As part of our finale celebration, this month we have additional offerings for you to enjoy!
Today, we're meeting up with author and editor, Nikki Kallio.
Cornerstone Press published Nikki Kallio's collection, Finding The Bones, last year, and writes:
A father tries to explain to his daughter what Earth was like, a boy believes his mother abducted by aliens, a ghost hunter wonders if her absent father is a deceased serial killer, and in the near future the sun makes people go insane. Weaving science fiction, gothic storytelling, and paranormality into eight stories and a novella, Nikki Kallio establishes herself as a fresh, innovative, and compassionate voice in speculative fiction and magical realism.
Without further ado...Meet Nikki!
Nikki Kallio's creative work has appeared in literary journals, newspapers and magazines. Her essay “Cold Front” appears in “(Her)oics, Women’s Lived Experiences During the Coronavirus Pandemic” (Edited by Amy Roost & Joanell Serra, Pact Press, 2021). Her short story collection “Finding the Bones” was published in 2023 through Cornerstone Press. She lives in the Midwest.
At OIP, we love the fact that everyone has their own set of "classics" (i.e., books, songs, recipes, comics, food, objects, movies, shows, etc. that shaped you). What were some of your favorite childhood "classics"?
Early influences were the Star Wars films, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, and Trixie Belden mysteries that my mother passed down to me. These were published starting the year my mom was born (1948) and continued into the 1980s, and Trixie was like a working-class Nancy Drew. My dad was a big Star Trek fan. There was a very short story by Ray Bradbury called “All Summer in a Day” that just blew my mind. All of these early influences undoubtedly led to my adoration for sci-fi and gothic fiction.
Congratulations on Finding The Bones (Cornerstone Press)! Would you tell us more about this collection, and writing at the crossroads where speculative, paranormality, and the gothic meet?
Thank you! I’m proud of the collection, which features nine short stories and a novella, and many of the stories do stand at those crossroads. I think blurring those definitive lines allows for so much exploration of the human spirit. I never thought creative work had to easily fit in one category or another, and I think accepting a certain fluidity can create some really interesting pieces. One of my favorite stories in the collection is “Geography Lesson,” in which a father living with his daughter on a spaceship tries to explain to her what Earth was like. It’s sci-fi, but has elements of gothic storytelling and is told in a kind of hybrid form, interweaving entries from a geographical dictionary. There are a couple of stories involving ghosts, and, of course, bones, either directly or peripherally. I’m fascinated by what’s beyond, both in terms of space and the supernatural, and how it all connects to the human experience.
Lately I like the word “grackle,” because I’m kind of a bird nerd, and because it’s the vocal equivalent of popping bubble wrap. But also I like ‘crytoscopophilia,’ which is the urge to look through people’s windows as you pass by their houses. I read a lot of memoir, and it kind of feels like that, you know? Memoir is a literary window into a person’s life, and of course as humans we have the urge to connect—to know what’s similar, what’s different, how a person navigated through difficulty. And maybe how they’ve painted their living room. Also I like ‘petrichor,’ which is the smell of rain.
Where would your adventure be set: underwater or in space?
Oh, space for sure. I love both the science of it and the pure imagination of it. I’ll follow the news about the latest launches, comets or solar storms. I’ve got an Aurora app to let me know when we might see northern lights in our area. And I’ll tune in to any episode of Star Trek: TNG. It’s all captured my attention from a young age. That said, the ocean is endlessly fascinating, and there’s so much left to explore and learn.
Snacks while you work–yes/no? If yes, what’s your go-to?
Someone just asked me this and I said “hammer and chisel,” because I’m kind of old school. I usually work on manuscript in Word, but often brainstorm on paper. And I can’t resist a new journal or notebook even though I already have drawers (yes, plural) full of blank ones waiting for me.
You are hosting a party. Who’s coming? Where and when? What’s being served? (Fictional characters and locales are welcome.)
Oh my gosh. Can I have a bunch of parties? Somewhere in a time bubble where I can bring female writers and artists from the past and listen to their stories in person. Absolutely Mary Shelley, who is considered the mother of science fiction. I’m so interested in the stormy weekend in 1816 when she developed the idea for Frankenstein. Last summer, I traveled to Italy and Switzerland to visit the places she lived and worked, and I’m developing a fiction project that’s a past-present-future kind of thing. I think it would be amazing to drop in on her literary circle, including her husband, poet Percy Shelley, and Lord Byron, but I feel like they would dominate the conversation (especially Byron). So instead I’d invite Mary Shelley’s mother, the feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft. And gothic novelist Ann Radcliffe, sci-fi writer Margaret Cavendish and Italian Baroque painter Artemesia Gentileschi. We’d have wine and antipasti followed by a delicioso Italian dinner.
I was recently talking with a good friend about our go-to binge programs: Mine, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, hers, Law & Order SVU. Wouldn’t it be something if Buffy and Detective Olivia Benson had teamed up? That would be some serious crime-fighting power. Also I recently read Shonda Rhimes’s book Year of Yes, so I’ve finally been watching Grey’s Anatomy. I was thinking maybe Grey’s Anatomy in space. “How do we deal with the poison from this crater beast?” or whatever.
Hiking—I love exploring state parks and finding new trails. Nature recharges me. Cooking, reading, painting. Also, I’m currently ruining a perfectly beautiful Victorian dollhouse by altering it into a vampire mansion for Halloween.
You currently serve as the fiction editor for Minerva Rising Press. What is exciting you in the world of small press publishing? What advice can you give to writers submitting work, and to those interested in working in publishing?
Very often Minerva will publish someone’s first short story or nonfiction piece, and that is super exciting—it’s a vulnerable act to send out your work, and sometimes the process feels brutal. Getting that first piece published can help build creative momentum. Small presses offer a lot of opportunity to writers who are maybe turned away from larger publishers, not because their work isn’t good, but maybe isn’t blockbuster material.
For writers submitting work, the best advice I can offer is to make sure your work is ready. Don’t rush it because of a deadline. Take the time to finish, have other writers read your work, have it edited. I won’t reject something just because of a typo here and there, but if something hasn’t been proofread or formatted correctly, it’s an indication to me that you’re not taking the proper time and care with your narrative, either. And if you do get rejected, just keep trying. A rejection is a rejection of that particular piece at that particular point in time, not of you as a writer.
Any recommendations for the OIP community? What have you been enjoying lately? Or what is something you are working on currently that you would like to share?
Even though I mainly write fiction, as I mentioned I do read a lot of memoir. I just finished the phenomenal In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado, about her experience living within an abusive queer relationship. Machado structures her narrative in a brilliantly inventive way, examining her story in short chapters (sometimes a sentence long) and through various lenses such as literary genres, archetypes and pop culture. I also love Beth Ann Fennelly’s Heating and Cooling, who tells her story through 52 stand-alone ‘micro-memoirs.’ I like the idea of constructing a memoir with connecting short chapters or pieces, because that’s the way memory works for me—moments, events, impressions and feelings.
Thank you so much, Nikki!
Discover more about Nikki's work at nikkikallio.com, and make sure to check out Finding The Bones at your favorite place to procure books.
Join us in the coming days as we continue to celebrate our final goodbyes with more special offerings!
And, if you'd like to discover "Where In The World Is Gutenborg?," you'll find the most recent post by Corey Michael Dalton in Issue #003 of our newsletter, The Gutenborg Project. You'll discover even more in Issue #002 with Barbara Shoup's "Finding Anne" and Carolyn Divish's "Shortcutting The Fairway."