Mary Miller's stories have been
published in Black
Clock, Mississippi Review, Oxford American, New Stories from the South,
McSweeney's Quarterly. A collection of short short
stories, Less Shiny,
is published by Magic Helicopter Press. She is an associate editor at Quick Fiction.
with Mary Miller
How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?
Mary Miller: Somewhere
around three years. The first story I wrote, My Brother in Christ,
was probably the second short story I'd ever written. And though I like
it, the writing feels "early" to me, like I'm still trying to find my
voice. It's also one of the only stories I've ever written in third
person. I just don't like third person. The last story I wrote was the
title story, which is probably my favorite.
TSR: Did you
have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
MM: No, I didn't think
in terms of a collection, but I think the stories have a similar feel
to them, especially if you take out Leak, which is told from a
child's POV. That's actually what people either love or hate about Big
World. You could pluck the narrator out of Full and put her in Even
the Interstate is Pretty or Temp and they could be the same person
at different points in her life.
TSR: How did
you choose which stories to include and in what order?
MM: This is
basically every story I had. I think I sent one or two others that
Elizabeth (Ellen) nixed, but this was just about everything. As far as
the ordering, we knew we wanted Leak first and a shorter, "punchier"
story second. After that I just tried to separate the repetive things
(like Back to the Future references and dead mothers).
does the word "story"
mean to you?
like stories that put me in another person's life and make me feel what
he/she feels. I don't think they have to be complete, or have
resolutions. For the most part, life doesn't have fast or easy
resolutions and I don't think stories should have them, either. As
such, my stories are often called "slices-of-life" or "vignettes" and
it still bugs me (because people mean it as an insult) but I don't
really care. I like vignettes.
have a "reader" in mind when you write stories?
I write stories that I want to read. I'm copying this answer from
somebody, or a lot of somebodies, but I actually do like reading my
stories. I guess they are are also for girls like me, but I don't
really know what I'm like.
TSR: Is there
anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection,
anything at all?
MM: Do you think I
need therapy? And, if so, would you be willing to chip in?
TSR: How does it feel knowing that people are buying your book?
MM: It feels pretty
awesome. I didn't really think about people buying it, or reading it.
The only way I can write stories is to assume they'll never be
published. It's the only way I can be honest. Also, it's terrifying. I
don't really want people to know me, or to think they know me.
TSR: What are
you working on now?
MM: I'm working on a
manuscript of flash fiction. It's about 75 pages, though I need more
stories that have nothing to do with men or sex, and I'm hoping it will
end up at about 100 pages. I think I might even have a publisher for
it, so I'm excited about that. I'm also working on another short story
collection and a novel, though I don't think I'm a novelist. It's not
what I enjoy, but it's a challenge and I like challenges.
TSR: What are
the three most recent short story collections you've read?
MM: City of Boys by Beth Nugent (which I read and reread constantly because it's absolutely amazing);
Elephants in Our Bedroom by Michael Czyzniejewski;
Nightwork by Christine Schutt