lives in Seattle. She is author of
the novel Seven Loves and a contributing editor of The American
with Valerie Trueblood
How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?
Valerie Trueblood: Years. They were written and rewritten over a long period, and a few
individual stories, the longer ones, took about a year. I'm slow. They
had half-lives: they would get halfway done, and then I'd think I could
see the end but the remaining half would get halfway done,
etc.--infinite halves. If I could get hold of them now I'd probably
start right in crossing things out and scrawling up & down the
margins. I don't think in terms of words-per-day, that's for sure; I
don't see how people do, if they're writing short stories. A day isn't a
unit of measure, for me.
have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
VT: I didn't have a specific collection in mind, other than that phantom
Book we all imagine, but I knew I had a lot of stories and I could see
they were clumping into groups. I have maybe a dozen stories about
rescue, for instance--different ways in which people rescue each other.
And any number of my stories, I began to see, could go into a book
about marriage, because marriage has a part in so many other things that
go on: military ventures and presidencies and economic collapse. It's
a big subject, not a small one, even though what women write about it
is called domestic. What men write about it is called sociological or
you choose which stories to include and in what order?
VT: One day the title Marry or Burn came to me. There's
no story in the book called that, but I love the title, from Paul's
letter to the Corinthians in which he tells them, rather harshly, I
think, that if they can't be celibate it's better to marry than to burn.
It was my editor's idea to open the book with Amends, in which the
marriage ends in the first paragraph, with a murder. More or less the
extreme, in marriage. I think she was right.
does the word "story"
mean to you?
VT: My favorite word. From early childhood I told myself stories, often out
loud when I thought I was alone, which caused a lot of mirth in my
family. "Story" is our lives. To me our lives resemble a collection of
stories more than they ever resemble a novel. If you're fortunate
enough to have someone who wants to hear your life story and you start
telling it, it probably won't be chronological and it probably won't
have a resolution. Probably it will have these little capsules of
Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?
VT: Not a real person. Sometimes I have one of the characters in the story
in mind. I imagine him or her hearing these things told--private
events. I want to get close to what he or she would think is the truth
of what went on. It isn't necessarily what I think is the truth. This
feeling is a spur to keeping the point of view.
anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection, anything at all?
VT: It's hard to imagine questioning somebody about this. I'd be hoping,
but doubt I could ask, that one or other of the stories gave her/him
that exhilaration I feel when I read the stories of certain writers.
TSR: How does
it feel knowing that people are buying your book?
VT: That's a strange feeling. Wonderful but unsettling.
When Seven Loves came out, some readers--as happens with many first
books--thought the story was autobiography, which it wasn't. But the
thought of people spending their money to have my stories: that warms
my heart. I like those people; I'd send them copies.
What are you working on now?
VT: More stories. A collection of stories about children.
the three most recent short story collections you've read?
VT: I Am Not Jackson Pollock by John Haskell (a re-reading; love this book),
The Collected Stories of Mavis Gallant, Gold Boy, Emerald Girl by Yiyun
Lee, Love in Infant Monkeys by Lydia Millett, and The Little Comedy and
Other Stories, by Arthur Schnitzler. I know that's five but I was
reading them all at the same time.