Words in Place

Gay Degani has published in anthologies as well as in online journals including Smokelong Quarterly, Night Train, 3:AM Magazine, Metazen and Emprise Review. She is the editor of Flash Fiction Chronicles.

Short Story Collections

Pomegranate Stories
(Lulu, 2009)

reviewed by Annie Clarkson

Interview with Gay Degani

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

Gay Degani: The stories I published in Pomegranate came out of three years of writing and subbing, but only after years of struggling to understand how to create a story that "works." For a long time, I could write dialog, original description, a twist or two, but I just couldn’t pull it together into one meaning piece of writing.
   What I finally realized is that I have to go back into my stories once I think they're done, ask myself some key questions, and then rewrite. Those key questions include: what does my main character wants at the beginning of the story, what keeps her from getting it, and what is revealed or learned.
   This sounds like formula, and this is why so many writers avoid these questions. However, I’ve found asking questions doesn’t dictate answering in a formulaic way. It means a well-placed word—the perfect word—or a precise phrase can be added to serve the story in this way. Once I do this step in the writing process, I’m able to layer in more layers of meaning which is what most readers want.

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

GD: No. Not at all. My goal for the last few years has been to learn to write a story that would resonate. I discovered during the rewriting process that I have specific things I want to say, things about family, love, betrayal, relationships, choices, and disappointment.

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

GD: When I searched through my stories for a common denominator, I found I had several focusing on mothers and daughters. I was a little surprised I had so many. I played with the order and ultimately decided to rely on some deep instinct as to how they would transition one into the other. I did want to start with something more hopeful like Listing Lisa because I tend to write stories that are less so.

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

GD: Stories are explorations of what an author thinks and feels about experience. And for readers, stories allow them to understand what it's like to be someone else.

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

GD: For me, the reader comes into my process after I’ve had an idea and developed it into a draft. Once I have a feel for what a story can be, I try to make certain the story is clear and unexpected. As a reader, my favorite stories are deep explorations of emotion and experience that deliver some kind of ah-ha moment or surprise. Surprise, but set-up in the story so that it also feels inevitable.

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

GD: Which one did you like best and why?

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

GD: The "buying," in all honesty, hasn’t been huge, but I am grateful for the reactions I’ve gotten from so many readers. People seem to like the stories and often tell me they remember and think about them days after they’ve read them. This, to me, feels like real success.

TSR: What are you working on now?

GD: I’m working on a second collection, this one called A Basic Truth about Some Girls, and just like everyone, I have a novel in the works.

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

GD: Lorrie Moore’s Self-Help, Raymond Carver’s Where I’m Calling From, The Collected Stories of Carole Shields, but I rarely read a whole collection through at one time. 
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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 >>>