Mary Kuryla's Freak Weather, the winner of the AWP's 2016 Grace Paley Prize in Short Fiction, has been generating a good deal of buzz since its publication this November. Rising up from the underbelly of Los Angeles, the thirteen stories in this debut collection feature a cast of provocative and unapologetic women—from would-be rodeo queens and mail order brides to pediatric ICU nurses and hippie housewives.
While People has lauded this "imaginative, unpredictable debut short story collection," interviews and craft pieces consider how Kuryla bucks gender norms with her misbehaving female protagonists and reveal how performance and screenwriting have shaped Freak Weather. In an interview with Electric Literature, Kuryla explains that "There’s something like a bad boy thing" in post-Vietnam literature. "We might feel like their behavior is really shocking, but there’s something that really stays with us about the burden these men are under. I was really interested in telling a female version of that, because I just didn’t see any. I was interested in what it would be like to have a female character behaving really badly."
In a craft piece for Necessary Fiction the author elaborates on her process, as her stories have been adapted for stage and screen and in turn, reworked. Kuryla notes that the collection's titular story, "Freak Weather," "served as the foundation for a feature film that I wrote and directed, and which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival . . . [H]aving gone through the process of rehearsing with the film’s actress (Jacqueline McKenzie), hearing the lines spoken and the actions embodied, followed by shooting and editing the film, then viewing it on a big screen with large audiences, I was able to witness the gaps and inconsistencies in the original story." After seeing the film, she "returned later to the story with absolute clarity and revised it based on this experience of seeing it performed and rendered onscreen."
As Kuryla explains in an interview with CRAFT Literary, her training as a filmmaker and screenwriter had a great impact on her fiction: "I was very influenced early on by the films of Chantal Ackerman and Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Godard, and by feminist film theory. All of this was very emboldening because it was also working at the boundaries of form. The literary world seemed softer at that time, in the ’90s. I wanted the turbulence of Laurence Sterne. Screenwriting seemed so much more interactive and exciting."