Alia Volz’s story, “Vacajun” appeared in Dark Sky’s Issue 11. Here Alia talks about stereotypes, insomnia, and her earliest memories of magical desserts.

Seth Amos: Your website says that you started writing during a long trek across the Iberian Peninsula, what was it about the journey that inspired you?

Alia Volz: The Camino de Santiago is a Catholic pilgrimage — which is odd because I’m not religious, and wasn’t raised Catholic. I stumbled onto it, so to speak. There’s a great deal of old power on that trail. It transforms everyone who sticks with it, though not necessarily in the ways you might imagine. That was a confusing process, and since I walked most of the 500-ish miles alone, I had to keep a journal, which I’d never done before. Writing made everything feel more vivid, which I loved. The smallest became significant. Plus, I’d always been a voracious reader, and if you consume enough words, they eventually start dribbling back out. So when I returned to the states a year later, I went straight into a Creative Writing program. I’ve been wrestling this beast ever since.

SA: Who are your biggest literary influences?

AV: I’m pretty disloyal. Maybe I will always be a Faulkner girl. Cormac McCarthy makes we want to smash my fingers with a sledgehammer, he’s so goddamn good. People like Carver and Goodis taught me dialogue, and Flannery taught me to be vicious. Then there’s Woolf, Bolaño, Díaz, Dickey, Ellison, Thompson (Hunter and Jim), Oakley Hall, yadda, yadda, yadda…

Honestly, my biggest influence is the book I have my nose in today. I’m a very receptive reader. So if I’m working with a particular genre, style or subject, I’ll look to a (local, independent) bookstore to ramp up my chops. Some writers worry about taint their output, but I’m thrilled to find shades of what I’m reading in my own work. It still comes out sounding like me. It’s hilarious: you can’t escape your own voice.

Read the full interview in Dark Sky Magazine