How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?
Kesey: I wrote the first draft of the oldest story in this
in late 1997, and (much to the chagrin of my editors) I was working on
the newest story ([Exeunt.])
right up until we went to press in early 2007. Another book and any
number of other projects interrupted along the way, but all the same,
let’s call it a decade and change.
TSR: Did you
have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
Well, yes and no.
(As an old history teacher of mine often
reminds me, this is the answer to most questions.)
That is to say, on one hand, not really:
all the energy I had went into whatever story I was working on at the
moment, as I tried to make sure that I was paying sufficient attention
to voice and pace, to keeping the energy high, to getting the right
words to speak to whatever formal concern interested me in that
particular piece. But on the other hand, sure, even long before I had
anywhere near enough work for your question to need an answer, I was
hoping that at some point I’d have a set of stories that
cohered in some way.
TSR: How did
you choose which stories to include and in what order?
Somewhere along the line — two or
three years ago, I guess — I realized that I was closing in
on having enough material for not one collection but two. I went
through all of the stories, trying to sort out a way to split them up
more or less evenly. None of the usual suspects (time, place,
character, theme) stepped forward, so I went back to the matter of
form, and ended up splitting the mass down the middle, with the more
structurally playful work to one side and the less-so to the other
side. The stories in All
Over are all from the more-so half.
Once that was done, I wanted the book
itself to share the same conceit, so after discarding a few stories
that no longer seemed quite strong enough to pull their weight, I did
what I could to arrange the rest such that no two stories in a row have
too much in common in terms of length, form, character, or point of
view. That turned out to be a not-quite-possible puzzle, but it was fun
work all the same.
TSR: Do you
have a "reader" in mind when you write stories?
Not through the first dozen drafts. Once I’ve got a story
more or less in shape, though, I always give it one more draft to make
sure it’s up to the standards of my first reader, who also
happens to be my best reader, who also happens to be wife.
TSR: Is there
anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your
anything at all?
Nope. But I’ll very much hope they enjoyed it.
TSR: How does it feel knowing that people are buying your book?
Magnificent! There are so many other ways to spend one’s
money and time, so many other books out and about in the world... Even
better, though, is to find out one way or another (e.g. at readings,
via email, in unexpected reviews) that a given reader found the book
worthy of their investment.
TSR: What are
you working on now?
My next book, a novel set in Peru in the late ‘90s. I
don’t want to jinx things, but if everything pans out, the
book will deal with several different sorts of history, and with the
ways we use and are used by them. And also with love. And also with