The First Two Pages: “What You Know, What I Know” by Michael Kardos

In April 2015, B.K. Stevens debuted the blog series “The First Two Pages,” hosting craft essays by short story writers and novelists analyzing the openings of their own work. The series continued until just after her death in August 2017, and the full archive of those essays can be found at Bonnie’s website. In November 2017, the blog series relocated to my website, and the archive of this second stage of the series can be found here.

When the March/April issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine arrived, I was inordinately excited to see Michael Kardos‘ name in the Table of Contents—for reasons related as much to his nonfiction as his fiction. Kardos has a distinguished list of novels and stories, of course, including the novels Bluff, Before He Finds Her, and The Three-Day Affair and the short story collection One Last Good Time. (You can find information on each book at his website.) But I had also just been talking about him in the classroom at George Mason University, specifically sharing some of the lessons on scene-building from his terrific book The Art and Craft of Fiction, which has provided me some foundational insights on writing. With a mix of awe and trepidation, I reached out to ask Michael if he might be willing to share a First Two Pages essay on his new story, and…

And as it turns out, in addition to being a brilliant writer and teacher, he’s also a really nice guy—and there are some personal connections between us: his wife, the poet Catherine Pierce, went to college with my wife, novelist Tara Laskowski. (“Oh, sure,” Tara said when I asked about it. “I love Katie. She’s a great poet!”)

Small world.

All that said, it’s a great thrill and an honor to welcome Michael to the blog today. His new story, “When You Know, What I Know,” is outstanding. His reflection on the first two pages only gives a glimpse at the first part of the story’s two-part structure, but I’d urge you to find the current issue and read the full story to see the magic he’s working here. And for another fine essay from Michael, also check out his post “Two Mysteries (Only One of Which Was Ever Solved)” at the EQMM blog Something Is Going to Happen.

Please use the arrows and controls at the bottom of the embedded PDF to navigate through the essay. You can also download the essay to read off-line.