Fiction Spotlight: Interview with Emily Myles

Cover of Fiction Spotlight: Interview with Emily Myles

Emily Myles, author of our April Fiction selection, “Sweeps Week,” shares the horror origins of this story, her submission process, and how to get unstuck.


Can you talk a little bit about where your idea from this story originated? What sparked the idea? Or is it something that you had been thinking about for a while?

The root of this story came from a writing exercise I did as part of a Body Horror class I took with the brilliant Julian Jarboe in the Catapult days. The prompt was around desire and writing into the grotesqueness of that. I never finished it, but I hung onto these two characters and the imbalance of their desire. In the original, her blood and breast milk turned into Diet Coke and the Jill character ends up literally sucking her dry. (Gay rights!) 

Tell us a little bit about the process – how long did it take you to write the story? What was revision like?

It took two years from start to finish—the original draft, once I removed the body horror elements, was finished in fall of 2022 and I was submitting it out pretty promiscuously and getting it (rightfully) kicked back to me by magazines. I generally write quickly, but at the time I had no idea how to revise my work or what feedback to ask for. It was very first idea, best idea energy when I started.

I ended up retiring it for almost a year and then picking it up again and narrowing the scope of it intensely. When I started writing it I had a lot to say about capital C class and capital D desire and it ended up being heavy and indistinct as a result. Once I whittled it down to being about Lucy’s twin loves—Jill and her baby—and the tension between her desire for Jill and her desire to be a good mother, it felt much more cohesive and revising became a lot easier. So much of my second and third drafts is really identifying what the meat of a story is and writing towards that, while trimming away the exploratory fat.

You weave in a speculative element so seamlessly into the work. Can you talk about how it came about and how you were able to blend it into the story?

The genesis of the story being horror based was helpful and also, I am generally disinterested in staunchly realist fiction. I don’t sit down to a story with all the answers and resolutions figured out, the most exciting part of my work is letting the story do its own thing for a while and then trimming/refining it in revisions. I think that looseness helps because it unties the story from a necessity to follow guidelines of the universe. With “Sweeps” in particular I really wanted to lean into the feeling of being deeply horny and longing for someone. I think desire is really uprooting and disorienting and capable of opening questions around reality and your place in the world and even in your own life.

What do you do when you feel stuck in your writing? How do you work through blocks?

When I feel stuck the best thing I do for myself is put it down for a short period of time and go read something that inspires me. I have a few short stories or chapters of books that I revisit over and over when I’m feeling stuck, and I use these to workshop what feels important and resonant for me as a writer and then go back to my own story and apply it. 

When it comes to blocks, I am deeply lucky to have a trusted early reader who I trade work with. If I feel stuck or blocked I tend to know where I am struggling even if I don’t know how to get through it, so having another set of eyes and talking through things is an important part of my process. 

How did you know you were done with your piece? And when did you feel ready to submit it?

I didn’t have anything new or more to say about this character or her experience, and on a sentence level, I was pretty happy with my choices. To be totally honest, I could tinker with a draft into eternity and never submit anything—but there comes a point where so much revision feels like collaging a new story onto the existing one. If I can really see the fingerprints shaping and changing my story I know it’s time to put it down.

When it came to submitting this one, because the story had changed shape a few times and been out on submission before, I was a little wary to send it out again but also eager to get it out of my brain. I hung on to it for a few months before sending it out to just a couple venues, really trying to toe the line between being precious about a story and being conscious and deliberate with my submission choices.   

If you could give writers one piece of encouragement or advice, what would it be?

I would say divest from publication and acceptances as the end goal of a piece. I think there is real flurry and energy around submitting that can start to ramp up before a draft is ready, which distracts from the actual writing. I don’t think the thesis of a story should ever be “how do I write this to be published” but rather “what is the most urgent thing I want to write at this moment.”



Emily Myles is a writer from Portland, Oregon. Her work has appeared in Split Lip, Peatsmoke, Fatal Flaw, and elsewhere. They are at work on a collection of short fiction.

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