From those early stories to Get in Trouble, strangeness has
possessed Link’s fiction. “If I put a ghost or a vampire or a
superhero into a story, I’m promising a certain amount of fun.
Narrative energy. I mean, who doesn’t want to hear a ghost
story? So already the reader is going to be giving you a certain
amount of attention.”
Many of Link’s anecdotes hinge on absurd images. When I
ask about her childhood in Miami, a place that appears in much
of her fiction, she tells me how her father “chased peacocks off
the roof of his car in the morning” at the half-finished develop-
ment they lived in for seven years.
Near her house there was a coral reef covered by a thin layer
of topsoil, with holes large enough for her to climb through.
“There was a fire, once, that went into the
coral reef and our lawn smoked for days.
It’s a pretty fantastical landscape.”
As a teenager, Link had a pet boa con-
strictor named Baby, and she “spent a lot
of time in malls trying to decide if I want-
ed to buy a candle shaped like a dragon or
a candle shaped like a schnauzer.”
After graduating from Columbia, Link
traveled around the world for free, thanks
to winning a sweepstakes, a detail that
seems suited to one of her stories: “You
had to answer three basic geographic
questions, and then the tie-breaking ques-
tion was, why do you want to go around
the world? I wrote down, ‘Because you
can’t go through it,’ and that was how I
Following the trip, Link enrolled in the
M.F.A. program at UNC Greensboro, af-
ter being accepted from the wait list. She’s
grateful for her time there. She admits
she’s always struggled to put pen to page and “the structure of
the workshop made me sit down and write.”
One of the ways Link has managed to overcome the challenge
of being a writer is by embracing the writers’ group. “For the
last few years I’ve met up with Holly Black and Cassandra Clare,
who live one town over,” she says. “We talk about work in prog-
ress, career stuff, what we’re reading. When we get stuck we’ll
pass our laptops around and problem-shoot. There’s something
about starting stories that’s the equivalent of having to listen to
a recording of yourself. You think, ‘Do I really sound like that?’
And there are usually so many other things that I could be do-
Aside from her writer’s group, Link has devised a few other
tricks to help her write: “Sometimes I’ll type out someone else’s
short story before I start my own: a kind of finger exercise. Or
I’ll try to come up with an interesting technical issue in the
story that I’m working on, so I can distract myself with problem
These strategies seem to be working: by most rubrics, Link
has been remarkably prolific. In addition to her writing, she has
edited anthologies and runs the independent literary press Small
Beer with her husband, Gavin. Small Beer has published Ur-
sula K. Le Guin and Karen Joy Fowler and produces the specu-
lative fiction zine Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet—but Small
Beer might be best known for publishing Link herself.
Link is also a mother. Her daughter Ursula was born prematurely in 2009 and weighed just a pound and a half. “We spent
over a year in the hospital with her,” Link says, adding that her
experience in the NICU influenced her writing in many ways.
For a while, she says, she didn’t write at all.
But when Link began again, she found the experience seeping
into her work. While many of the stories
in Get in Trouble share genre elements with
Link’s previous writing—demon lovers,
prophetic Ouija boards, superheroes—one
story stands out for how strikingly realistic it is. In “The Lesson,” a couple await
the arrival of their first child, who is being
carried to term by a surrogate. They go
through the motions—attending weddings, bickering—in the midst of the consuming anxiety about their surrogate’s
increasingly complicated pregnancy.
“I wanted to write, in some way, about
the period right before and after her
birth,” Link says. “I could probably write
a book about the whole year, but instead I
took the experience of all that love and joy
and terror, that absolute helplessness—
and smushed it into another story, about a
wedding on an island.”
Before Ursula’s premature birth, which
dwarfed all their other worries, Link and
her husband wondered what they’d do if they had a kid who
didn’t enjoy reading. But Ursula grew into a serious book
lover—and Link credits her daughter;s early fragility, in part,
for the role that books play in her life.
“There were a couple of weeks after her birth when we couldn’t
hold her,” Link says. “And even once we could, it was pretty
strictly scheduled—three hours a night, or so. We took turns.
So since we couldn’t hold her, we read to her. You could see her
heart rate go down on the monitor as we read.” Ursula is
currently a big fan of Templeton from Charlotte’s Web.
Link is currently writing a novel, something she hasn’t done
before—part of her deal at Random House. She has some tentative ideas, including setting the story behind the scenes at a
“Right now I’m in the fear-and-loathing stage,” Link says.
“So that part’s pretty familiar. Comfortable, even.” ■
Julie Buntin is a freelance writer in New York.