Exclusive Interview: “I Never Liked You Anyway” Jordan Kurella

 

As anyone who’s had a good one will tell you, teachers change lives. It’s something I couldn’t help but think about as I did the following email interview with writer Jordan Kurella about I Never Liked You Anyway (paperback, Kindle), his comedic retelling of the myth of Eurydice and Orpheus, which, he says, was inspired as much by the person who taught him about it as it is the myth itself.

Jordan Kurella I Never Liked You Anyway

For people unfamiliar with it, what is the myth of Eurydice and Orpheus about?

I see it as a tragedy akin to Romeo And Juliet. Right? Like Orpheus and Eurydice were destined lovers. The best. Fated to never, ever, ever, be torn apart. And then along comes this jealous guy, Aristaeus, who is a literal snake. He kills Eurydice, which is super not cool. Orpheus goes into so much grief that he makes a deal to go into Hades’ Underworld to bring Eurydice back, but he has one job. To not look back and make sure she’s following her out of Hades and back into the world of the living.

Welp. He fails. Epically.

And then how does I Never Liked You Anyway alter that story? Is it a modern revision, a sequel…what?

My English teacher in 9th Grade had us read Homer’s The Odyssey. And oh boy did she have a lot to say about how Penelope was robbed and how she should have thrown Odysseus to the sea the moment he came back and was a total weirdo. How she should have just gone with the suitors. And then she went on a rant about how Orpheus was sort of a weirdo controlling stalker too, ’cause like, “Who checks on the woman who is supposed to be fated and in love with you to make sure that she in fact, is?”

Her name was Ms. Lee, and she had a point. Anyway, I changed the story in a number of ways:

1) There’s two narrators

2) The story starts with Eurydice already dead and this is her story, not the story of Orpheus.

3) It’s modern, set now (ish), and also in Hades’ Afterlife / Underworld

So did you set out to retell the myth of Eurydice and Orpheus or did you come up with the idea for I Never Liked You Anyway and then realize it would work better with Eurydice and Orpheus?

I wanted to tell the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, but instead tell Eurydice’s story with what I had originally thought was Ms. Lee’s take on it. ‘Cause honestly she was pretty great. But when I read other takes on similar myths, and then did deep dives into the oldest translations of this particular myth that I could get my hands on? Ms. Lee was pretty on the nose.

And has Ms. Lee gotten to read I Never Liked You Anyway?

Unfortunately, Ms. Lee passed away in 2013. I started writing the novella in 2020, so she was unable to read it.

I Never Liked You Anyway sounds like a fantasy story. Is that how you’d describe it?

Honestly? I’d say humor. It’s a very funny book. And I’m not the only one who says so. My first job out of college was being a radio DJ on the commercial airwaves, and for that, you sort of have to be a 30-second comedian. So, I channeled that into this novella about gods, and relationships, and the underworld, and tried to make it as darkly funny as possible.

In writing I Never Liked You Anyway, did you look at any other novels in which someone reworked one of the Greek myths, or some other myth, to get an idea of what to do, and what not to do?

Yes! My big inspirations for writing this were Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad and Madeline Miller’s Circe. I also read Eugenia Triantafyllou’s amazing short story from Uncanny Magazine in 2020, “My Country Is A Ghost,” about a Greek character who has to understand that their own country haunts them and haunts them and haunts them. All of these came to inspire I Never Liked You Anyway, in one aspect or another.

Aside from Atwood, Miller, and Triantafyllou, are there any writers or specific stories that had an influence on I Never Liked You Anyway? And I mean just on Never, not your writing style as a whole.

Sir Terry Pratchett’s style of writing and humor was a big influence on me early on (and on my sense of humor as a whole). That may be evident in the reading of this particular novella. Also reading novellas by people like: R.B. Lemberg [The Four Profound Weaves], Nino Cipri [Finna], Birch Harlen [Queen Of Noise], Premee Mohamed [The Apple Tree Throne], Nghi Vho [The Emperor Of Salt And Fortune], Rivers Solomon [The Deep], and others taught me the art of writing a novella.

How about non-literary influences; was I Never Liked You Anyway influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games? And I don’t mean ones that are also interpretations of this myth, like the game Hades, but unrelated movies, etc.

Mostly music and musicians. But one particular movie about music and musicians was the Eureka! moment that gave me the entire plot of I Never Liked You Anyway: Amadeus. Yes, the one about Mozart and Salieri. I was watching that (as it’s one of my favorites), and I thought, “This is great, but what if it was Orpheus and Eurydice?” And I turned to the person I was watching it with and pitched the idea. They said, “Oh shit, you should write that.” And so I did. But legit throughout music history, Mozart and Salieri have repeated themselves so often it’s become a trope, and that very idea (that trope) is what I Never Liked You Anyway is about.

You’ve also written poems. Which leads me to think you read them, too. How do you think writing poetry, and reading it, may have influenced how you wrote I Never Liked You Anyway?

So I write prose like I used to compose songs. Like: here is the crescendo, so we have to slowly build up to the point where the feelings and plot and character beats get very, very loud, and then suddenly a potential drop off of power and climax. Maybe a glissando to create a mood shift and then BAM! The climax! Poetry, however, are lyrics. Rap is poetry.

I don’t write poetry the same way I write prose, as it’s part of the musical composition rather than the entire concerto or symphony. Poetry is more, I don’t know, environmental. But poetry has a way of creating rhythm and a way one writes that I couldn’t do if I hadn’t started off as a poet / musician, and I didn’t read poetry constantly.

And how about your dog Stella? How did she influence I Never Liked You Anyway?

There is a very good dog in this book, and while the dog is not Stella in any way, the dog might be an homage to my best girl. Stella is my service dog, and without her, I don’t think I could have written a word of this book. So, really? That was her biggest influence.

Stella

 

Now, I Never Liked You Anyway sounds like it’s a stand-alone story. But you never know. So, is it, or is it the first book in a series?

Oh gosh, I am terrified of writing a series. The book I am revising right now might actually be a series, and I am screaming internally. So I hope I Never Liked You Anyway stays a stand-alone. But if someone wants to make it a series, I won’t say no to money. I have to eat.

Now, along with I Never Liked You Anyway, you also have a short story collection coming out in the fall called When I Was Lost. Is there a theme to the stories in Lost?

The only theme for When I Was Lost is that all the fiction is very dark, and all of it is about love in some way. Whether romantic, familial, or platonic. All of it is about love: love above all. Unlike my longer form work, my short fiction tends toward the dark and bleak.

Are there any connections — narrative or thematic — between I Never Liked You Anyway and any of the stories in When I Was Lost?

If I had to draw a connection: both are stories about love, both are very queer, and both are dark, in their own way. However, I Never Liked You Anyway is ultimately funny. When I Was Lost is, uh, not.

Earlier I asked if I Never Liked You Anyway had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games. But to turn things around, do you think I Never Liked You Anyway could work as a movie, show, or game?

A TV series, definitely. I’d love to see it somewhere where the characters had time to breathe and move through their character arcs and beats and live in their worlds and experiences. I feel like a movie would not give it justice. However, I am a gamer, and a game would be terrific, too. The ability to play through the game and perhaps change the outcome with choices would be, uh, for lack of better word, choice.

So, if someone wanted to make it into a TV show, who would you want them to cast as Eurydice, Orpheus, and the other main characters?

I am the worst at this question ’cause I make up entire faces and hair and looks in my head and never know who in Hollywood will fit that bill, so I’m gonna skip it.

And if someone wanted to make it into a game, what kind of game should it be, and who should make it?

Oh, video game. Having lived almost completely alone for the entire 2+ years of the pandemic, board games are not a viable option for me (or anyone like me). So let’s leave it accessible to those of us living in situations where a board game isn’t possible, but who love a good game.

 I super liked Telltale’s take on Fables, The Wolf Among Us. I am also a huge fan of Fullbright’s Gone Home and Tacoma. But I grew up playing (and still play) RPGs. My main focus, as a gamer now, are MMORPGs. Now, do I think that the novella would work as an MMORPG, hell no. But as a Telltale or Fullbright-ish type project? Yes. Something like Wolf Among Us or Life Is Strange.

So, is there anything else you think people interested in I Never Liked You Anyway should know about it?

Some things about this novella:

1) there is a very, very good dog

2) while there are unhealthy relationships, there are also very good relationships

3) it’s funny, or at least I tried to make it funny

4) it’s got a lot of punk references, classical music hot takes, and hot dog tragedy

5) told in two first person POV’s, where one is a secret until (spoilers)

Jordan Kurella I Never Liked You Anyway

Finally, if someone enjoys I Never Liked You Anyway, what novella of someone else’s would you suggest they check out next?

This novella was not inspired by but super helped out by Miranda In Milan by Katherine Duckett, which is a retelling of The Tempest, my favorite Shakespeare play, and The Apple Tree Throne by Premee Mohamed. Both of these novellas have a lot of humor in them that is darkly sardonic, and are excellent quick, fast, and fun reads.

 

 

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