I’d been getting my short stories published in little magazines for many years, but friends would invariably ask, “When are you going to write that novel?” as if it was an errand I had simply forgotten, as if it was a suit I needed to pick up at the dry cleaner. Alice Munro, by the way, was still fielding this question when she received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2013! I mentioned Ms. Munro’s name a lot when this issue came up. If she could take it, then so could I. In fact, I had written a novel some years back, a still unpublished one, a family saga set mostly in Iceland. But even as I was writing it, I considered myself a short story writer attempting a novel, rather than the other way around. I was probably getting too bogged down in labels, but luckily it didn’t impact my process — if that’s the word for it. I don’t have the most conventional background for a fiction writer, at least if you look at the author bios in the lit mags where I’ve been published. Meaning that I don’t have an MFA or teach anywhere and my jobs have never been specifically in the literary field. However, I had been lucky enough to have signed with an encouraging agent and to possess enough energy and persistence to write at all hours, which quite often means in the middle of the night. As for the novel vs. short story question, I honestly didn’t set out to write a novel. Underburn started as a text. I have close friends in California who tragically lost their home to a wildfire in 2018. They had moved in with family temporarily. It was a terribly sad time, but rather heroically they were trying to find some humor in their living situation ― landing with elderly parents who were somewhat challenging and set in their ways. They told me a couple of funny stories, so I turned one of them into a microfiction piece and sent it to them as a text. I think they were amused. Around this same time, I had stumbled upon Nancy Sinatra from 1966, singing her hit, These Boots Are Made for Walkin’ on YouTube with some backup dancers. I started wondering about those dancers and the lives they have led since that performance (I think about movie extras too!) and how one of them just might have been impacted by a wildfire all these years later. That gave me Iris, my first character, and got the plot moving. I was drawn to the idea of the past intruding on all the characters in this story and of having the action take place on both coasts. Still, as I began writing it, I thought it would end up being a short story . . . and then a long story . . . and then a novella. Truth be told, the characters just kept speaking to me, as pretentious as that might sound. I knew it was turning into a novel when I started dreaming about them, when they started debating me in my sleep, and joking around, like we’d known each other forever. The characters would pop into my head during lockdown Zoom meetings and while I was doing the laundry. I took a lot of notes. I’ve written stories that were difficult for me from a technical standpoint or an emotional one, however, Underburn was the most joyful of my writing experiences. I was so grateful to lose sleep over it. I still think about the characters, living independently, now that they have moved on without me. I catch myself wondering how they’ve managed during the pandemic, or how they’re making ends meet. I am absolutely thrilled to see Underburn find a home at Delphinium, and for me to finally publish that novel. Ultimately, though, it comes back to the work itself, however you choose to categorize it, and the idea of putting something out in the world that hasn’t existed before.