Which is your favorite story in this collection and why?
The story titled “Juanita’s Boy” and Rabbit “Story” stand out as my favorites. I found something in the form of those stories. A form that surprised me and that matched the surprise I found in discovering the characters sparked from my family. A kind of voice bringing together an adult world that I’ve experienced as well as a child’s world I’ve also experienced. One of the themes of the book is delinquent parenting and communication between generations and I think I found a way to approach that subject from a point of view that seemed fresh and unique to me.
I love the cover art. It's very 'raw.' Was that your idea? In what way does the cover reflect the stories?
The artwork is from an amazing Illinois artist named Felicia Olin. Her work inspires me and this particular piece, titled “Breathe Out,” caught my eye at an art showing at the University of Illinois Springfield. I’ve been told these stories are very raw and I hoped the artwork matched.
I also liked the way composite stories could break down a family and also a man so that we might see a fuller understanding. A fuller dimension in the layers of storytelling and narration. I like the idea that narration of a story can give us the inside and outside view of something. As in Olin’s work I guess things aren’t as pretty on the inside of folks or in the inner-workings of the world. I’m all for more complication in fiction to match the complication that exists in what Amy Hempel calls “the problem of being alive.”
Hopefully when one reads the book they might see a fuller view of a man or character, or situation for that matter, they might otherwise ignore or become offended with.
How would you describe — or how have critics described — your writing style?
I’ve always been more interested in the form of books rather than the meaning. Expressing rather than communicating. I try to teach that to my students. Content only matters as much as it is organized and structured on the page and I have studied literary minimalism so closely. Obsessed with it really. I’m attracted to the idea of doing more with less. That’s the failed poet in me I guess. I’ve always been inspired with the minimalism of Amy Hempel and Denis Johnson. The minimal form works best with stories about such weighted subject matter such as abusive fathers or delinquent parents. I’ve tried to steal an elliptical and bare bones style to match the laconic male family members.