Al Riske was born in Shelton, Washington,
and earned a degree in communications from Linfield College in Oregon.
He has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine editor, copywriter, and
ghostwriter. His short stories have appeared in Beloit Fiction Journal,
Pindelyboz, Switchback, Word Riot, and Blue Mesa Review,
where his story Pray
for Rain won the review's 2008 fiction prize. He now lives
in California with his wife, Joanne, and their dog, Bodie. He is
currently working on a novel.
Precarious: Stories of Love, Sex, and Misunderstanding
(Luminis Books, 2010)
by A.J. Kirby
with Al Riske
How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?
Al Riske: Only about 30 years or so. Precarious
is essentially a retrospective of my work—stuff I kept and revised
again and again because I was never satisfied with it, until now.
have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
really. The stories came to me one by one, sometimes inspired by a
photograph or a place I was visiting or a conversation I happened to
overhear. I didn't have a master plan. But as it turned out, all the
stories were about women and men and the conflicts that inevitably
arise when they get together. So, without realizing it, I had a
theme—or maybe it's an obsession.
you choose which stories to include and in what order?
AR: I left out one of my best stories, The Possibility of Snow,
because it didn't seem to fit in with the others. It was tough
decision, but the right one, I think. As for the order, I wanted it to
be fairly random, but I did save some of the more startling pieces for
does the word "story"
mean to you?
Hmmm, interesting question. I guess a story is what we tell ourselves
to make sense of our lives. The stories may not be factual but they are
as true as we can make them … or as true as we can stand to make
Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?
Sometimes. That is, I sometimes think about what my wife or someone
else might think, but I try not to let that influence me too much.
Mostly I write for myself. I write the kind of stories I would like to
anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection,
anything at all?
always interested in what readers think, but I try to keep my questions
very general and open ended because I don't to influence what they tell
me. Whatever is top of mind for them is most interesting to me.
it feel knowing that people are buying your book?
It feels amazing, almost unbelievable, after labouring in obscurity for
so long. Well, I'm still pretty obscure, but it's not just my friends
and family who are buying the book now, so I'm totally jazzed.
What are you working on now?
AR: I’ve been working on a short novel with a long title: The Boy Who Broke Sabrina’s Window.
The boy is 17 and he accidentally breaks the window of a woman nearly
twice his age, Sabrina. They become friends, share confidences,
intercede in each other’s romances, go on a date that scandalizes the
town … There are a bunch of other colorful characters as well, but
events unfold through the eyes of Sabrina and the boy.
the three most recent short story collections you've read?
AR: Moon Deluxe by Frederick Barthelme. Raymond Carver: Collected Stories (the new Library of America edition) by Raymond Carver and Our Story Begins by Tobias Wolff.