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An Interview with Author Kylee Greenleaf

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Kylee Greenleaf holds a BA in English from SUNY New Paltz. She’s been honing her craft in Brooklyn where she finds inspiration all around her, convinced that the city itself is alive and whispering her stories. The False Wife is her first novel.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

Writing was not a choice. I’ve been spinning stories in my head for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, kindergarten age, I remember spending time in my backyard picking grass, imagining I was on the grounds of a castle. My head has always been in other worlds and it was only natural that I would find ways to bring those worlds to life. I would write short stories, create little comic books out of stapled paper, and eventually made mini-movies on a little camcorder. I came into this world to create. I grew up hearing ghost stories from my family, and when I was probably too young, my dad would let me watch Stephen King movies with him. Usually the edited-for-tv kind, but horror stuck with me. Exploring grief and trauma is important to the work I want to create, and horror is a medium that allows for a complete examination of those themes. The horrors of the mind are easier to dissect through the lens of deeper terrors.

What inspired you to start writing this book?

I didn’t set out to write a book. I had been focused at that time on poetry and screenwriting but I had been letting some themes marinate in my subconscious. I was spending time thinking of certain tropes that I was called to without intentionally trying to craft them into anything in particular. I was riding the subway on the way to my office in early 2020 and it came to me like a gift in between Canal Street and Union Square. It was a lighting strike during my morning commute. One second I was just holding the pole, and then next I had an idea, a story. I knew immediately that it would be a book but didn’t realize that between two familiar subway stops on an unassuming weekday my life would change.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

I used a working non-title while writing—”All the Scary Stories Start Here.” Chuck Palahniuk inscribed that phrase in a copy of Consider This when I had the chance to meet him at The Strand. It seemed fitting. I needed to call this project something, but until I had a draft and had told myself the story, a true title wouldn’t do. I didn’t come back to thinking of a title until I had completed my first draft. I had been revising a manuscript of poetry and a line in one of my poems, Prayer Deposit Box, stuck out to me. False-wife. It was the perfect encapsulation of the novel.

What books did you read (for research or comfort) throughout your writing process?

Shirley Jackson was essential reading for me during the writing process. Spooky and introspective was the vibe I was trying to capture while writing this novel.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

The False Wife is an examination of the slippery slope between conscious and unconscious choice, and between agency and expectation—particularly for women. It grapples with how you can want something yet still feel like you are expected to want it and wonder at what point do you lose agency in the way your life falls into place. I hope readers think of these themes and how they are applicable to their own lives.

Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.

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