Alexandra Leggat  is the author of two previous collections of short fiction, Pull Gently, Tear Here and Meet Me in the Parking Lot, as well as a volume of poetry. A freelance writer and editor, she also teaches creative writing classes and conducts writing workshops. She currently lives in Toronto.

Short Story Collections

(Anvil Press, 2009)

reviewed by Daniela I. Norris

Pull Gently, Tear Here
(Insomniac Press, 2001)

Meet Me in the Parking Lot
(Insomniac Press, 2004)

Interview with Alexandra Leggat

The Short Review: How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?

Alexandra Leggat: It's hard to say because I didn't have the luxury of working on it full time. I wrote it when I could, in between teaching and working other jobs, so all in all the whole thing took over a year to finish. I usually write the individual stories quite quickly then take time to edit them. Also, I didn't know where to send this one or what to do with it and that decision in itself took the most time - the writing of the storeis themselves is the quickest and easiest part!

TSR: Did you have a collection in mind when you were writing them?

AL: Yes, I always have a whole in mind. What the whole will be, I don't know. But I'm conscious of each piece being a brick in the yet-to-be determined structure, that it will be a book. But I don't link the stories to fit a certain theme or anything. They accidentally connect or relate to each other in the end.

TSR: How did you choose which stories to include and in what order?

ALI used pretty much all the stories I wrote for this collection. I did write three new ones to add to it once Brian Kaufman from Anvil accepted it. Brian wanted this book to be as long as my previous books and I agreed with him. I did feel the manuscript was a bit slight, so I wrote Blue Parrot, Colt 45 and The Market in a couple of weeks to add to the collection. And they naturally fell into place as the last three stories. I find order dictates itself. The stories somehow fall into their natural place. In Animal they did, at least. The funny thing is though, when I read this book, and I couldn't read the first three books when they were first published, but this one I do, I read it from back to front. I wondered if the latter stories should be at the beginning, but I realize that the order of these stories also illustrates where I'm going with my writing. The last few stories are in keeping with the evolution of my work.

TSR: What does the word "story" mean to you?

AL:  Many things. Essentially story means an experience, a moment, an essence of life be it an event, a feeling, a person, place or thing. That sounds vague but the beauty of story is it illuminates a happening, no matter what that happening is or thing is, no matter how slight - like a world in word. Story is a neccesity, like breath, I guess, like light.

TSR: Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?

AL:  No.

TSR: Is there anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection, anything at all?

AL: In the past, I've strayed away from asking questions if I don't really want to know the answer. However, I must admit this book is different for me in many ways. I feel differently about it. I discovered this when a friend of mine told me he finished it and I actually wanted to ask him what his favourite story was. I would never have wondered that before. Why, I don't know. But with this book, I care more for some reason and want to know what story is someone's favourite. So that would be my question - what was their favourite story. And then I'd have to ask why? My friend ended up telling me, without me having to ask though - his favourite was Sweet Tea.

TSR: How does it feel knowing that people are buying your book?

AL: When I know, it feels really good, exciting, but with this one, it's also incredibly nerve-racking. Especially if I know the person. It is an odd experience that I feel disconnected from and too close to. It feels strange all in all, it really does! But good - a good strange! It would feel a hell of a lot more nerve-racking if they weren't buying it!

TSR: What are you working on now?

AL: In my head, there's a new thing brewing. I have the voice and the thread, it's writing itself inside me. In my gut I think I'm going to be writing about a life, opposed to moments in people's lives.

TSR: What are the three most recent short story collections you've read?

ALLast Evenings on Earth by Roberto Bolano - haunting style, I can almost feel his breath when reading it, like he's literally in front of me, reading me the stories! Stick Out Your Tongue by Ma Jian - although they reside in that grey area of fiction and non, they are stories to me - He's one of my ultimate favourite writers! I have everything he's written, that I know of anyway. The Book of Masks by the Korean writer Hwang Sun-won - incredible descriptions and tone and clarity! A master of the short story. And I know you only asked for three but I just reread: England, My England by D.H. Lawrence - another master of the form. Despite the comparisons, I don't read and never read Raymond Carver! hahaha.
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Find out what other authors, from Aimee Bender to Sana Krasikov, said about their collections, what the word "story" means to them, and how it feels to know that people are buying your books! More interviews >>>

Other Interviews with Alexandra Leggat:

Open Book Toronto