Tina May Hall's stories have appeared or are forthcoming in 3rd bed, the minnesota review, Quarterly West, Black Warrior Review, Water-Stone Review, Fairy Tale Review, and other journals. Her novella in prose poems, All the Day's Sad Stories, was published by Caketrain Press in the spring of 2009.
teaches at Hamilton College and lives in the snowy Northeast with her
husband and son in a house with a ghost in the radiator.
The Physics of Imaginary Objects
(University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010)
by Diane Becker
with Tina May Hall
How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?
Tina May Hall: Around
ten years. I work very ploddingly. It always seems to take me a few
months to write the first draft, and then I come back to it a year or
so later with some better idea of the shape and where the story needs
to go. And then maybe two years later, I really figure out where the
story needs to go. And then I try to avoid looking at the story for
a while. And then maybe I send it out to try to convince myself it
is done. I am definitely prone to fiddling with the stories—revision
is the really pleasurable part for me.
have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
I’m always working on several things at once because of the
glacial pace at which I work. And I’ve been working on a couple of
longer projects for the past several years and starting stories on
the side. So one day it suddenly occurred to me that I had enough
material for a collection and I started compiling things and throwing
you choose which stories to include and in what order?
think writers generally have a pretty good sense of which stories
have achieved the shape they need to in order to hold up. It is kind
of like throwing a pot—your fingertips can just feel when it is in
balance. Though I will say that there is one story in the collection
that I had second thoughts about and tried to remove after the book
was accepted by the press, but my editor convinced me otherwise. In
terms of the order, I have a lot of very short stories and then a
novella made up of short shorts, so some of the placement was based
purely on length and changing that up so readers weren’t just
bombarded with a long stretch of very brief pieces. Also, I tend to
work with repeated imagery across stories, so it was a bit like a
jigsaw puzzle trying to get that into a pattern that had the right
does the word "story"
mean to you?
a story is a thing you give to your best friend after her third bad
breakup when she calls you crying at dawn and a story is a thing you
tuck around your child when he wakes with a fever and death dreams in
the middle of the night and a story is a thing to hold in your mouth
during dentist appointments and long train rides and endless
Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?
but after years of teaching writing, I have a pesky sense of what it
means to set up reader expectations and a feeling of obligation to
satisfy (at least in part) those expectations.
anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection, anything at all?
did you grow up? Do you remember anything before the age of five?
How did you get that scar on your knee? Do you watch reality
television? Would you pass the salt?
TSR: How does
it feel knowing that people are buying your book?
it is kind of horrifying. And delightful. And of course, I’m very
grateful to them for doing it.
What are you working on now?
working on a novel about Victorian arctic exploration that is endless
because the research is too wonderful.
the three most recent short story collections you've read?
Yoon’s Once the Shore, Brian Evenson’s Fugue State,
and Jennifer Pashley’s States.