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Theodore Wheeler’s story “The Mercy Killing of Harry Kleinhardt” appears in Midwestern Gothic Issue 8, out now.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing seriously and regularly for about a decade now, defining this as writing at least weekly with the intent of publishing my work. Sophomore year of undergrad is when the itch kicked in.
What’s your connection to the Midwest?
I was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and have lived in Nebraska for the last twenty-five years. My experience in Nebraska over that time has been varied, from a farming community of less than 2000 people (Geneva) to the main college town (Lincoln) and now a more diverse urban center (Omaha) for the past seven years.
How has the Midwest influenced your writing?
Almost all of my work is set in Nebraska, in the small towns and urban communities I’ve lived in or been to. I’m intrigued by the way geography and local history form the spirit of small communities—whether urban or rural—specifically from the lingering effect of historical trauma. So it’s become important to know local history, to recognize how different people identify themselves and others, and why this is so. Writing is mostly conjecture and projection,
but, with my experience of living here my whole life, hopefully my work is an informed version of conjecture and projection.
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?
Part of this is probably because of the diversity of the Midwest, speaking in historical and geographical senses mostly. Southern literature is the mainstay of US regionalism—although early New England writers shouldn’t be forgotten—but the shared history of Southerners brought on by the Civil War and Reconstruction periods is pretty unique. I’m not sure Midwesterners have something so galvanizing and massive that defines our characters. We have plenty of great writers—Franzen, Erdrich, Eugenides, Morrison, Oates, Chaon, and Robinson in recent years—but there isn’t the same sense of overlapping experience and history that one would expect to see in regionalist lit.
How do you feel about social media to promote your writing, and do you use it?
It can be overdone, but I generally like social media promotion and certainly use it myself. Most of the time it’s nice to follow the success of writer friends, and to share my own success with those who’d like to celebrate with me.
Underworld by Don DeLillo.
Israeli schnitzel. Or maybe Jägerschnitzel, depending on the weather outside.
If you could have coffee (or tea or a beer) with any literary figure, alive or dead, who would it be?
I become star-struck pretty easily, so it’s hard to say. I’ll go with George Saunders, as I love his
work and tend to speak in one-liners when nervous. He doesn’t seem like he’d mind that so
Where can we find more information about you?