Naomi K. Lewis, "Flex"

It's December 4. Naomi K. Lewis, author of I Know Who You Remind Me Of, has some tips on how to make time travel work for you.

How would you describe your story?

NAOMI K. LEWIS: “Flex” is a time travel story that highlights the absurdity of the conventions of the work day, and the tyranny of alienated labour. Also, it’s a fun a story about a guy in his early 20s with a crappy summer job, who just wants to be an artist of some kind and hang out with girls. He’ll probably grow up to have a comfortable middle class life.

When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?

NKL: I wrote “Flex” in 2010 and 2011, when I was writing all the stories in my collection, I Know Who You Remind Me Of (published in 2012). The process differed quite a bit from how I usually write, because of the plot’s complexity. A time travel story is always a sort of logic puzzle, and part of the fun of writing and reading this kind of story is to negotiate all the potential paradoxes and contradictions. Also, because characters experience the story’s events in different orders, I needed two different timelines, mapping out every event, every conversation, when I usually don’t use an outline at all. Part this story’s appeal for me was how conversations mean different things to the time-travelling character and the other characters, because they come the interactions with different knowledge. Because of that, they are always misunderstanding each other and misinterpreting each other’s words.

What, for you, are the essential elements of a good short story? 

NKL: For me, characters and their interactions are what stories are all about. “Plot” is essentially a necessary evil. I’m fascinated especially by the misunderstandings that arise between people, and how these play out in dialogue. That dynamic plays out in every story I write, and all stories I love to read, though in my work it’s especially highlighted in “Flex.”

Did this story require any research?

NKL: No, this story didn’t require research apart from a lifetime of watching time travel movies and reading time travel stories. And it didn’t hurt that I once studied philosophy and had a job emptying binders in a federal government building.

Where can people go to learn more about you and your work?

NKL: Or just google my name!

What's on your Christmas list this year?

NKL: Not a lot, since my family’s Jewish and we don’t really celebrate Christmas. I’m hoping to spend time with my wonderful loved ones and eat a lot of nice meals. But those are the things on my everyday list as well.

Michael Hingston