Aaron Burch is the founder of Hobart: Another Literary Journal. His short fiction has appeared in numerous respected locations including SmokeLong Quarterly, Quick Fiction and Pank. Having concentrated on editorship for the last few years, he is now focussing on his own writing. His second collection, How to Predict The Weather, is published by Keyhole Press.

Short Story Collections

How to Take Yourself Apart how to Make Yourself Anew
(PANK, 2010)

reviewed by Mark Dalligan

How to Predict the Weather
(Keyhole Press, 2010)

Interview with Aaron Burch

The Short Review: How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?

Aaron Burch: They came pretty fast. The bulk of the book (sections 1 and 3) is these "How To" pieces, and once I found myself in that short, imperative, prose-poem-y mode, they kind of just flowed. I would bet all of them were written in less than a year and probably mostly in a couple different chunks of a month or so each. And then there are a handful of non-"How To" pieces in the middle that I wrote at various points over the last 3 or 4 years that just felt similar enough in tone and to really tie it all together.

TSR: Did you have a collection in mind when you were writing them?

AB: Not really. I think I wrote the first couple specifically as a challenge to myself to write something "elimae-y" and also to write something different for myself. I liked them and then when I saw Another Chicago Magazine's call for submissions for a Bestiary issue, I knew I wanted to try to write something but had no ideas at all. I spent a decent amount of time reading the couple of online bestiaries that they linked to as examples and then tried to kind of graft those ideas onto that "How To" form that I had stumbled onto. That's where all the animal ones initially came from and then I just kept going. I would often sit down and write one or two at the beginning of a writing session as a kind of warm-up before moving into work on a longer, more traditionally structured story.

TSR: How did you choose which stories to include and in what order?

AB: At one point, it was every "How To" piece I'd written. Then I deleted the crappiest ones. Then I got worried that the language and structure got too repetitive -- and also worried that I seemed to have written a chapbook of poetry, more or less, without knowing I had any poetic tendencies -- so I played with adding some more traditional flash fictions I had. As I read and reread, I realized this father/son theme seemed to tie them all together, certainly more than I'd meant or even realized at the time, and then I took that realization and tried to choose the pieces that best fit that (cutting a few more, adding a few) and then order them in the way that best structured a kind of overall narrative. Which is to say: I printed them all out, spread them out on my bed and floor, and arranged and rearranged and rerearranged until it felt like... something.

TSR: What does the word "story" mean to you?

AB: I don't know. I don't really spend much, if any, time thinking about it. A chunk of text where something happens?

TSR: Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?

AB:  Sometimes

TSR: Is there anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection, anything at all?

AB: Not really. I can't think of anything and if I force myself to think of something I then realize I probably don't want to hear the answer. Mostly I'd like to ask them how much they loved it and how awesome they thought it was, but only if their answers were going to be some version of A LOT.

TSR: How does it feel knowing that people are buying your book?

AB: Awesome. Surreal. It feels cool knowing friends and family can buy a book that I wrote -- the fact the someone I've never met or emailed with or anything might pick it up is truly very weird.

TSR: What are you working on now?

AB:  A roadtrip novel. It veers between entertaining and lame and boring and cliche.

TSR: What are the three most recent short story collections you've read?

AB: Amelia Gray's Museum of the Weird, John Jodzio's If You Lived Here You'd Already Be Home, and Matt Bell's How We Were Found only officially comes out today, but I've been reading and rereading those stories, in the journals where they were originally published, and in his chapbooks, and in the manuscript I made him send me, and it is all so freaking good.
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