Bonnie Jo Campbell is the author of the story collection Women & Other Animals, and a novel, Q Road. She has won a Pushcart Prize, The AWP Award for Short Fiction and The Southern Review’s Eudora Welty Prize. Her work has appeared in many literary journals.

Short Story Collections

American Salvage
(Wayne State University Press, 2009)

reviewed by Derek Green

Women and Other Animals (2002)

Interview with Bonnie Jo Campbell

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

Bonnie Jo Campbell: One of the stories in the collection, Bringing Belle Home took twenty-four years to write. The stories The Solutions to Ben's Problems and King Cole's American Salvage took a few months.

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

BJC: Nope. I was just writing individual stories. And in the meanwhile I wrote a lot of stories that did not fit into this collection. Gradually, as I completed stories, I realized I had some similar themes, enough to hold together as a collection, and that was a nice feeling.

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

BJC: In the end, I decided to include stories that were mostly about men, or about women's response to living around men, and particularly men who are living anachronistic lives. Ordering the stories was a challenge. Many of the stories are harsh and difficult, and some are downright depressing for certain readers. I chose as my first story the one that had middle class people in it, in particular a family of middle class people encountering a young junkie. My hope was that it would serve as an introduction to the world of the stories, of these folks who lead difficult lives down near the bottom of the economic ladder.

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

BJC: A story is a thing that feels like a story, a thing that has a beginning, middle and ending. Or at least an ending. The other two you can fudge, but it has to have an ending.

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

BJC:  Yup, I think a lot about my reader. On my initial drafts, I'm just getting something out of my head and onto the page, but as soon as I'm through that, I'm thinking about how the audience will receive my story, how they will understand my material.

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

BJC: Do you feel the love? All these stories were written out of love for human beings.

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

BJC: It's really thrilling to know the book is getting out in the world. Writers of literary stories don't generally see much from royalties, but I'm been overjoyed to visit universities and libraries and conferences where I meet people who say they have had positive experiences with my stories.

TSR: What are you working on now?

BJC: I'm working on a novel about a teenage sharpshooter girl who must make her own way in the world. The first chapter is adapted from the story Family Reunion from American Salvage.

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

BJC: Michael Czyzniejewski's collection Elephants in Our Bedroom; Dennis Johnson Jesus' Son; Suzanne Rivecca's Death is not an Option (pre-publication)
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