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Geoffrey Forsyth

Geoffrey Forsyth graduated from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His fiction has appeared in Other Voices, New Orleans Review, CutBank, RHINO, and elsewhere. His story Mud appeared in the 2007 Norton Anthology New Sudden Fiction. He lives with his wife and two children in La Grange Park, Illinois.

Short story collections

In the Land of the free (Rose Metal Press, 2008) 

Winner, Rose Metal Press Second Annual Short Short Chapbook Contest, 2008

Reviewed by Steven Wingate

Interview with Geoffrey Forsyth

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

Geoffrey Forsyth: I began writing these stories nine years ago, about the time my wife and I were having kids. These stories are as old as my children. They were written between naps and feedings, and then they were written and revised during school hours and before and after t-ball practice and swim lessons. Sometimes I think they were written in my sleep.

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

GF: After the second or third one I began thinking about the broader shape. I wanted, yes, a collection, but I wanted them to hang together in a shapely way; I wanted each to have a kind of relationship with the others, though not so much as to overwhelm the reader with a larger story. In the end, it is my belief that a short story of any kind should be able to exist alone.

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

GF: Maturation was what I came to use as a guiding structure. A character is born in my first story, then gradually the characters get older, more experienced. It’s the ones I left out of the collection that I feel sorry about. They just didn’t fit in with the rest, which has me right now sounding like a mean kindergarten teacher. Still, I was after something that would feel more whole or solid or unifying. The ones I cut are good swimmers, though. I have faith they’ll be rescued some day.

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

GF:  Great question! To me, a story is anything that holds my attention. To be a writer of a story, well…there’s the discovery of knowing what you knew all along but couldn’t say it. That is very gratifying. But a story, to me, is also that thing that’s keeping me from my children, my wife, my job, my next meal. Reality—in other words.

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

GF: Yes, of course. The reader I have in my mind is quite a bit bigger than me and very muscular and hairy, and on top of that he’s a weapons expert, and he listens to Death Metal or Death Clown Metal, or whatever you call it. And anyway this guy is also a real sweetheart, deep down; he volunteers his time at humane societies, and suchlike, and he loves his mother and whatnot, and mostly he’s straight, but other times he’s gay, and well, he’s very hard to please, so what you wind up doing is just getting in there and giving it your best shot, and mostly I fail him, but sometimes I don’t.

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

GF:I like to know where people are from, where they grew up. That stuff always interests me.

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

GF:I don’t know. I don’t know if people are buying In The Land Of The Free. If they are buying it and enjoying it, I would feel happy. If they are buying it, and they hate it and want their money back, I will feel sad and mortified and rejected.

TSR: What are you working on now?

GF:I have to come up with a 55 word story by October, where I will read my 55 word story at a bar in downtown Chicago for the Quickies Reading Series. So far it’s going good. I’ve got four words. They’re all keepers.

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

GF: When Grace Paley died I bought that collection of all her stories. What a wonderful book. What an artist she was! I also read Tobias Wolff’s The Night In Question. What an artist he is! Brilliant! And I just finished the 2008 New Sudden Fiction from America and Beyond edited by Shapard and Thomas. These guys put together another beauty. Thanks a ton! This was fun.