Alan Heathcock's fiction has been published in many
of America’s top magazines and journals, including: Zoetrope,
All-Story, Kenyon Review, VQR, Five Chapters, Storyville, and Harvard
Review. His stories have won the National Magazine Award in
fiction, and have been selected for inclusion in The Best American
Mystery Stories anthology. Heathcock has been named a Scholar
for both the Bread Loaf and Tin House Writers Conferences. He
is currently an “AiR” Artist-in-Residence for the city of Boise, and
was named a Literature Fellow for the state of Idaho by the Idaho
Commission for the Arts. A native of Chicago, he teaches
fiction writing at Boise State University.
with Alan Heathcock
How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?
Alan Heathcock: The first of these stories was
published back in the fall of 2005, and it took me several years to
write that story and get it placed in a magazine. All told, I have a
decade's worth of work in this book.
have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
AH: Yes, though I originally thought
I'd write the comprehensive history of an American town, as told in
short stories. I imagined it would be 20-30 stories in all. I still
have that goal, though it may take two or three collections worth of
Krafton stories to see that original vision complete.
you choose which stories to include and in what order?
AH: My fantastic editors at Graywolf
Press, Fiona McCrea and Steve Woodward, helped with this. We had
several discussions on how to make the stories build and resonate off
of one another, both in terms of theme and story.
does the word "story"
mean to you?
AH: A "story" is an
investigation, a dramatic narrative facilitating my looking
unflinchingly at what confounds and scares me.
Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?
AH: There's no room for a reader in my process. When I write, I use all of
my intellect, imagination, and emotional capacities, to fully inhabit
the character, to BECOME the character in full. This sort of empathetic
writing is more akin to acting than, say, journalism. And like a good
actor, I must be wholly engulfed in the role. That said, I have an
awareness that the storytelling is a performance. But I also know that
the only way I can effectively convince/move an audience is by not
considering the audience at all - the best actor is unaware he's in a
theater, but, as best as he can muster, has wholly transported himself
into the world of the drama.
anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection,
anything at all?
AH: Did I get it right?
it feel knowing that people are buying your book?
AH: Surreal. Scary. Wonderful.
Embarrassing. I sat at my desk, alone, for years, toiling away at these
stories. I was glad to do it (I love the work, the life, of being a
writer), and only rarely did I allow myself to imagine my work as a
book being purchased and read. It's very satisfying to find people have
read my work. I received an email the other day from an individual who
said a story of mine made he cry, in a good way, and made her consider
how to deal with some grief she'd being carrying around in her own
life. It made me realize the power of art, and my role as a creator of
art. It felt wonderful. That said, the book is a dark and
vulnerable version of me (I'm actually a pretty goofy, happy, family
man), and I find it be a little embarrassing to let people see just how
afraid, and confused, I feel at times. Mainly, though, I just
feel blessed that anyone would pay money for my work, so that I can
keep being a writer, doing what I love, and support my family, too.
What are you working on now?
AH: I'm at work on a novel set in a
another Great Flood (a la Noah). The story is about a family
drifting in their house/ark, trying to survive, and getting caught up
in a war over the last remaining visible mountain peaks in the world.
the three most recent short story collections you've read?
AH: Memory Wall by
Anthony Doerr, Refresh,
Refresh by Benjamin Percy, Dog on the Cross by