Interview: K.D. Wentworth on "Exit Strategy"
K.D. Wentworth–author of “Exit Strategy,” which appears in our March 2008 issue–said in an interview that the story is about a young girl, Charlesie, who thinks she doesn’t want to live.
"She goes down to the Church of the Second Life, where donating your body to a dying person is considered a ‘sacred gift,’ and applies to be accepted," Wentworth said. "They enroll her in the Donation Guild, which requires volunteer work as well as a cooling off period before you’re allowed to donate yourself. Her family, of course, objects, when they find out about this, and by the end of the story, Charlesie knows a whole lot more about both herself and her dad."
As happens with many of Wentworth’s stories, she found it difficult to trace the story’s beginnings. "Years ago, I had scribbled a note to myself in that little notebook all writers carry that ‘suicides should give their body to a dying person, since they don’t want it anymore, so that a perfectly healthy body doesn’t go to waste,’" she said. "That idea lay dormant in the back of my mind for a long time until I was thumbing through that notebook one day and ran across it again. By then, my subconscious knew what to to with it."
Though the story had to "cook" for a long time, once Wentworth realized it would be humorous, it became a lot easier to write. "Humor is my most natural voice," she said. "The only part that really gave me any trouble was getting the teenaged vernacular right. It changes so fast!"
Having taught school for twenty-seven years, Wentworth has a lot of experience with the inner lives and thought processes of young people, she said. That provided most of the background she needed, but in order to nail that vernacular, she eavesdropped on teenagers at the mall. "They probably thought I was weird, sitting there close-by, scribbling away," she said.
This story hit a personal note for Wentworth because she has lost a lot of family over the past few years. "The unfairness of death always haunts me," she said. "They each had unfinished business and it always seemed even more tragic when someone healthy took his or her own life, throwing away something a dying person would have loved to have."
Wentworth recently sold a new short story, "Drinking Problem," to my anthology Seeds of Change, which is due out this summer from Prime Books. She also reports that she’s currently working on a sequel to The Course of Empire, a novel written in collaboration with Eric Flint.
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