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The True Expression of the Heart of a Story, With the Frills Stripped Away: An Interview with Chloe N. Clark, author of Patterns of Orbit

Readers in the mood for flash fiction grounded in the speculative and rich in sensory detail will enjoy Patterns of Orbit, the new collection by Chloe N. Clark. Matt Bell, author of Appleseed, writes, “Chloe Clark’s stories are compact marvels of miniaturized mystery, something like what I imagine you might get if you stranded Steven Millhauser in interstellar space. Patterns of Orbit is a smart, moving collection, one that might permanently expand what you imagine possible, leaving you searching out fresh wonder everywhere you go.” Clark’s stories have appeared in CRAFT, Smokelong Quarterly, Supernatural Tales, and other fine journals. Her stories are sharp, imaginative, and a pleasure to read.  

Patterns of Orbit can be purchased here.


Clark shared her thoughts in a recent interview with Cease, Cows.  

Chuck Augello: How would you describe Patterns of Orbit to a potential reader?  

Chloe N. Clark: Patterns of Orbit is a collection of possibilities. Some of them scary, some of them filled with wonder, and hopefully all of them contain some seed of hope.

Chuck Augello: The story “A Sense of Taste” begins with the narrator falling in love with her husband because of an apricot. It’s a story rich in sensory details. Tell us about it.  

Chloe N. Clark: To me, sensory details are where stories often live. When writing can make me taste something or remember a smell of something, then I know I’m fully invested in the world. So, I always try to capture that. Taste, as a cook and baker and extreme lover of food, is naturally where I go when I’m thinking about what things to describe in detail. So this story began as a collection of senses–what links food to memory for us? How can we recapture those feelings? For me, a lot of my memories are very tangibly related to a memory of food and taste.

Chuck Augello: Many of the stories contain a speculative element. What draws you to these kinds of stories?

Chloe N. Clark: Speculative elements are very natural for me–I think we all live in worlds filled with the speculative, with moments of wonder or the uncanny, so I never really feel like I’m writing too far from reality. 

Chuck Augello: “Supernova” is about the impact of a fleeting relationship. A key line is: “Did you know the bigger the star, the shorter its lifespan?” What was the initial spark that led you to write this story?      

Chloe N. Clark: This story was originally written for one of the wonderful Monet Thomas’ sex writing challenges. I can’t remember the exact prompt but I do remember that I wanted this story to feel like something slipping away. I think many of our defining relationships can be ones that we also forget the details of, over time, find ourselves losing pieces of and growing up from. I wanted to capture a sense of that for the narrator, how something can be important and also inconsequential eventually.

Chuck Augello: Was there a particular story in Patterns of Orbit that was most challenging to write? Do you have a favorite among them that you think best encapsulates your work?  

Chloe N. Clark: “Accidental Girls” was challenging in that it took a long time to feel like I fully understood the story I wanted to write. I think sometimes we grow into our plots and what they mean to us. I can never pick favorites but I think “Accidental Girls” showed me the kind of story I could write which I am grateful for. I also have a big place in my heart for “Swingman” because it’s a piece of the basketball novel I’ve been working on for years.

Chuck Augello: Most of the stories in Patterns of Orbit are only a few pages in length. What draws you to write flash fiction? 

Chloe N. Clark: I really love well-edited things–whether it’s films or books, so I think I’m always trying to cut out anything I find unnecessary. I think flash fiction allows a really true expression of the heart of a story, with any frills stripped away.

Chuck Augello: What was the last book that you read that you really loved?  

Chloe N. Clark: Oh gosh, so many! I’ll cheat and say a few. I’m just about finished with Victor LaValle’s Lone Women and it’s utterly perfect. Ander Monson’s non-fiction book Predator was fantastic. Emily St. John Mandel’s Sea of Tranquility was just absolutely lovely.

Chuck Augello: There’s no shortage of ways to spend one’s time. Why do you choose to write?  

Chloe N. Clark: I can’t not. Ever since I was very small, I’ve been filled-to-bursting with stories and so I’ve always felt a need to set them down in some way.

Chuck Augello (Contributing Editor) is the author of The Revolving Heart, a Best Books of 2020 selection by Kirkus Reviews. His work has appeared in One Story, SmokeLong Quarterly, Literary Hub, The Coachella Review, and other fine journals. He publishes The Daily Vonnegut, a website exploring the life and art of Kurt Vonnegut. His novel, A Better Heart, was released in November 2021.