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Cristina Henriquez

Website: CristinaHenriquez.com

Cristina Henríquez’s stories have been published in The New Yorker, Glimmer Train, Ploughshares, TriQuarterly, and AGNI. She earned her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She lives with her husband in Chicago.

Short story collections

Come Together, Fall Apart  (Riverhead, 2006)

Reviewed by Liz Prato

Interview with Cristina Henriquez

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

Cristina Henriquez: The earliest story in the book, Mercury, was written when I was a sophomore in college (although the version that appears is extensively revised from that one) and the newest, Ashes, was written about five years after that. I was working on other things in between, but I guess you could say five years from start to finish.

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

CH: Not at all. Not at the beginning, anyway. I was primarily just trying to get through each story, make it work, figure it out. It wasn't until I had about four solid stories written that I started thinking they might work together as a collection.

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

CH: There was never any question about which stories to include. It wasn't like I had fifteen good stories and needed to whittle it down to a collection from that. I only had nine pieces that really worked, so those nine went in. The order was mostly up to my editor, although I knew I wanted the novella last and I thought i wanted the first story to be one with a first line I liked. When I go to bookstores, I read the first line of books and, for better or worse, make some kind of decision about whether to read further based on that. I liked the first line of Yanina--"Yanina has asked me to marry her forty-five times"--so I think I may have suggested that as the first story. But after that it was more about creating balance so that the book felt even all the way through.

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

CH: To me it just means a telling. It might have a classic beginning, middle, end. It might not. It might be fictional. It might not. It might be oral or visual or written. I don't know. I just think of it as a telling, with entertainment as its core--though certainly not sole--purpose.

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

CH: I remember when I started taking writing classes and my teachers would say things about how we should think of the sort of reader we were writing for, but I was never able to do that for myself. If I start thinking about readers, I get too anxious about what I'm writing and freeze up or at the very least don't write as fluidly as I could. Honestly, I can't tell you what I'm thinking about when I'm writing beyond the words, the story, the task at hand. When things are going well, that part of it is so totally absorbing that there isn't room for much else.

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

CH: I always want to ask Panamanians whether the way I've rendered their country is authentic. That's something I worry about a lot; I work really hard to make sure that the details I include in my stories are true to Panama and a native Panamanian's experience. I feel a huge self-imposed responsibility to get that stuff right.

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

CH: It feels ridiculous and great and surprising and terrifying. I still can't believe it sometimes. And then I have little moments where I freak out that people are not only buying it, but reading it, which means that I and my writing ultimately can and will be judged. Scary! But I'm thankful, of course. It's amazing that I get to do this as a job.

TSR: What are you working on now?

CH: I just finished writing a novel called The World in Half, which will be published next year. But almost the day after I turned it in, I started a new story. I can't help myself. Short stories are my true, true love.

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

CH: Yes, Yes, Cherries by Mary Otis; Blood Pudding by Art Corriveau; Migration Patterns by Gary Schanbacher