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Andrew Porter

Website: AndrewPorterWriter.com

Andrew Porter received his B.A. in English from Vassar College and an M.F.A. in Fiction Writing from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His fiction has appeared in One Story, Epoch, The Ontario Review, Prairie Schooner, The Antioch Review, StoryQuarterly, The Threepenny Review, Others Voices, Story and The Pushcart Prize Anthology, among others. Currently, Andrew lives in San Antonio, where he is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Trinity University.

Short story collections

The Theory of Light and Matter (University of Georgia Press, Oct 2008) 

Winner, 2007 Flannery O'Connor Award in Short Fiction

Reviewed by Carol Reid

Interview with Andrew Porter

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

Andrew Porter That's kind of a hard question to answer. On the one hand, there are a couple of very old stories in this collection, stories that date all the way back to the year I entered grad school. These stories were among the few I was able to salvage after my computer was stolen and I lost the vast majority of what was then my first collection of stories. It took me several years to get back on track and start writing again after that, and so the rest of the stories in the collection date from 2001 on, and I probably finished most of these stories by 2006. So I guess technically it took me about ten years to write, but the majority of the stories were written in the past five or six.

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

AP: Not at all. I mean, I was thinking about a collection as the end result of all my efforts, but I wasn't thinking about how the stories were going to fit together as a whole until I had finished. I was just working on one story at a time, trying to make that story the best story it could be. It wasn't until I felt I had about ten or twelve that were strong enough to include that I started thinking about how these stories were actually going to work off one another.

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

AP: The collection could have probably been about twice as long had I included all of the stories I had on my computer at the time, but I wanted to make sure that each story in the collection was a story I stood behind a hundred percent. I also wanted to choose stories that fit together tonally and thematically, which meant that I had to cut out a few of the published stories that I had originally planned to use. As for the order, well, I just kind of went on instinct. It was hard for me to resist the temptation to simply put all of the strongest stories up front, which had been my original plan. Instead, I wanted the collection, as a whole, to have some type of logical progression to it, which meant that I had to think a lot about the way each story worked off the story that came before it and after it. Of course, I was working under the assumption that most readers would be reading these stories in order, which I realize a lot of readers (including myself) don't. In any event, I basically tried a lot of different combinations until I found an order that seemed to make sense.

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

AP:  Not to cop out, but I've always loved V.S. Pritchett's definition of a story—or, at least a short story—as "something glimpsed from the corner of the eye, in passing" I don't think I could say it any better than that.

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

AP: Kind of. There are certain people whose opinions matters to me a lot—three close friends from Iowa and of course my girlfriend. I don't know that I'm thinking about these people consciously as I'm writing the story, but when I'm revising it I tend to gage whether or not I feel the story is finished by whether or not I'm ready to show it to one of them.

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

AP: Which was your favorite story? It's always interesting to hear the answer to this question. Of course, if I was braver, I'd also ask which story was your least favorite, but I'm not that brave.

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

AP: It feels amazing, especially when I get emails from random people who have no connection to me. I mean, it's nice when people you know read your book, but it's somehow more exciting when a total stranger does. Those emails make my day.

TSR: What are you working on now?

AP: A novel. I'd say more about it, but I tend to be superstitious about these things.

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

AP: Charles D'Ambrosio's The Dead Fish Museum, Rebecca Curtis's Twenty Grand and Other Stories and Julie Orringer's Breathing Under Water. All three are brilliant, beautiful collections.