Interview: Lucy Tan

July 13th, 2018

Lucy Tan author headshotMidwestern Gothic staffer Laura Dzubay talked with author Lucy Tan about her novel What We Were Promised, the importance of exposing oneself to new spaces and places, chasing inspiration, and more.

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Laura Dzubay: What’s your connection to the Midwest?

Lucy Tan: I lived in Madison, Wisconsin for two years as a graduate student in creative writing. I wrote almost the entirety of my first novel there. This fall, I’ll be returning to UW as a fiction fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, so it looks like I’ll be writing my second novel in the Midwest, too!

LD: In what ways has the Midwest influenced your writing?

LT: The natural beauty of the Midwest is a pretty strong influence. Sudden and fierce summer showers, the intense greenery of summer, the fiery colors in fall, the unrelenting snow in winter… I know I’m in the minority when I say that I love places where the natural world reminds you who’s really in charge. When I was living in Madison, ice used to collect inside my bedroom window, which was right up against my writing desk. I’d have to microwave my coffee every fifteen minutes. So, I guess you could say that the Wisconsin influenced my writing process in a very real way.

But what has been the strongest inspiration are the small towns in Wisconsin. Small towns breed tight, distinctive communities, and there is such pleasure in squirreling observations away for use in later work. I’m working on a project now that is set in the Wisconsin Dells because I took a trip there and was completely fascinated by it. I feel similarly attracted to Spring Green. I wish I could interview everyone who ever grew up there.

LD: Your new book, What We Were Promised, focuses on a family that has returned to China after spending several years living in America. What prompted you to tell this story?

LT: Here, too, investigating communities was a big motivator for me. China has changed so much in the past fifteen years, and Shanghai has exploded as a metropolis. It’s a city in which people from all different backgrounds have come to live and work. When I was living there in 2010, I became obsessed with chronicling the ways people from different social classes interacted with one another. Years later, in my MFA program, I wrote a story about one specific interaction: two hotel maids accused by a wealthy tenant of having stolen a bracelet from her bedroom. This eventually became the opening to my novel, which, in its longer form, explores conflicts between a range of communities: rich vs. poor; local vs. international; and single vs. married life. I wanted to capture Shanghai as it was in a specific moment in time—where there is the hope of China becoming a major world power, but when it is nonetheless weighed down by its complicated social and political history.

What We Were Promised book cover by Lucy Tan

LD: Much of the important backstory in the book is revealed gradually, like Lina’s relationships with Wei and Qiang. How did you handle maneuvering between different time periods and places while you were writing?

LT: I knew I was setting a hard task for myself by writing a novel that demanded a reader’s interest in two parallel storylines which shifted between multiple perspectives. Though it takes a while for my characters’ backgrounds and relationships to be fully revealed, I hoped that the tension in the beginning (the bracelet theft and arrival of Qiang) would be compelling reasons for readers to want to get to know my characters better.

I wrote the chapters in the order in which they appear, often not knowing what would happen in the story beyond a chapter ahead of what I had written. Of course, I had a vague idea of the relationships between my main characters, but certain details and actions didn’t crystallize in my mind until they happened on the page. Writing the novel out of chronological order felt strangely natural; I didn’t overthink the ordering of the scenes, though I’m sure I must have shuffled things around upon revision. Because so much of the novel is told in backstory, which can sometimes slow pacing, I was careful about making sure each scene set in the past advanced the reader’s understanding of the story told in present day. I wanted it to be clear that although these two storylines were taking place in different time periods, they were part of the same narrative.

LD: The Zhen family is forced to adapt first when they move to America and later when they arrive in Shanghai. What do you think is the importance of telling a story that navigates multiple settings and cultures?

LT: For many people with international backgrounds, the question, “Where are you from?” is an increasingly complicated one to answer. When growing up in America, I never felt very American—I felt Chinese, because my physical appearance and upbringing made me different from those in my community. When I was living in China, I felt very American. I suppose it’s always easier to spot the ways in which you feel different from your surroundings. Being exposed to multiple settings and cultures is a nice reminder that everybody is an outsider somewhere.

I also think that when you live in one place and in one community for too long, it’s easy to stop questioning what you do or why you believe certain things. When you meet someone with a different background, it’s an opportunity to re-think the beliefs you took for granted. When I lived in China, I always loved these moments of self-reckoning. I like to think that traveling (in life and within the span of a novel) can offer readers a chance to take a closer look at their own belief systems.

LD: What We Were Promised gives a lot of attention to characterization, using the space of the novel to go into depth exploring each character’s background and personality. As someone who also has experience writing short stories, how does your approach to detail in characterization change depending on the length of your story?

LT: In short stories, it’s often important for a single sentence to serve many purposes at once. It might give a character depth, it might contribute to heightening the tension of the plot, it might reveal something about a relationship, and it might contribute to the tone of the piece or atmosphere of the setting. Because there are only a few pages in which to establish an entire world, the writing must be concise, and as a result, my experience building a character in short fiction feels more orchestrated than it does when writing a novel. When writing a novel, I’m able to enter a character’s head and stay there for longer periods of time, getting to know the ins and outs of their pasts and personalities. The process feels more immersive—like I’m living alongside the people I’ve created rather than switching between being in the room with them and watching them from above.

The other main difference is that a short story is usually concerned with one or two main events that change a particular aspect of a character’s mindset or personality. Therefore, the characterizing details I choose will illuminate this specific change. Generally speaking, in a novel, there’s room to do so much more—to have multiple events change characters in large and small ways over a longer span of time.

LD: The book also focuses on the differences and similarities between the affluent Lina and her housekeeper, Sunny, and on the significance of “objects of luxury” like Lina’s bracelet. What do you think is the importance of taking class into consideration in a story like this?

LT: I think what’s considered “luxury” isn’t always consistent across social classes, but one thing everyone can agree on is the luxury of time—and not just the abundance of free time, but the richness of spending your work hours doing something you feel has value. Though Sunny is born into a poor farming family and has been given few opportunities in her life, her self-reliance and resourcefulness allow her to approach work with a sense of purpose. While Lina, on the surface, has every conceivable form of privilege, from travel opportunities to education to expensive material goods, she feels unfulfilled because she’s spent her life letting others make decisions for her. I think it’s those of us who live with intention that feel the wealthiest, no matter what our social backgrounds may be.

LD: Do you believe that writer’s block exists, and if so, how do you deal with it?

LT: What is often neatly referred to as “writers block” feels much more complicated to me—and thank goodness, because that means there’s more than one way to move past it! Inspiration has many channels, and it’s rare that every single one is blocked at the same time. I’ve gotten better at knowing what I need to do to become unstuck. For example, if I can’t get a character’s voice right, I’ll try watching documentaries or reading interviews. If I’m not sure which scene should come next in a novel, I’ll read or work on something else and wait for fresh possibilities to occur to me. If I’m having a crisis in confidence, I’ll try to remember that there are more answers to be found at the end of a draft rather than in the middle of one, and that there’s incentive to keep writing until I reach an end. Many times, dealing with writer’s block simply means not giving myself hell for it and trusting that the block will pass.

LD: Are there any habits you like to keep or writing environments you often return to while you’re working?

LT: I work best in cafes, where there’s a lot of human activity. Since the act of writing is so solitary, I like being in places where I can look up and be reminded that there’s a whole world moving around me, even as I’m almost completely existing in my own head. I also find I get the best writing done when I change my environment often. In other words, I’m literally chasing inspiration.

LD: What’s next for you?

LT: This fall, I’ll be returning to Madison. I’ll spend the year working on my second novel and teaching fiction at The University of Wisconsin as the James C. McCreight Fiction Fellow, an opportunity provided by the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. It will feel good to be back in the Midwest again.

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Lucy Tan grew up in New Jersey and has spent much of her adult life in New York and Shanghai. She received her B.A. from New York University and her M.F.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she was awarded the 2016 August Derleth Prize. Her fiction has been published in journals such as Asia Literary Review and Ploughshares, where she was winner of the 2015 Emerging Writer’s Contest. This is her first novel.

Summer 2018 Flash Fiction Contest – Round #1

Midwestern Gothic Summer Flash Fiction Series 2018

Round—and Prompt— #1 of our Summer 2018 Flash Fiction Contest here! (You can read all of our winners from 2015, 2016, and 2017 here.)

What is it? Our flash fiction series invites writers to write short pieces in response to photos we post.

How does it work? We’ll supply an image from our photo archive and invite writers to respond with flash fiction inspired by the photo, up to 500 words. Remember: You, or your piece, must have a Midwest connection. Each image will be open for submissions for just under 1 week, and we will take a few days for reading and balloting before beginning the next round. At the end of all three rounds, the top (2) entries we feel best represent the photos from each round will be published on the Midwestern Gothic website.

How long is the series? We will be doing this throughout the month of July and early August — which nets out to (3) rounds of images (three submission periods). Round 1 starts on Monday, July 9, 2018 (and ends on Saturday, July 14, 2018 before midnight EST); the prompt is below and will be posted on all social media channels, too. Winners will be announced and winning pieces (winner + runner-up) will be posted after the submission periods for all three rounds are finished, in the first week of August.

How do you submit? Send submissions to Ariel at ariel@midwestgothic.comUse the subject line “Summer Flash Round X – Author Name – Name of Piece.” For example: Summer Flash Round 1 – Joan Smith – “Eyes of the Wild.” Remember: Include a third-person bio of up to 150 words with your submission.

You can find all guidelines here, including how to submit (and where!). We can’t wait to read your work!

Prompt #1: Take a look at the following photo, and create a piece of flash fiction inspired by it.

Prompt #1 due date (before midnight EST): Saturday, July 14 2018

Prompt #1 winners published: Monday, August 6 2018

Prompt #1: “Beautiful Junk” by Dawn Olsen

Beautiful Junk by Dawn Olsen

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Midwest in Photos: The Arb

“Never confuse movement with action.” Ernest Hemingway

Midwest in Photos: The Arb by Caley Charman

Photo by Caley Charman

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Interview: Betty Moffett

Betty Moffett author headshotMidwestern Gothic staffer Jo Chang talked with author Betty Moffett about her book Coming Clean, fictionalizing facts, learning from her students, and more.

Jo Chang: What’s your connection to the Midwest?

Betty Moffett: My original connection to the Midwest was Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, since, in 1971, my husband signed a contract to teach theatre there. (I had to look on the map to find Iowa.) Since then, of course, my connections have multiplied. I have strong attachments to friends, the land, the town, the little string band my husband and I play in, the memories of our son growing up here. I could make a very long list.

JC: Initially, you and your family planned to move back to the South after a year in Iowa; however, you found yourself staying. What is it about the Midwest that captivated you? How does it compare or contrast to the South? Did your ability to find inspiration change in accordance with the new environment?

BM: We loved North Carolina. We still do. When we first moved to Iowa, I thought I might fall off the Earth because there were so few trees to hold on to. Still, what captivated me first about this place was the land—the roll and richness of it (someone has called it ‘bosomy’) — and the fact that, as one student wrote, “You can tilt your head back and see nothing but sky.” And soon, as I got to know the people, I appreciated their kindness and steadiness. In the South, people are typically more effusive in their speech and manner than Midwesterners. In answer to “How are you?” my Southern friends might say, “Just fine,” or “Wonderful,” or even “Peachy.” In Iowa folks are more likely to reply, “Pretty good” or “Not too bad” — more cautious, less extravagant, a bit “steadier.”

I think contrasts between the South and the Midwest have allowed me to appreciate a variety of landscapes and attitudes. Before we left North Carolina, I asked my favorite grad school professor if he’d ever heard of Grinnell College. “Oh yes,” he said. “It’s a good school. But you know that if you go there, you’ll give up everything that being Southern means.” I’m still trying to figure out what it means to be Southern, and I don’t believe I’ve given up a thing. And now I have two places to call “home.”

JC: Your forthcoming book Coming Clean, is both memoir and short story collection, weaving details from your own experience into short stories; missing children and successful cowboys inhabit worlds set in both North Carolina, where you were raised, and Iowa, where you currently reside. As Coming Clean contains biographical events that have been fictionalized, was it difficult to work with subject matter that is both personal and factual, and the fictional elements that transformed them into short stories?

BM: I’ve never had trouble fictionalizing facts — for two main reasons:

    1. The stories I grew up hearing from my parents, aunts, and uncles were always a combination of fact and fiction. If a story was a good one, it would be requested again and again (“Tell the one about the dog/horse/fire in the barn.”). And each time, some detail, some ‘fact,’ would change. “The Store,” the first story in Coming Clean, comes from my father, who was the boy in the store. As a child sitting on my grandmother’s front porch with the family, I’m sure I heard that story at least 10 times — and never the same way. No one objected; no one corrected. We all knew Daddy was just making the truth better.
    2. I can’t write pure fiction. I can’t make up people and places that never existed, that I know nothing about. All my stories start with something I’ve heard about or experienced. But I’m not a historian, either. Of the ‘Who, What, When, Where, and Why,’ questions, I’m not especially interested in the ‘When’ or ‘Where.’ And my ‘Who’s’ are likely to be a combination of people, the ‘Why’s’ tailored to fit the shape of the story.

As some smart person has said, “History is objective and dispassionate.” I prefer subjective passion.

Coming Clean book cover by Betty Moffett

JC: What was the research process like? Was it mostly self-reflective, or did you find yourself asking family and friends for details?

BM: I have done precious little research for Coming Clean (see above). What happens to the people in these stories (whether it actually happened or not) is so real to me that I have all the necessary details — or I make them up.

JC: As an instructor at Grinnell College, do you think that your students have influenced your writing? If so, how?

BM: My students in Grinnell’s Writing Lab and in the classes I taught at the college influenced my writing in many ways. They made me more conscious of individual words, of precise meaning. I remember a very pleasant hour with a young woman from Japan who was curious about the word ‘just’: “I understand how it functions as an adjective — as in ‘a just law’ [she knew her grammar]. But what does it mean as an adverb — as in ‘I’m just fine’?” Good question! And a sunny and severely dyslexic young man in my composition class broke my heart as he struggled to read and then to write an essay on Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant.” But when, as a kind of break, I asked the class to write short stories, he produced a clear and powerful piece about a dangerous party he’d attended. He was writing his own material; he was in control; he believed he could communicate. He was right, and the realization carried over to his more academic work. I learned from him.

JC: What is one thing that you wish you were told when you first began writing?

BM: I remember and am grateful two very different teachers who commented on my writing. Mrs. Walker, my high school English teacher, wrote on one of my papers, “Someday, you will write a book.” Miss Jones, who taught my first college English class, wrote on a story I handed in, “I do not believe this is your original work.” Although I loved Mrs. Walker and did not love Miss Jones, I decided to accept both comments as compliments, and was pleased with both reactions. I believe that people generally respond better to praise than to criticism, and this applies particularly to writing. Anyone who says, “Don’t take what I say about your (essay/poem/research paper/short story) personally” is not a sensible person.

JC: What is your writing process like? Since Coming Clean is a collection of short stories, did you find yourself focusing on one story at a time, or working on sections of multiple ones at once?

BM: I can only work on one story at a time. When it’s going well, it’s very exciting and I can’t wait to sit down and keep going (I do not forget to eat.) When it’s going badly, I get discouraged, but if I take the dog for a walk and then come back to revise, it usually gets better. I’ve only quit on a couple of stories.

JC: What’s next for you?

BM: After Ice Cube Press publishes Coming Clean in October, I look forward to doing a number of readings and at least one workshop. Then, I’d like to read three or four middlebrow mysteries. And then, I want to get back to writing stories.

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Betty Moffett was born, educated, and married in North Carolina—and then successfully transplanted to the Midwest. After teaching for nearly 30 years in Grinnell College’s Writing Lab (in Grinnell, Iowa), she is now trying to take her own advice. Ice Cube Press will publish Coming Clean, a collection of her stories, on October 5 of this year. Her stories have appeared in various magazines and journals, including Bluestem, The MacGuffin, The Broadkill Review, The Wapsipinicon Almanac, and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. She and her husband play with and write songs for the Too Many String Band.

You can pre-order Coming Clean (ISBN 9781948509022) for $19.99 on Ice Cube Press’s website.

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Midwest in Photos: Between the Lines

“It felt like the beginning of an end. Or the end of a beginning.” – Brian Petkash, “Our Lady of Cleveland,” Midwestern Gothic Issue 16.

Midwest in Photos-Between the Lines by Kevin Yuskis

Photo by Kevin Yuskis

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Announcing the Summer 2018 Flash Fiction Contest!

Midwestern Gothic Summer Flash Fiction Series 2018

We’re thrilled to announce our annual Flash Fiction Series for summer 2018! (You can read our winners from 2015, 2016, and 2017 here.)

What is it? This is a collaboration between photography and writing. We’ll supply a compelling image from our photo archive, and invite writers to respond by writing short fiction inspired by the photo of up to 500 words. Each image will stay up for about one week and the top two entries (winner and runner-up) we feel best represent the photo in question will be published on the Midwestern Gothic website.

We will be doing this throughout the summer—which nets out to (3) rounds of images (three submission periods). Round 1 starts on Monday 7/9, when the first prompt will be posted via blog and social media. The due date for the first round will be Saturday 7/14 (before midnight EST).

A full list of guidelines, as well the contest schedule, can be found here (the main contest page). Winners will be posted (and linked to) on this page as well.

We hope you’ll think about submitting, and we look forward to reading your work!

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The Space Between: Happy e-Pub Day to Kali VanBaale’s Novel!

The Space Between book cover by Kali VanBaale

Today is the day! Kali VanBaale’s first novel, The Space Between, has been digitally re-released by MG Press – perfect for doing some summer reading without the hassle of carrying around a heavy book. You can download this incredible story on any e-reader via iBooks, Amazon Kindle, Nook, or whatever you prefer.

This riveting story touches on a very real, very current subject in the lives of Americans today. In it, VanBaale examines the aftermath of a modern nightmare with a clear-eyed dramatic precision that will leave readers wondering what does indeed lurk in the dark, unknowable spaces that exist between even the most loving of family members.

The novel was originally inspired by the Columbine tragedy, but recent events have made this story incredibly, and unfortunately, relevant. We hope that Kali’s contribution to the discussion is something that inspires meaningful changes in whatever way it can; she is a phenomenal writer, and this novel won an American Book Award in 2007, so we couldn’t be prouder to be helping her continue to share her voice with the world. If you enjoyed The Good Divide, you’ll quickly devour this book by MG Press alum Kali VanBaale.

Be sure to grab a copy for yourself – you’ll find the book page with more information here.

About the Author

Kali VanBaale The Space Between author headshotKali VanBaale is also the author of the novel The Good Divide. She is the recipient of an American Book Award, Eric Hoffer Book Award, an Independent Publisher’s silver medal for fiction, and a State of Iowa major artist grant. Her short stories and essays have appeared in Midwestern Gothic, Numéro Cinq, Nowhere Magazine, The Milo Review, Northwind Literary, Poets & Writers, The Writer and several anthologies. Kali holds an MFA in creative writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is a faculty member of the Lindenwood University MFA Creative Writing Program. She lives outside Des Moines with her family.

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Contributor News

Guinotte Wise (Midwestern Gothic Winter 2018 issue) recently published a second poetry collection, Horses See Ghosts. Check out more information here.

Rebecca Berg (Midwestern Gothic Winter 2018 issue) has a story forthcoming in the Chicago Review this spring.

Brooke White (Midwestern Gothic Winter 2018 issue) recently had an essay that appeared in Swamp Ape Review‘s Spring 2018 issue and was reviewed by New Pages.

North American Stadiums book cover by Grady ChambersGrady Chambers‘s (Midwestern Gothic Issue 18) manuscript, North American Stadiums, was selected as the winner of the Max Ritvo Poetry Prize and was recently published by Milkweed Editions. Learn more about the book and preorder here.

Amy E Weldon (Midwestern Gothic Issue 21) has a novel Eldorado, Iowa, being published by Bowen Press Books in December 2018.

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Contributor Spotlight: Ian Stoner

Ian Stoner author headshotIan Stoner’s story “The Egg Collection” appears in Midwestern Gothic‘s Winter 2018 issue, out now

What’s your connection to the Midwest, and how has the region influenced your writing?

I was born in a small town in central Ohio but only remember fragments; my family moved to California when I was eleven. I came to the Twin Cities (via New Mexico) for graduate school, grew fond of a particular Minnesotan while studying for my PhD in philosophy, and have settled in Saint Paul. For my first few years here I stood in mute horror at the punishing, endless winters. Over the last decade I’ve made some progress acclimating and now concede the locals were right all along: Minnesota is stuffed full of subtle charms. (For outsiders, including those who have made some progress acclimating, these charms are best glimpsed during the stretch between the first crocuses of June and the last harvests of August.)

What do you think is the most compelling aspect of the Midwest?

The generalization I’m about to make, like all cultural generalizations, fails to hold of individuals more often than not. But still: the most compelling aspect of Minnesota is its cultural code discouraging the display of emotion. The Coen brothers portrayed the Minnesotan blank demeanor in “Fargo” and Howard Mohr made a whole thing of it in “How to Talk Minnesotan”. Some people call the blank demeanor things like “stoic” and “down to earth,” but I’m pretty sure that’s not right. For many Minnesotans, overt displays of emotion are plain uncomfortable.

It makes for a fascinating cultural environment for those who hope to write characters with believable inner lives. Mohrian Minnesotans do have emotional and mental states—I know this for sure—but it takes a constant effort of empathic imagination to guess after what those states might be. Living here turns out to be a kind of perpetual practice in characterization.

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 have some vision impairments that have lead me since childhood to be more attuned to sounds than images. Before moving to Minnesota, all my stories were un-placed, at least with respect to the visual environment.

Minnesota has a wider variety of edible weeds than the other states I’ve lived in. In late springtime you can find wilds at the edge of parks and fill grocery bags with stinging nettle, garlic mustard, curly dock, and make an easy meal you can’t get at a grocery store or restaurant. It took me a few years to learn what plants I can eat and where I can find them, but that effort woke me up to my natural surroundings more generally. I’m still annoyingly unobservant most places, and I can’t seem to shake that. But thanks to Minnesota’s weeds, I’m more alert to the outdoors than I once was. Ten years ago I couldn’t have written a story as specific in its natural setting as “The Egg Collection.”

Discuss your writing process — inspirations, ideal environments, how you deal with writer’s block.

I’m a philosophy teacher by day. (By night, too.) Since I started teaching, I’ve found I’m able to write fiction only when I’ve had the time to calm down for a few weeks, to let creative energies re-claim some skull space from the usual residents, which fret furiously about prep for classes the next day. Mental calmness can only happen in the summers, now, and even then it takes some effort to achieve. When I succeed in making peaceful time for creative writing, the process always goes like this: binge on re-reads of stories that approximate the tone or voice I want to target. Draft long-hand on a legal pad with a Uni-Ball Vision fine-point pen, preferably in the morning and outside. Type up the draft on an IBM Model-M keyboard attached to a blocky desktop running GNU/Linux. Rewrite a lot.

How can you tell when a piece of writing is finished?

I’m prone to tinker, and eventually the tinkering gets so trivial that I start to resent the story, at which point I put the draft in a drawer. The next summer I open the drawer, read the story, and if I like it I try sending it out. This doesn’t happen often. Usually, after a year away I can see that the piece needs fundamental rewriting, which I do. And then I tinker, turn resentful, put it back in the drawer for another year, and so on.

Who is your favorite author (fiction writer or poet), and what draws you to their work?

When I was 18 I found dilapidated copies of T.C. Boyle’s story collections in a bookshop in Santa Fe. I have no idea what prompted me to buy Descent of Man and Greasy Lake when I’d never heard of them (or him) before, but those early Boyle stories changed the way I thought about literary fiction. They are proof that lit fic can care about language and character and flashes of emotional truth while still striving to entertain readers. Boyle made me want to write. Not long after that I discovered Margaret Atwood’s short stories– the proper stories, yes, but also the oddball miniatures collected in Good Bones and Simple Murders – which had a similar effect. All my early attempts at fiction were shameless attempts to imitate one of those two.

More recently I’ve been amazed by Anthony Doerr. (The title “The Egg Collection” seemed obvious from the beginning, but I especially like thinking of it as a nod in the direction of Doerr’s “The Shell Collector,” a story I spent a lot of time marking up in an effort to figure out what makes it so good.)

More recently still I’ve been re-establishing my childhood love of science fiction. There are SF authors out there worthy of the serious attention of the lit-fic set. The short stories of Octavia Butler, Eileen Gunn, and Ted Chiang have made me think more these last five years than most of the lit fic I’ve read.

What’s next for you?

Next comes more teaching and a push to finish a few philosophy papers. I’m keeping after fiction as best I can, but my folder of sketches, notes, and outlines has for years grown faster than my folder of drafts-in-progress. I have a couple of Midwestern ‘80s pieces in the works: one about a Minneapolitan post-punk band in 1982 and one about a traveling former warlock in Ohio in 1983. I’m also having a go at writing science fiction in the literary mode. At my current rate of production I’ll finish one story every three years…

Where can we find more information about you?

I’ve thrown in the towel on social media. Please have a look at my old-fashioned website: www.ianstoner.com It is unmonetized.

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Midwest in Photos: Potrait Shop Window, Grinnell, IA, 1970s

“When I look at my old pictures, all I can see is what I used to be but am no longer. I think: What I can see is what I am not.” – Aleksander Hemon, The Lazarus Project.

Portrait shop window, Grinnell, IA, 1970s by John Kirsch

Photo by: John Kirsch

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