Exclusive Interview: “Craft” Author Ananda Lima


In the following email interview about her first short story collection, Craft: Stories I Wrote For The Devil (hardcover, Kindle, audiobook), writer Ananda Lima talks about what influenced these stories, the themes that connect them, and how they’re further linked by a framing device.

Ananda Lima Craft Stories I Wrote For The Devil

Photo Credit: Beowulf Sheehan


To start, the subtitle, Stories I Wrote For The Devil, makes it seem like Craft has a framing device, kind of like Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man or Clive Barker’s Books Of Blood. Does it?

The framing is one of the things I ended up loving working on in this book. The bulk of it came out during conversations I had with Ali Fisher, my wonderful editor at Tor.

But I also realized something during a recent conversation. I had completely forgotten about this. I had a novel I was working on years ago, long before Craft. The novel also involved The Devil, but it was completely different. It was mostly a straight up realistic historical novel. There was something in that older novel that was not working for me. When I was thinking of ways to salvage it, I thought the only way it could work for me was to make a meta story of the writer writing the novel and including the novel within it. I completely forgot that thought and I shelved that novel. But it was also a seed for this book.

So then, is there also a theme to the stories in Craft: Stories I Wrote For The Devil?

There are a lot of themes entangled with one another. A big one is writing, storytelling, and the narratives that permeate our lives. Another is the absurdity of these times. There is also the life of an immigrant (through a very specific immigrant), the figure of The Devil, what is real versus what is story. There are also more subterranean themes of time, aging, political scapegoating, and more. It was really nice to see them all entangled in the book.

And did you start out wanting to assemble a collection around these themes, or did these themes emerge as you were putting Craft together?

I usually let it emerge from the writing. What ends up being a theme can be something I am very interested in, or puzzled by, say the way The Devil is used as an excuse or a scapegoat, and how that relates to scapegoating of particular groups throughout history. That was a fascinating topic to me. I let myself read and think about that subject and that thinking sparks an energy that goes towards writing. And then that subject might later naturally emerge as a theme, or it might not. But I never start by saying “this will be the theme.” What stars things are images and characters. In the finished books, the themes are there. But they build over time.

So, when did you realize these themes were emerging, and what made you to go with it as opposed to running away from it?

There were lots of different things that gave me ideas and fueled me in generating the writing for the book. One was the way I saw how things were framed on TV and social media, the running narratives about immigrants, the talk around elections, the ongoing absurdity of it all. Another was life as a writer and going through an MFA in Creative writing, and talking about stories all the time. The juxtaposition between these two encounters with stories: the stories circulating in media, and the stories I was learning to write. Another was reading about the figure of The Devil throughout history, how that figure was used by different groups. Also American comedic horror from the 1980s and 1990s that I watched when I was a child. It all came together in the writing of this book.

Craft is your first short story collection, though you previously published some poetry chapbooks as well as a larger collection of poems called Mother/land. What writers do you consider to be the biggest influences on your writing style?

It is very difficult for me to tell precisely which influenced my style directly. I think it is a mixture of so many things I read through my life and also from years working on my writing. But here are some writers who were important to me, influencing me in a range of ways, from style, to subject matter to just finding joy and awe in words: Clarice Lispector, Marlon James, Samanta Schweblin, Mikhail Bulgakov, Ben Lerner, John Keene, Victor Lavalle, Rachel Cusk, Machado de Assis.

And are there any writers, or stories, that had a big influence on individual stories in Craft?

I was not thinking consciously about this in the beginning, but I love The Master And Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, and The Devil figure in that book in particular. So I am sure that helped my interest in The Devil as a character. The same book ended up showing up as a not super obvious reference in the book (in “Idle Hands,” a story told via workshop letters, the fictional story being discussed by the fictional writers was inspired by The Master And Margarita).

The meta frame was probably inspired by many meta books I have read with stories within stories over the years (I love them), including The Hour Of The Star by Clarice Lispector and 10:04 by Ben Lerner.

“Antropófoga,” a story about an immigrant worker that eats Americans from the vending Machine was inspired by a Brazilian literary movement and its seminal document, The Cannibalist Manifesto by Oswald de Andrade, and another Brazilian Art movement called Tropicália.

What about non-literary influences; were any of the stories in Craft influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games?

The movies Gremlins 2 and The Fly were also inspirations for the story called “Tropicália.” It was so much fun to have those movies in my mind as I wrote it.

You also, as I mentioned, write poetry. Do you think writing poetry — and, I assume, reading it — influenced the stories in Craft?

I think writing poetry helped me cultivate a love for form, play and experimentation that I brought to craft. It also made me love leaving some space, not to fill in everything to the reader, to let things reverberate. I also bring from poetry an attention to sound, to the sentence. Those things are part of the joy for me in both poetry and fiction.

Hollywood loves turning short stories into movies. Are there any stories in Craft that you think would work particularly well as a movie?

That would be so much fun. I think the first story [“Rapture” and the unnamed framing interludes with The Devil would be so much fun. I love those two together.

I also think that “Antropofoga” would make a fun creepy movie.

[But] I would love if any of them made it into a movie. Or it would be so fun to see on of them as a play or as a ballet, to see what someone else makes of them in their own mediums.

Ananda Lima Craft Stories I Wrote For The Devil

Finally, if someone enjoys Craft, what short story collection of someone else’s would you suggest they read next?

One of my favorites, Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah. It is brilliantly written, and it uses a lot of speculative and surreal storytelling to explore things that are very difficult and very real in our world.

I also think Mouth by Puloma Ghosh would be a great pairing. It has the best creepiness, it is literary but with horror adjacent elements in there.



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