Derek Green is
looking beyond his first collection of short stories—he’s at work on
his first novel. Though he won the University of Michigan’s Jule and
Avery Hopwood Award in Creative Writing three times while studying
there, his first major published works were in nonfiction, as a a
freelance journalist for national and regional periodicals.
with Derek Green
How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?
Derek Green: I
wrote the stories in New
World Order over a period of about four years, starting a
year or two before September 11, 2001, and finishing two or three years
after. The individual stories themselves didn’t take that long---most
less than two weeks. But I was traveling a lot, writing journalism, and
trying to write a novel, too.
TSR: Did you
have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
DG: At first I didn’t. I
began traveling extensively in the middle 1990’s (ending up in more
than 20 countries on 6 continents) and thought I might write travel
articles and features for slick magazines. But that never happened. It
occurred to me the reason for that was that my interests lie in
fiction. So I started writing stories about the places I was visiting.
The book took shape from there.
TSR: How did
you choose which stories to include and in what order?
DG: Good question.
I struggled with which stories to include and nearly cut a couple, but
my editor and senior editor talked me out of removing any. I have
stories set in 11 different countries in New World Order,
and chose an order in which the last story occurs in time before the
first story. The stories are linked—by recurring characters and also by
a fictive, Halliburtonesque company I invented which touches the
characters, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly. The order of the
stories hopefully allows these connections to emerge in the most
intriguing way, and also adds to the irony of the title: that New World
Order everyone thought was emerging at the end of the last century and
what has happened instead as this century gets under way.
TSR: What does the word "story"
mean to you?
can mean a lot of things: a factually true story, a short story, a
novel. But in any case, and most importantly, story means to me the
telling of a tale, the recounting of something that happened—a rupture
in the world that is worth telling someone else about. You don’t tell
someone when something goes well—it’s not a story when you order
coffee, they give you the right blend and make your change correctly.
But if the clerk ignores you, mixes up your order, spills coffee all
over your shirt and then steal your change—well, that’s a story. We
enter the land of story when there is some warp in the fabric of
everyday life, when something we do has an unexpected outcome—and we
are forced to try to correct it, forcing another outcome. That’s when a
story has begun.
TSR: Do you
have a "reader" in mind when you write stories?
and more I do. I used to be of the opinion that only the story
mattered. That the reader wasn’t something or someone to think about.
But the older and more experienced I become as a fiction writer, the
more I believe that the reader in an inextricable part of storytelling.
When you write a story, you’re basically encoding your thoughts---and
those thoughts only come to life, are only finally rendered, when
someone reads the piece. This is why, in my mind, publication matters:
so that you can get the story out for as many “renderings” as possible.
TSR: Is there
anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your
anything at all?
DG: Yes! Did you
like the stories? Did they move you and seem real to you? Entertain
you? Do they stick with you and do you find yourself thinking about
them at odd moments? What do you think they were all about?
TSR: How does it feel knowing that people are buying your book?
DG: You mean people
are buying it?
TSR: What are
you working on now?
DG: I am working on
a novel set in the Middle East and a few other exotic locations.
TSR: What are
the three most recent short story collections you've read?
DG: Open Secrets by Alice Munro; Good Bones and Simple Murder by Margaret Atwood; The Woman Lit By Fireflies by Jim Harrison (do novella collections count?) [Yes! Ed.I]