Andrew’s Book Club
Andrew Scott is the author of Modern Love, a story chapbook. His stories and interviews with fiction writers appear in Esquire, Glimmer Train Stories, The Writer’s Chronicle, and elsewhere. He teaches at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, and lives in Indianapolis with his wife, the writer Victoria Barrett, where they co-edit Freight Stories, an online fiction quarterly.
Andrew’s Book Club
P.O. Box 44167
Indianapolis, IN 46244
In Uncategorized on August 13, 2009 at 8:51 AM
Note: This is an excerpt of my interview with Michael Parker first published in Glimmer Train Stories in 2008.
Don’t Make Me Stop Me Now is your first story collection in more than a decade. You’re primarily known as a novelist. Did these stories emerge slowly over the years, or did you decide to write a collection of stories?
There was a time—an embarrassingly long time—when I thought I was done with short stories. I read somewhere that they were more suited to youthfulness, which is an odd idea, easily contradicted by the likes of William Trevor and Alice Munro and a host of other story writers still going strong well past the flowering of youth. Though it sort of made sense to me, in a way, that the world and its conundrums might seem more suited to shorter forms when you are young and that, as you age and you have more varied experiences, the longer forms with their leisurely pacing, their orbicular rhythms, might appear to be the more appropriate form for the stories you needed to tell. I thought that then; I don’t think that now. The problem with writing fiction is that we have all these experiences to fit into a very limited number of forms: short shorts, short stories, long stories, novellas, novels. I believe very much in a line from an essay by Frank O’Connor: every novel or story worth its weight establishes a rhythm and this is the rhythm of life itself. Finding the appropriate rhythm might be problematic, but it forces you to work with form, with narrative rhythm, and therefore what seems a problem becomes a blessing, because form is what distinguishes story—it is story—and what happens is far less important to me than “the music of what happened,” as William Goyen referred to the most important aspect of fiction making.
I wrote a couple of these stories ten years ago, though most of them were written in the past couple years. All of them are love stories—in that they are about love, or our attempts to love—but I didn’t really set out to collect a bunch of love stories. I just follow my obsessions. It seems I’m obsessed with love, how it defines experience, how it seems the only thing worth pursuing and yet the most difficult human act to perfect. I was thrilled to have a lot of stories to choose from, and it was wonderful fun to return to writing stories after such a long break, though I confess I love the rhythm of novel-writing, especially the feeling that there’s a long road ahead, and that I don’t have to worry, in three weeks or two months, what to do now that the story I’m working on seems have come to a point where abandonment is the only hope.
Do you feel pressure from the publishing world to write novels?
I used to think about the publishing world, but that was before I discovered triathlon and Netflix.
It is true that publishers want novels, and that they don’t get terribly excited when you mention you have a story collection you want to publish, and that they often treat stories as a consolation prize for a novel contract. Novels, they say, bring in more dough. Publishing companies are there to make money. I write both novels and stories, but I’ve published more novels than story collections, as you pointed out, and I am content to let them publish a story collection every ten years or so, given that I have one to sell, as a consolation prize for writing novels. If I were primarily or exclusively a story writer, I might be a bit more touchy about all this. Certainly I’ve seen story writers coaxed into longer forms by publishers with not so great results.
But back to my first, seemingly flippant response: I don’t pay too much attention to the publishing world. I have a good publisher now, a great editor, and I trust they’ll do what they have to in order to stay afloat and that they’ll do what they can to publish my book well. I don’t put too much energy into