ve ever written was? What came of it?
Etched in my brain. So, in sixth grade, I was living in North Dakota and I remember our assignment was to write maybe a 10 or 20-page story. I wrote it and turned it in — I can’t recall what it was about, I think teenage girls hunting ghosts or being stalked by a monster and they die in the woods, you know, my love of creepy shit like that started young—and the teacher pulled me aside after school. She thought I plagiarized the story, questioned me incessantly, and only after I explained what the word “indignant” meant did she believe me. I just told her I read a lot. The story is probably buried in a box somewhere in an attic. Man, I’d sure love to find it.
6. A saucer has descended from the skies and kidnapped a fan of yours in the middle of the night. The fan has been taken to an alien planet where a society not dissimilar from our own is in place, and has been made the Chief Commander over the whole planet. The first decree this fan of yours (who is, incidentally, also the most devoted and extreme of fans) passes, is to render mandatory to anybody, child and grownup, the reading of your magnum opus. What do you suppose would the aliens dislike the most of your work?
I have a magnum opus? But I guess, they’d dislike all the cursing. I imagine aliens probably prefer proper language and manners. Even if they do tend to anally probe us, but whatever.
7. Your best friend is taking a nap on the floor of your living room. Suddenly, you are faced with a bizarre existential problem: This friend is going to die unless you kick them (as hard as you can) in the rib cage. If you don’t kick them while they slumber, they will never wake up. However, you can never explain this to your friend; if you later inform them that you did this to save their life, they will also die from that. So you have to kick a sleeping friend in the ribs, and you can’t tell them why. Since you cannot tell your friend the truth, what excuse will you fabricate to explain this (seemingly inexplicable) attack?
This is actually pretty easy. I’d simply tell my best friend a snake was planning to slither into her shirt. I’d put her phobia to good use. Legit no questions asked, she’d forgive me on the spot. I hope.
8. What’s next for author Jules Archer?
Hmmm, writing, writing, and more writing. I mean, I’d love to do another chapbook or even a collection of short stories that’s more on the dark, weirdo side of life. Finish my novels, write another one. The novel thing is hard, man. And it’s kinda a painful bitch to keep writing them and shelve them in a drawer, but I know in the end it’s genuine practice, and it’s just going to make me better and better. Which is really all I want. To be better and to be present and to keep writing for a long, long time.