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Kyle Minor

photo credit: Miriam Berkley

Website: KyleMinor.com

Kyle Minor's work has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, notably Best American Mystery Stories 2008, The Gettysburg Review, The Southern Review, Surreal South and Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers: The Best New Voices of 2006. He has twice been nominated for The Pushcart Prize. He is co-editor of The Other Chekhov (New American Press 2008). Originally from Florida, he is now Visiting Writer at the University of Toledo, Ohio.

Short Story Collections

In The Devil's Territory
Dzanc Books, 2008

Reviewed by Susannah Rickards

 Interview with Kyle Minor

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

Kyle Minor: Four years, but that's misleading, because I was writing all kinds of other things during the same period. I drafted seven yet-unfinished novels, for example, and portions of a book-length memoir that I still haven't finished, plus lots of other stories and essays and poems, some published, some not. I'm a restless writer, for good or for ill.

TSR: Did you have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
How did you choose which stories to include and in what order?

KM: I didn't have this collection in mind until Dzanc Books called to say that they wanted to publish a collection. By then I had published lots of stories, poems, and essays. The one that interested them most was the novella A Day Meant to Do Less, which also appeared in Best American Mystery Stories 2008. The task, then, was to build a collection around that story. I decided to choose stories that were grounded in the conventions of psychological realism, and which dealt explicitly with the ways human beings operate out of their own contradictory impulses. And I wanted the people in the stories to proceed from the same tiny enclave of Southern Baptists in West Palm Beach, Florida, in the early 1980's.
   Out of all the stories I had, only one really fit, goodbye Hills, hello night, which is a murder story. I also took a personal essay, The San Diego County Credit Union Poisettia Bowl Party, which had appeared in The Southern Review, and fictionalized it, and made it the leadoff story. The other three stories -- A Love Story, The Navy Man, and In the Devil's Territory, are stories I had long planned to write, and the book contract gave me occasion to finish them. The story I most wish I could have included is The Truth and All Its Ugly, an Appalachian robot story set in the future. It's one of the best things I've ever written, but it didn't fit the collection. (But if you're interested, you can find it in the anthology Surreal South, edited by Pinckney and Laura Benedict.)

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

KM:  For the purpose of this book, I guess it meant a yarn in which something happens. Technically, I guess many of these stories, maybe three or four, might be properly called novellas, on grounds of their length, and because their ambition is more novel-like than your ordinary single-movement story with a Joycean epiphany at the end or whatever. Ultimately, I guess these labels don't matter to me that much. I mostly just want to write something that makes the reader feel something he or she hasn't felt before.

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

KM: Not really. I think that's fatal. I try to write through the consciousness of the character at first draft, and to put my own critical eye to things in revision, thinking long and hard about the relationship between the thematic resonance of the story and the shape of the story. But there are readers I hope to please. I think about old teachers, for example, and I think about close friends whose long-term interest in my work is worth honoring. And when I get a nice letter or email about my work about a writer I admire but have never met, I feel like maybe I've done my job and done it well.

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

KM: I wonder how they feel about the title story, In the Devil's Territory, which doesn't work the way the other stories work. It makes its meaning on grounds of juxtapositions of time and place and character, rather than through the eyes of a single character. It asks the reader to do more work, and I notice it's the story that gets mentioned the least in newspaper and journal reviews. I wonder if people are reading it, and if they are, I wonder how it strikes them. I'm very proud of the story, but I know the risk it represents. I wonder if the risk is being rewarded where it counts, which for me would mean that it offers the reader a complicated pleasure.

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

KM: It feels good, and it feels even better to know that people are reading it. Thanks to the Internet, a writer gets a lot of feedback. I wonder what it was like thirty years ago, when you sent these things into the world and never knew if anyone was moved by them.

TSR: What are you working on now?

KM: 'm working on a nonfiction narrative about a child abduction case in the Haitian countryside, and a novel about some American missionaries, also set in the Haitian countryside.

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

KMThe last five story collections I've read were all re-readings of books I love and love and love: The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat; We're in Trouble  by Christopher Coake; Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollock; The End of the Straight and Narrow by David McGlynn; and Later, at the Bar by Rebecca Barry.