A Post-Mortem Interview with Kara Tinsley
Emily: This is Emily James, creator and host of “The Cheerful but Deceased Reader.” Thanks for tuning in today. I’m thrilled to have as my guest Kara Tinsley, the title character of William Conescu’s novel Kara Was Here. Hi, Kara.
Kara: Wow, I thought dying at thirty-four was kind of a surprise. Now I’m on Dead People Radio? People are listening to this?
Emily: Listenership is picking up.
Kara: But we’re dead.
Emily: Which gives us a unique perspective. Now Kara, I have to tell you everyone in my book club so enjoyed reading about you in this novel. One of the things we often discuss is the challenge of being deceased. How did you overcome this difficulty in the novel? You had an awful lot of dialogue for a dead person.
Kara: Well, I guess I hadn’t run out of things to say.
Emily: For our listeners, let me give a quick summary: In addition to you, the novel focuses on three living characters who have had the rug pulled out from under them in various ways. And one of those ways, of course, is the news of your sudden death. We meet your ex-boyfriend, Brad Mitchell, whose marriage and health are in a very strange state of limbo. Then there’s your loud-mouthed college friend, Margot Cominsky, who’s navigating a complicated long-distance relationship. And finally, your somewhat rebellious little sister, Gwen, who’s on the cusp of adulthood when you die. I want to touch on each of them, but let’s start with your ex, Brad. Why did you haunt him?
Kara: “Haunt” him? Oh, please. I made a few little post-mortem visits. He owed me a phone call anyway, from eight years back.
Emily: It just seemed a little harsh sometimes. Showing up at meals with his wife . . . ?
Kara: Have you listened to some of their conversations? He should thank me for livening things up.
Emily: Did you miss him? You moved to New York to pursue acting when you were in your twenties. Do you wish he’d done the same?
Kara: I don’t know. He wanted to stay in North Carolina to turn himself into a photocopy of everyone else on earth. I say, “Mazel tov.” He succeeded.
Emily: Now Brad was struggling with some unusual medical problems, and your appearances—during an MRI, for instance—gave him pause. At one point he asked if you were serving on a welcoming committee for the dead. Can you tell us, were you? Because I served on a welcoming committee for the dead once—for someone famous, I can’t say who—but we were told to keep our hands to ourselves. Some of your behavior was not exactly to code.
Kara: Well, you know I haven’t had much time to read up on ghost etiquette.
Emily: Oh, I have some great books I can recommend.
Kara: I have no doubt.
Emily: Let’s move on to your friend Margot. She spends a lot of time second-guessing the official story about how you died.
Kara: She also spends a lot of time text-messaging an Army stud in Japan. What’s your point?
Emily: Well, I wonder if you want to comment for our listeners on the circumstances of your death.
Kara: I don’t.
Emily: Not even a little?
Kara: Not even.
Emily: Do you want to comment on your roommate—or significant other?—whom you called “Mullet”?
Kara: He has very bad hair.
Kara: Questionable hygiene. Terrible breath.
Emily: Was anything going on between you two at the end? I know Margot had her doubts.
Kara: I love Margot dearly, but she’s become a bit tame over the past decade or so, and it’s given her an active imagination.
Emily: So are you saying she was wrong?
Kara: You’re a nosy one, Emily, aren’t you? (Kara lights a cigarette.)
Emily: Oh, sorry, do you mind not smoking?
Kara: I do mind, actually. Thanks for asking. Maybe I should smoke two at once, now that I don’t have to pretend to feel guilty about second-hand smoke?
Emily: Did you even pretend to feel bad about it before?
Kara: Not really.
Emily: I didn’t think so. Let’s move forward. Your sister, Gwen, was supposed to visit you for the summer before she started college, but then—
Kara: I know, I died right before she graduated.
Emily: It put her in a tricky position.
Kara: She was supposed to wait tables and go to the beach and get stoned, like a normal eighteen-year-old.
Emily: But she didn’t.
Kara: No, she didn’t. If I could change one thing—and who are we kidding? I’d change more than one—but if I had to pick one, I’d have died later, after her visit.
Emily: What if you could pick two things?
Kara: (after a long pause) I’d go back to the beginning of this interview and comment on that ridiculous get-up you have on. That big permed hair, and the shoulder pads, and what the hell do you have on your feet? Jellies?
Emily: I died in 1989.
Kara: That’s no excuse, Emily. I’m sorry. Even for a dead woman on the radio, you look like a mess. And look who’s telling you this. I know what a mess is.
Kara Was Here was released by Soft Skull Press in October 2013. Buy a copy today from your favorite independent bookseller, from Amazon, or from Barnes & Noble.