Minor's work has appeared in numerous magazines and
anthologies, notably Best
American Mystery Stories 2008, The Gettysburg Review, The Southern
Review, Surreal South and Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething
Writers: The Best New Voices of 2006. He has twice been
nominated for The Pushcart Prize. He is co-editor of The Other Chekhov
(New American Press 2008). Originally from Florida, he is now Visiting
Writer at the University of Toledo, Ohio.
with Kyle Minor
How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?
Kyle Minor: Four
years, but that's misleading, because I was writing all kinds of other
things during the same period. I drafted seven yet-unfinished novels,
for example, and portions of a book-length memoir that I still haven't
finished, plus lots of other stories and essays and poems, some
published, some not. I'm a restless writer, for good or for ill.
TSR: Did you
have a collection in mind when you were writing them? How
you choose which stories to include and in what order?
KM: I didn't have this
collection in mind until Dzanc Books called to say that they wanted to
publish a collection. By then I had published lots of stories, poems,
and essays. The one that interested them most was the novella A Day
Meant to Do Less, which also appeared in Best American Mystery Stories
2008. The task, then, was to build a collection around that story. I
decided to choose stories that were grounded in the conventions of
psychological realism, and which dealt explicitly with the ways human
beings operate out of their own contradictory impulses. And I wanted
the people in the stories to proceed from the same tiny enclave of
Southern Baptists in West Palm Beach, Florida, in the early 1980's.
of all the stories I had, only one really fit, goodbye Hills, hello
night, which is a murder story. I also took a personal essay, The San
Diego County Credit Union Poisettia Bowl Party, which had appeared in
The Southern Review, and fictionalized it, and made it the leadoff
story. The other three stories -- A Love Story, The Navy Man, and In the Devil's Territory, are stories I had long planned to write,
and the book contract gave me occasion to finish them. The story I most
wish I could have included is The Truth and All Its Ugly, an
Appalachian robot story set in the future. It's one of the best things
I've ever written, but it didn't fit the collection. (But if you're
interested, you can find it in the anthology Surreal South, edited by
Pinckney and Laura Benedict.)
does the word "story"
mean to you?
the purpose of this book, I guess it meant a yarn in which something
happens. Technically, I guess many of these stories, maybe three or
four, might be properly called novellas, on grounds of their length,
and because their ambition is more novel-like than your ordinary
single-movement story with a Joycean epiphany at the end or whatever.
Ultimately, I guess these labels don't matter to me that much. I mostly
just want to write something that makes the reader feel something he or
she hasn't felt before.
have a "reader" in mind when you write stories?
really. I think that's fatal. I try to write through the consciousness
of the character at first draft, and to put my own critical eye to
things in revision, thinking long and hard about the relationship
between the thematic resonance of the story and the shape of the story.
But there are readers I hope to please. I think about old teachers, for
example, and I think about close friends whose long-term interest in my
work is worth honoring. And when I get a nice letter or email about my
work about a writer I admire but have never met, I feel like maybe I've
done my job and done it well.
TSR: Is there
anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection,
anything at all?
KM: I wonder how they feel about the title story, In the Devil's Territory,
which doesn't work the way the other stories work. It makes its meaning
on grounds of juxtapositions of time and place and character, rather
than through the eyes of a single character. It asks the reader to do
more work, and I notice it's the story that gets mentioned the least in
newspaper and journal reviews. I wonder if people are reading it, and
if they are, I wonder how it strikes them. I'm very proud of the story,
but I know the risk it represents. I wonder if the risk is being
rewarded where it counts, which for me would mean that it offers the
reader a complicated pleasure.
TSR: How does it feel knowing that people are buying your book?
It feels good, and it feels even better to know that people are reading
it. Thanks to the Internet, a writer gets a lot of feedback. I wonder
what it was like thirty years ago, when you sent these things into the
world and never knew if anyone was moved by them.
TSR: What are
you working on now?
'm working on a nonfiction narrative about a child abduction case in
the Haitian countryside, and a novel about some American missionaries,
also set in the Haitian countryside.
TSR: What are
the five most recent short story collections you've read?
The last five story collections I've read were all re-readings of books I love and love and love: The Dew Breaker
by Edwidge Danticat; We're in Trouble
by Christopher Coake; Knockemstiff
by Donald Ray Pollock; The End of the Straight and Narrow
by David McGlynn; and Later, at the Bar
by Rebecca Barry.