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Roy Kesey

Website: RoyKesey.com & MySpace.com/roykesey

Roy Kesey was born and raised in northern California, and currently lives in Beijing with his wife and children. His fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared in more than fifty magazines and anthologies, including McSweeney's, The Kenyon Review, The Georgia Review, Other Voices, Quarterly West, Maisonneuve, the Robert Olen Butler Prize Anthology and New Sudden Fiction. His dispatches from China appear regularly on the McSweeney's website, and his “Little-known Corners” meta-column appears monthly in That's Beijing.

Short story collections

All Over (Dzanc Books, 2007) 

Reviewed by Tania Hershman

Interview with Roy Kesey

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

Roy Kesey: I wrote the first draft of the oldest story in this collection (Hat) 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?

RK: 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?

RK: 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?

RK: 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
collection, anything at all?

RK: Nope. But I’ll very much hope they enjoyed it.

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

RK: 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?

RK: 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 lizards. Biiiiiiiiiiig lizards.

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

RK: All of them spectacular, as it happens: Lucy Corin’s The Entire Predicament Jonathan Messinger’s Hiding Out Lee K. Abbott’s All Things, All at Once