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Mary Miller 


Mary Miller's stories have been published in Black Clock, Mississippi Review, Oxford American, New Stories from the South, 2008 and McSweeney's Quarterly. A collection of short short stories, Less Shiny, is published by Magic Helicopter Press. She is an associate editor at Quick Fiction.

Short Story Collections

Big World
Hobart Short Flight/Long Drive Books, 2009

Reviewed by Tania Hershman

Less Shiny
Magic Helicopter Press, 2008

 Interview with Mary Miller

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

Mary Miller: Somewhere around three years. The first story I wrote, My Brother in Christ, was probably the second short story I'd ever written. And though I like it, the writing feels "early" to me, like I'm still trying to find my voice. It's also one of the only stories I've ever written in third person. I just don't like third person. The last story I wrote was the title story, which is probably my favorite.

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

MM: No, I didn't think in terms of a collection, but I think the stories have a similar feel to them, especially if you take out Leak, which is told from a child's POV. That's actually what people either love or hate about Big World. You could pluck the narrator out of Full and put her in Even the Interstate is Pretty or Temp and they could be the same person at different points in her life.

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

MM: This is basically every story I had. I think I sent one or two others that Elizabeth (Ellen) nixed, but this was just about everything. As far as the ordering, we knew we wanted Leak first and a shorter, "punchier" story second. After that I just tried to separate the repetive things (like Back to the Future references and dead mothers).

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

MM:  I like stories that put me in another person's life and make me feel what he/she feels. I don't think they have to be complete, or have resolutions. For the most part, life doesn't have fast or easy resolutions and I don't think stories should have them, either. As such, my stories are often called "slices-of-life" or "vignettes" and it still bugs me (because people mean it as an insult) but I don't really care. I like vignettes.

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

MM:  I write stories that I want to read. I'm copying this answer from somebody, or a lot of somebodies, but I actually do like reading my stories. I guess they are are also for girls like me, but I don't really know what I'm like.

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

MM: Do you think I need therapy? And, if so, would you be willing to chip in?

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

MM: It feels pretty awesome. I didn't really think about people buying it, or reading it. The only way I can write stories is to assume they'll never be published. It's the only way I can be honest. Also, it's terrifying. I don't really want people to know me, or to think they know me.

TSR: What are you working on now?

MM: I'm working on a manuscript of flash fiction. It's about 75 pages, though I need more stories that have nothing to do with men or sex, and I'm hoping it will end up at about 100 pages. I think I might even have a publisher for it, so I'm excited about that. I'm also working on another short story collection and a novel, though I don't think I'm a novelist. It's not what I enjoy, but it's a challenge and I like challenges.

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

MMCity of Boys by Beth Nugent (which I read and reread constantly because it's absolutely amazing); Elephants in Our Bedroom by Michael Czyzniejewski; Nightwork by Christine Schutt