Jon Steinhagen’s story “First Bed” appears in Midwestern Gothic Issue 22, out now.
What’s your connection to the Midwest, and how has the region influenced your writing?
I’ve been a lifelong Chicagoan – the city and its immediate suburbs. The voices of this area – flat, blunt, unsentimental – and its mercurial urban/suburban growth are endlessly fascinating to me, but most of all its maddening contradictions (crime, segregation, beautification, etc.).
What do you think is the most compelling aspect of the Midwest?
The cities don’t define the Midwest, in my eyes. It’s the predominance of smaller communities couched in agriculture, the tiny towns that have been run down; the instant orientation of places, things, people.
How do your experiences or memories of specific places—such as where you grew up, or a place you’ve visited that you can’t get out of your head—play a role in your writing?
I’ve always been attracted to the idea of outreach – the city person who feels a need to connect to an out-of-the-way village with a population under 1000, say, or vice versa…how the pace of life and the scenery can change into an entirely different world in the space of a 60-minute drive.
Discuss your writing process — inspirations, ideal environments, how you deal with writer’s block.
I’m inspired by titles cribbed from posts on social media and place names – my imagination fills in the rest. I don’t have an ideal writing environment, but it does help to have music going while I work (I tend to favor pop music from the 1970s, chamber music by forgotten 19th Century composers, or dance band music from the 1930s). I have yet to experience writer’s block (he said, knocking on wood); listening and reading have always inspired me to come up with things to write.
How can you tell when a piece of writing is finished?
When I’ve forgotten it (i.e. when the story/situation/characters stop clanging on the insides of my skull).
Who is your favorite author (fiction writer or poet), and what draws you to their work?
I’ve always cherished invention and humor; of the writers no longer with us, my favorite is Donald Barthelme – of my contemporaries, Amber Sparks knocks me out.
What’s next for you?
A collection of my stories, The Big Book of Sounds, will be published in July by Black Lawrence Press; I’m currently working on two new play commissions, and am working on three short novels inspired by botched crimes (fictional) in the Midwest.
Where can we find more information about you?
Dramatists Guild of America has my bio page; likewise Black Lawrence Press has an author page, but I can always be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org