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Stephanie Johnson


Website: OneofTheseStories.com

Stephanie Johnson lives in Madison, Wisconsin. Her work has appeared in many top American literary journals including SmokeLong Quarterly and Night Train.

Short Story Collections

One Of These Things Is Not Like the Other
Keyhole Press, 2009

Reviewed by Melissa Lee-Houghton

 Interview with Stephanie Johnson

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

Stephanie Johnson: A few of the stories are older, but the majority of the collection was written in about 18 months.

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

SJ: No. I tend to have a narrow focus when I work. I concentrate on getting a particular story out one word at a time. I tend to be in the moment: nothing bigger than that word in that paragraph in that story matters.

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

SJ: I tried to do both on a gut level, by feel. I think stories really belong to readers and I wanted to approach structuring the collection as a reader, not a writer. I didn't want to over-think the connections or themes. I think that when you try to impose your interpretations on readers, when you try to say, look ... you need to see exactly what I want you to see in the way I want you to see it, it's almost always a disaster. You do readers a disservice by denying them the sense of discovery.

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

SJ:  A question. A gut punch. A kick in the ass.

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

SJ: I don't. If I draft with a reader in mind, I have a tendency to try too hard to get the reader to like me and, in the process, I lose focus on the story. The writing tends to draw attention to itself and the story can get buried. I choose words I like rather than the words the story needs. For me, in the drafting stage, the story is the most important thing. The writer's ego can't be involved and the writer can't be concerned with how readers will judge a story. The story has to unfold at its own pace. However, in the revision stage, I try to see the story the way a reader would and cut and add as needed.

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

SJ: I think stories belong to readers, not to writers. Readers are smart and if I have the good fortune to hear from them, I try to shut up and listen. I think there's value in discovering what readers find worth discussing. For example, I've heard from people who've discovered themes and connections in One of These Things that I didn't see. It's fantastic - I have the benefit of a new perspective. That's the way it should be: I never want to stop seeing these stories in new ways.

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

SJ: It's thrilling and humbling.

TSR: What are you working on now?

SJ: I'm starting work on a new collection. I can't tell you more because I'm afraid if I talk about it, I won't need to write it. It's a bit ridiculous, but I'm horribly superstitious that way.

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

SJ: I just finished an advance copy of Shellie Zacharia's Now Playing which is forthcoming from Keyhole Press, I re-read Matt Bell's How the Broken Lead the Blind, and I'm currently reading Wells Tower's Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned. All three are fabulous.