Blog Will Change Your Life
Ben Tanzer lives in Chicago and is author of
the novels Lucky Man
and Most Likely You Go
Your Way and I'll Go Mine. He is a keen blogger and also
edits This Zine Will
Change Your Life.
with Ben Tanzer
How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?
It depends how you define this. When I decided to start writing these
stories, I had a group of them I wanted to work on and probably wrote
all of them in my head in about 10 minutes. On paper though, the
original group of the mostly completed stories that this collection was
drawn from were written over maybe three months. There were additional
rounds of edits and discussions with various editors after that
however, and the stories Repetition Patterns and The Gift were written separately, but just seemed to hang with the rest.
TSR: Did you
have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
BT: Yes, I was being very grandiose and was inspired by collections like Drown or What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, When The Messenger is Hot, The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake and The Bridegroom,
all of which feel interconnected to me in terms of time and place even
if that is not exactly the case and even if we all know that my stories
don’t compare to the ones being referenced here.
TSR: How did
you choose which stories to include and in what order?
funny, I had the group of pieces I had written, and I had an order in
mind, and then Jason Pettus from CCLaP got excited about publishing
them, but still threw some out and re-arranged the order as he saw fit.
I just sort deferred all that to him, which may say something about my
desperation to be published. That said my understanding is that he
draws on a Magic 8 Ball to make these kinds of decisions. Well, that
does the word "story"
mean to you?
wish I had a really smart answer for you. I just wish I was smart. But
to me, a story, is something that feels like it could almost be true,
and maybe is, about people you sort of know, or maybe have heard of,
doing something remotely familiar, and yet still somehow finds a way to
kick in you the stomach or head and makes you laugh like hell, cry like
crazy or curl into fetal position, sometimes all at once.
have a "reader" in mind when you write stories?
President Obama. Jim Carroll. Patrick Ewing. And Diane Lane, of course.
But outside of them, not so much, which would have driven my dad crazy.
He was a painter and when I was just getting started he said you have
to carve out a niche if you’re going to have any kind of audience. But
I haven't, I write whatever comes to mind and whatever entertains me
and I assume that if it's interesting to me it has to be interesting to
someone else. Well, besides my mom and my wife that is.
TSR: Is there
anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection,
anything at all?
would you do that? That, and, do you happen to know anyone who works at
Random House and has a jones for obscure short story writers?
TSR: How does it feel knowing that people are buying your book?
BT: What’s great about this question, is that CCLaP released Repetition Patterns
as a Radiohead-style, pay what you want, even nothing, download, and so
people don't have to pay anything, but have been doing so anyway. So,
how do I feel about that? It's great, really humbling, and very cool,
though the fact that anyone even wants to read the collection, much
less anything I write, is endlessly cool to me in and of itself. That
said, Jason still owes me my share of the profits thus far and I need
it. Badly. Have you seen him?
TSR: What are
you working on now?
This is sort of neat, I think, but we did a virtual blog tour for the
collection and as I answered questions about the collection and wrote
about it, I got a series of ideas for new stories I wanted to write, so
I am currently working on a new group of interrelated pieces inspired
and connected to that first group. I also have a collection of humor
pieces that is going to be part of a larger collection of short story
writers' collections, that's a lot of collection, coming out from
Achilles Chapbook Press, and I am beginning to shop my new novel around
as well. Wow, that sounds really pompous. Please say you misquoted me
here. Thanks. Still, this has been a really rich stretch for me, and
while I know I need to cut back on the Meth, I am trying to roll with
it for now.
TSR: What are
the three most recent short story collections you've read?
I have been reading some really good stuff. Stories
by Scott McClanahan, which I just totally consumed like a bowl of Cherry Garcia, yogurt of course; The National Virginity Pledge
by Barry Graham, I saw him do this reading and as he did his tacos and prostitute thing I just got a big man-crush on him; and You Must Be This Happy to Enter
by Elizabeth Crane, great writer, super cool chick. I would add, and I
know it's cheating, sorry, but just before I read these collections, I
also read The Love Book
Ken Wohlrob, and I especially wanted to reference him and this
collection, because he's writing not so short, short stories, more like
25-30 page stories, which you don't see much, and he does a quite good
job of it.