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.

Short Story Collections

(Graywolf Press, 2011)

reviewed by A. J. Kirby

Interview with Alan Heathcock

The Short Review: 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.

TSR: Did you 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.

TSR: How did 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.

TSR: What 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.

TSR: 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.

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

AH: Did I get it right?

TSR: How does 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.

TSR: 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.

TSR: What are 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 Aaron Gwyn.
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Find out what other authors, from Aimee Bender to Sana Krasikov, said about their collections, what the word "story" means to them, and how it feels to know that people are buying your books! More interviews >>>