Ron MacLean's fiction has appeared in GQ, Greensboro Review, Prism
International, Night Train
and other quarterlies. He is a recipient of the Frederick Exley Award
for Short Fiction and a Pushcart Prize nominee, and author of the novel
with Ron MacLean
How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?
minutes and twenty-two seconds. Or, about a decade. Depends on how you
look at it. They were written at all kinds of times in all kinds of
circumstances, but mostly they are creatures of this century. I try to
work quickly to be fresh and spontaneous with ideas, and then I tend to
work sentences forever.
have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
absolutely didn't. I write one story at a time. I always figured that
at some point I'd put a collection together, but it wasn't until I was
struggling with a (still) unfinished novel and needed to give myself a
gift that I started thinking about collecting some of the published
stories, and what such a collection would look like. I mentioned that
at a gathering of writer friends a few days later, and within a week
had two offers to publish a collection.
you choose which stories to include and in what order?
which stories to include was relatively easy. I took the published
stories that still felt like me, and the best of a batch of new
stories. Those two groups became the foundation. Then it was a matter
of shaping a book that felt like a coherent whole. Hah! After weeks of
well-reasoned approaches to ordering the stories that left both editor
Jan Ramjerdi and I unsatisfied, we got in a room together. We started
which we agreed should open the collection, and Symbiosis,
which we agreed should close it, and we read aloud to one another,
working by feel to choose which story should come next. That process
started out of frustration, but Jan and I both loved the result. I'm
deeply grateful to have an editor who's as crazy as I am.
does the word "story"
mean to you?
Wow. So much. Story is how I make sense of the world. Always has been.
When I was a kid, reading stories saved me by giving me a window into a
larger world, and a way to understand myself. Now, writing stories
saves me in much the same ways. Story is the gateway to deep mystery,
and glimpses of truth. Because of all that, my sense of "story" in a
functional sense is intentionally wide open. Story is whatever
construction of narrative engages readers and takes them (us) to a
particular glimpse of mystery and/or truth about what it is to be human
right here, right now.
Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?
I don't. When I start, I'm following the thread of an idea, which is
usually elusive enough that it takes all my focus just to stay with it.
I think more about how to tell a story in order to be true to that idea
– to make it as particular as it can be. Each story should be
completely itself. Beyond that, I'm always trying to write the story I
would most want to read. My experience of hearing from other readers
has validated my trust in that.
anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection,
anything at all?
RM: I always
want to know people's favourite story, and why. Fascinates me. And the
answers are all over the map.
it feel knowing that people are buying your book?
Beautiful and fantastic and glorious and better than any drug. It's
incredibly gratifying to know that the stories – and the novel – are
out in the world, that people are reading them and sometimes being
moved by them.
What are you working on now?
A batch of new short stories. I've had a flurry of ideas and drafts
have been pouring out. Of course, that's probably because I've been
threatening to go back to a novel that's been in the drawer for a year.
the three most recent short story collections you've read?