Growing up as an only child in Salina, Kansas, Kate McIntyre started writing in elementary school, where there was “a wonderful fifth grade teacher who gave us an hour every Friday to write fiction.” As a student at Harvard, a course in Gothic literature helped her find a framework to play with as she began writing short stories set in her home country. “I think there’s something incredibly gothic about a country ranch, where you live with just your family,” McIntyre said. “There is no one within earshot.”
McIntyre’s first collection of stories, “Mad meadow», Which was chosen by Roxane Gay for the Flannery O’Connor Prize for short fiction, presents characters in such situations: isolated, in danger, mainly in Kansas. “I think a lot of what I do is tell these stories, reinvigorate these Gothic themes that always seem very relevant to me,” McIntyre said. “These are also stories that make your skin crawl.”
In these stories, the unpredictability of male anger is always present, as is “the way it can mix with love too,” McIntyre said. “I wanted them to be angry but not just angry. I wanted them to be funny. Laughing at a character is a way of stealing some of their power.
Several characters appear in each other’s stories, though McIntyre admits she didn’t always like the related collections. Yet, she added, when writing about small town life, you can’t always avoid it: “There just aren’t many people around. “
Lest someone at home think McIntyre, who now teaches at Worcester Polytechnic, is simply denigrating her native state, she hastens to correct that impression. “I love Kansas so much,” she said, and I’ll never stop missing “the sun on your face, and just the sun in general. I think I’ve been ruined forever because I love that sun so much. The way the landscape unfolds in front of you and behind you, so you can really breathe in that space. The way the sky is so massive and so changeable. I love these things about the ‘place.
Kate McIntyre will be in conversation with Roxane Gay at 7 p.m. Wednesday during a virtual event hosted by Brookline Bookstore.
Kate Tuttle, writer and freelance critic, can be reached at [email protected]