Interview with T.C. Kemper, Runner Up in the WOW! Winter 2021 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

T.C. Kemper is an American author and poet represented by Amy Giuffrida of the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. Her writing (scholarly, journalistic, literary, and satire) has been published in The Journal of Conflict Management, The Black Sheep, A Celebration of Young Poets, and various local news sources. She is a proud dog mom, doodler, and daydreamer, and as a life-long learner, is always working towards her next degree. By day, she works in higher education, and by night, she creates vibrant characters that won’t let go. When she’s not lost in a beautifully crafted story, she’s likely lost in the woods. T.C. Kemper lives in Kentucky with her husband, her rescue dog, and the ghosts that haunt her closet. Find her via her website:, on Twitter: @taylortac, or on Instagram: @tckemperwrites 

----------Interview by Renee Roberson

WOW: “Boxes We Build” features powerful imagery and a compelling narrator. What message did you most hope to convey to readers of this story? 

T.C.: I’m so glad the imagery came across with the power I intended! I wrote “Boxes We Build” from a place of vulnerability and frustration—as a perfectionist, I’ve continuously struggled with the concept of “good enough.” Appearance, career choice, income, education level, my role within my family, my journey as a writer, how others perceive me, how I perceive myself and how I define success—it’s a lot to carry, and I personally know many other women who feel the same pressures. Right after my birthday following a uniquely stressful year, I found myself in a place where I wanted to (figuratively) burn it all down. So, I wrote these characters as alternating parts of myself in a way—Daria, Evette, and my narrator have differing relationships with their boxes, and I knew Evette’s fiery revelation had to be the high point of this journey. Ultimately, I hope readers come away with the desire to inspect their own boxes more closely and choose what to burn. I know it’s something I’m constantly working on. 

WOW: I could definitely relate to the message of your story and know others will, too. Your bio mentions the “ghosts that haunt your closet.” We’d love to know more about this! 

T.C.: It all started with a very, very creepy marionette my husband and I received at a Christmas party in a “dirty Santa” gift exchange a couple years ago. Someone had wrapped up this somewhat horrifying donkey puppet they had found at an antique store, and it ended up coming home with us as a gag gift. The night we brought it home and stored it in our bedroom closet, mysterious things started to happen. Clacking hangers, weird noises, and then, around 2 a.m., the door just opened on its own. In the dark. Just, wide open like a big, shadowy mouth. Similar things have happened randomly since then, and we’ve just accepted that the donkey marionette carried a restless spirit into the house, I guess. The “ghost” doesn’t seem to mind the cramped space too much, and seems content to live amongst my old scarves and seldom-worn stilettos! 

WOW: Thank you for sharing that story with us. It doesn't get much more intriguing than a donkey marionette! You recently acquired an agent. What tips would you offer our readers who are going through their own agent search? Any “do’s or don’ts” you could share? 

T.C.: I am incredibly fortunate to have signed with the fabulous Amy Giuffrida of the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. She’s a wonderful advocate for her authors, and she’s the best cheerleader I could ask for! The road to traditional publishing is hard, and the query trenches are perhaps the hardest of all since you’re at the beginning of the road, looking for that perfect advocate to shepherd your story into the hands of potential publishers. My advice is: 1.) Take rejection in stride. It’s a normal part of the process, even if every “no” feels a little like a punch to the spleen. This is easier said than done, I know! But the moment you accept that not every agent is the perfect fit for your career, the easier it is to step back, take a breath, and keep pushing. Your perfect advocate is out there. I found mine! 2.) Read widely in your genre and age category before you even start to draft the story in your head. If you pay attention to things like voice, trends, and themes as you read, it will make your own writing so much easier. I made the mistake of misclassifying my MG story as YA when I first started out, and I still cringe a little looking back! 3.) Have faith in your story. It will find its home as long as you don’t give up on it. 

WOW: Your current manuscripts are middle grade and young adult novels. What do you enjoy most about writing for these age groups? 

T.C.: I love kidlit because there's so much room to play with the more whimsical, vibrant parts of storytelling. Middle grade in particular sat at the heart of my love of reading growing up-- the fun character names, outlandish settings, and action-packed adventures were so fun! When I write MG or YA, the wide-eyed, rebellious, and impressionable parts of my youth are in the driver's seat, and it's always exhilarating to bring that energy to the page. 

WOW: How does your love of nature play into your love of writing? Does it help inspire new stories and ideas? 

T.C.: It definitely does. My middle grade fantasy, "Clementine & The Clock," features climate change as a primary theme. One of my favorite settings in the book is Natura, the isle of nature. It's a magical sanctuary where all living species exist together in peace under Mother Nature's care (think the most incredible botanical garden ever!). In my young adult WIP, the primary setting is a dark, tangled orchard with every kind of fruit imaginable. I love researching the natural world and bringing what I learn into my stories.

WOW: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions for us. We look forward to reading more of your work.


Angela Mackintosh said...

Omg, T.C., that marionette story is chilling!

Thanks for sharing your query tips as well! I agree, Amy is great. :) Your MG fantasy sounds wonderful, and I enjoyed hearing the story behind your flash. I can definitely relate. :)

Good luck with all your projects!

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