How long have you been writing?
I’ve only been writing for about seven years. Reading wasn’t an important part of my life until I hit college, neither was writing. I dropped out of high school at sixteen and worked for a couple of years before I went to a community college and then onto university. I think I sat down and read a book a day for almost a year before I decided that I wanted to write.
What’s your connection to the Midwest?
I was born and raised in Sedalia, MO. My entire family is located in central or southern Missouri. I lived in Sedalia up until I was twenty-four when I left to study writing in Texas.
How has the Midwest influenced your writing?
Place is a key feature in my writing because it informs my character’s thoughts and actions. I’ve been told by quite a few editors that I have a “quiet” style of writing. I value stories that allow for the privilege of silence. I think too many writers jump into dramatic action or a character’s anguished interiority without much thought given to the power of silence. It may not be a Midwestern tic, but silence was certainly something I grew up around in my part of Missouri.
Why do you believe there has never really been a regionalist push for Midwestern writing in the past like there has with the South or even the West Coast?
That’s a good question, especially considering that the West Coast and the South have annual regional award anthologies, with no Midwestern equivalent. I think the Midwest occupies too vast a region to be ignored in literary circles, yet it also sits in a liminal space between virtually every well defined geographic and cultural region in the lower forty-eight, so it’s hard to have a unique identity when areas of it straddle the South, East and West Coasts.
Some aspects of my writing have strong Southern roots, yet my writing doesn’t fit into typical Southern Realism. Likewise with a growing number of writers from the Midwest that struggle to form a regional identity like Daniel Woodrell, who has been compared to a number of famous Southern authors, though I find that his style is distinctly Midwestern. I also think John Brandon’s novel Arkansas and Frank Bill’s forthcoming collection Crimes in Southern Indiana have distinct Midwest regional vibes.
How do you feel about social media to promote your writing, and do you use it?
I like social media. I also really fear social media. The internet has spurred an amazing amount of new platforms for all things involving literature. It’s also raised anxiety levels in authors to new extremes. Every farmer I know has a DSL connection and knows how to use Google. I cannot tell you how many awkward phone conversations I’ve had with my mother which began with “So and so looked up what you said online, and . . .” disaster ensues.
But we live with it.
I’ve been on WordPress for a few years now, and started a blog called The Rankings to track the number of times literary markets are represented in the various annual award anthologies. The research and data I’ve gathered are put on the site so that people can see what markets are under or over represented.
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (The non-edited version).
Anything served at the Missouri State Fair.
Did you know that they can deep-fry anything at a State Fair? I’m serious. They can deep fry Twinkies, ice cream and even Coca-Cola.
If you could have coffee (or tea or a beer) with any literary figure, alive or dead, who would it be?
Probably Barry Hannah. I missed my chance to go on a road trip to Oxford, MS, in 2006 to do an interview with him, which I really regret now that he passed away.
Where can we find more information about you?
My personal website