Erika Dreifus lives and writes in New York City. Erika is a contributing editor for The Writer magazine and Fiction Writers Review and an advisory board member for J Journal: New Writing on Justice. Erika’s writing practice encompasses fiction, poetry, and nonfiction.

Short Story Collections

Quiet Americans
(Last Light Studio, 2011)

reviewed by Sarah Salway

Interview with Erika Dreifus

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

Erika Dreifus: I began drafting the story titled Lebensraum in the fall of 2001, during my first semester in an MFA program, and I finished tweaking Mishpocha in early 2010. Between eight and nine years.

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

ED: I wouldn’t say that I envisaged this collection exactly as it stands, but when I began writing stories, I certainly hoped that one day, I’d have a collection.

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

ED: I received some excellent advice over the years from two literary agents: Julie Barer and Eric Simonoff. Although both of them ultimately passed on representing the work, they provided remarkably generous, detailed, and encouraging feedback that helped me shape the book. The sequence also relies on a roughly chronological thread. The first three stories take place before or during World War II; the last three stories take place in the early 21st century; and the middle story is set, well, in the middle: 1972.

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

ED: In the simplest terms, for me, a story is a narrative with a beginning, a middle, and an end. This might sound ridiculously reductive (not to mention woefully anti-experimental), but it's amazing to me how hard it can be to write something that meets this very basic definition.

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

ED: At the start, I try not to. I try to simply let the story emerge.

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

ED: I'd love to know what might have drawn him/her to it.

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

ED: It is humbling, exciting, and terrifying at the same time.

TSR: What are you working on now?

ED: I'm at the very beginning of a new fiction project--too soon to say much more about it. I'm also continuing to write poems--maybe someday, if I continue to work very hard and have some luck, I'll publish a collection of poems, too. Plus the usual mix of book review assignments, essays-in-progress, and items for my two blogs and Practicing Writer newsletter.

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

ED: Danielle Evans, Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self; Siobhan Fallon, You Know When the Men Are Gone; and Ferdinand von Schirach (trans. Carol Janeway), Crime.
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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 >>>