Dead Girl Haunting

March 6, 2010

by Joan Fischer

Sid, the young protagonist of Postcards from a Dead Girl (Harper Perennial), is going through what might kindly be called a rough patch. He falls into frequent swoons infused with vivid scent hallucinations of lilac. He seeks refuge from the world by sitting in drive-through car washes and mud baths. He’s making friends with the local psycho postal worker. Worst of all, his heart still aching, he’s receiving oddly dated missives from a former flame who’s gone missing. What’s Sid hiding—or hiding from? Who’s sending the postcards? Is Zoe really dead, as the book title says? Those mysteries, combined with the novel’s quirky humor, keep the reader bouncing from one short chapter to the next. The indie vibe and theme call to mind the movie (500) Days of Summer. But all the while one has the wary sense of being set up for a gut punch.

Postcards, a semi-finalist in the first Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, is the debut novel of Kirk Farber, a former Wisconsin resident whose other honors include a March “Indie Next List” recommendation from independent booksellers, being a finalist in the Wisconsin People & Ideas magazine/Harry Schwartz Bookshops Short Story Contest (his story Salting the Walks was published in fall 2007), and publication in The Great Lakes Reader essay anthology (Delphinium Books, 2009).

The novel was nurtured through many drafts at Milwaukee’s Redbird Studio. Farber returns home this week to four appearances in greater Milwaukee, including a March 11 panel discussion with five other writers at Redbird titled “Getting Published in 2010.”

Farber responded to a few questions before his homecoming.

Q. What was your inspiration for this book? Specifically, were you ever haunted by a “dead girl”?

Luckily, I’ve never been haunted by a dead girl. The inspiration actually came from a song called “Letters from the Dead” (The Bees) about a guy who finds postcards in his room from a past relationship and he doesn’t know how to deal with them. While I was listening to this song, I kept thinking, “What if someone were actually sending you postcards, and you weren’t sure if they were alive or dead? How would that play out?” And then the scenes started coming.

Q. You frequently express thanks to Redbird Studio. What role did Redbird play in your writing?

Redbird Studio was my writing group when I lived in Wisconsin, and I wrote this whole novel (and several short stories) while going to biweekly roundtables there. That group was integral to keeping me motivated and I learned so much from the other writers. Judy Bridges, the founder, set a great tone of encouragement and critical feedback, and there is a real sense of community at Redbird, which is wonderful to have after spending so much time alone writing.

Q. Why did you leave Wisconsin? Just to try somewhere new?

My wife, Kelly, and I left Wisconsin because we’ve always been drawn to the mountains, and really did want to experience a new place after having lived in the Dairy State our whole lives. I grew up in Oconomowoc and went to school at UW–Milwaukee and lived in the Milwaukee area after that. Kelly grew up in Oshkosh and went to school in Madison and Milwaukee. I think we just wanted an adventure, so we “went west” to Colorado. There are actually quite a few Wisconsinites out here, much to our surprise. Even a Packers bar!

We definitely miss our families and friends back home, and I also miss all of the lakes—not too many large bodies of water out here. Actually, I recently contributed an essay about living in Wisconsin for The Great Lakes Reader anthology on Delphinium Books, and I did most of the writing while on a snowboarding trip in the Rockies. I guess when it comes to Wisconsin, you can never leave home.

More information about the author at www.kirkfarber.com.