Melinda Moustakis


First Lines


A kiss in the dark, that’s what this first line is – Wait. What just happened? Who? – a confusing first kiss. We all would like to think that with one line, one brush, we could make a reader fall madly in love, and there are writers that illicit such a response with the appropriately gorgeous. I read a piece where a writer described her stories as beasts gnawing off the lovely clothes she had carefully dressed them in. I, too, find the stories that I will to be beautiful and charming end up, despite my efforts, strange creatures running for the woods.


Character and Landscape


I often ask myself, What is the sound of a place? What does Alaska sound like to me—in dialogue, on the page, in those still moments? A character has a voice; a landscape can have a voice. These things are all intimately connected, and when I find each element difficult to parse out, I know I’m getting something right.


The New Northern Gothic

NorthWest Booklovers

How did you absorb so much of Alaska during your visits there—and not just postcard Alaska but the dark Alaska you portray in your stories, the Alaska where it’s “f***ing February, when everyone goes crazy and shoots themselves in the head”?
I grew up listening to all of these stories of my grandparents’ homestead, of my parents growing up in Alaska, of hunting and fishing. And then I started going up in the summers to go fishing, spending long periods of time basking in fishing jargon and banter and learning the ways of the river from my Uncle Sonny at a cabin without running water or electricity. I’ve always been in the midst of the local scene, visiting with family born and raised in Alaska.


Coal, Diamonds, and How to Stretch a Story

The Kenyon Review

Another influence has been the stories I grew up hearing about Alaska and hunting and fishing and my grandparents’ homestead. Often there is this small diamond of truth I know I want to include in a story and I have to write the coal, wrap the whole story around this diamond in order to make it glimmer.


The Darker Side of Alaska

Alaska Dispatch

“It always helps to be away from a place, to have distance when you’re writing, because it helps you focus on the details,” Moustakis said. “Alaska’s a gorgeous state. But I like to write about that, juxtaposed with the darker undercurrents — some sense of the truth that’s going on behind all that wonder.”
And those undercurrents are plenty dark. The setpieces and catalysts for events are uniquely Alaskan — a fishhook to the eye, a plane crash in the wilderness — and the book is cut through with Alaska like a well-marbled piece of meat.


Fishing Stories

Anchorage Daily News

On a sunny July day she stood on the bow of a boat in the middle of the Kenai River, cocked her pink rod and sent a flesh-colored fly zipping over the glacial gray water.
“Coming up here to fish is how I got through so much school,” said Moustakis.


Fishing Lines and Tension

49 Writers Blog

I think my writing really came together when I started to marry the idea of fishing or hunting with family relationships. What I mean is, the structure of a fishing story became the vessel that allowed me to write about relationships. If you think about it, when you’re fishing, you have some idea that a fish could bite at any moment, you anticipate it, but, you have no idea exactly what will happen. The fish might bite. You might get skunked and never have a bite. You might hook into a little dolly and throw it back. You might be fishing for rainbows and hook into a monster king and have a story you’ll tell for the rest of your life.


There Will Be Moose

Tusculum Review

There are so many things I want to write next and I have finally picked one or two to focus on. All I can promise is that there will be moose.


The New Old Library

Tin House

Writing is a type of rebellion for me, a dare, a way to break the rules. I needed these women authors writing about women in the wilderness, these trailblazers. I read Houston’s Cowboys Are My Weakness and so many possibilities opened up in terms of setting and point of view. And “tell him you don’t speak chocolate” is an appropriate line for many occasions. The wilderness in Proulx’s collection of Wyoming stories is brutal and cruel to everyone–nature doesn’t make any concessions for gender and women are given equal footing in this landscape and knocked down with the same force.


The O.Henry Prize Stories

Author Spotlight

I know something worthwhile is happening on the page when a story surprises me as I’m writing it. I knew from the beginning that “They Find the Drowned” would include a section about a moose drowning based on a story my uncle, Sonny, told me on the river—he tells fantastic stories. But I never imagined that, by the end, I’d have a story with many other animals, scientific research, multiple drownings, and a modular structure that wasn’t a complete disaster. It would just be about disaster, which I realized when I decided on the title, and this happened very late in the process.


Share This