Terese Svoboda is the author of five volumes of poetry and four novels, including Tin God (Nebraska 2006), and, most recently, a nonfiction book, Glasses Like Clark Kent: A GI’s Secret from Postwar Japan, winner of the Graywolf Nonfiction Prize. In 2006 she won an O. Henry Award for her short story 80’s Lilies

Short Story Collections

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Trailer Girl
(University of Nebraska Press, 2009)

reviewed by Nuala Ni Chonchúir

Interview with Terese Svoboda

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

Terese Svoboda: The oldest one is from the early 90’s. You might notice that I refer to video coupons in the first one—always beware the technological anachronism!

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

TS: For Trailer Girl and Other Stories, I presented the publisher with a novel and a collection of short stories. He put the two together, eliminating a number of the stories. The result was completely different from the collection I had originally assembled. So much for planning the structure.

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

TS: I used Sundress as the fulcrum in the middle of the book to begin the section with the stories. Its characters resemble those in the novella yet propel the narrative in an entirely new direction. I ended with White because it refers to family as pieces of chicken shaken up inside a bag of flour and seasonings, a metaphor that I thought encompassed the wild familial theme of the whole book. In between I looked for associations between subjects and age and voice so the reader might not be thrown too far out of the texture of the book.

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

TS: A short work of writing that keeps your attention and provides some kind of satisfaction, usually emotional, by its end.

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

TS: Me. I bore easily and since I have to read and rewrite a story hundreds of times, I like to keep raising the bar.

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

TS:  Did they go to the stories first for a taste, or start right at the novella?

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

TS: I’m delighted. However, it’s very hard to find out how many, given the big market of resale through Amazon.

TSR: What are you working on now?

TS:  A novel about a contemporary Scylla, one of the two demons in the Odyssey. In September this year (2010) Dzanc Books will publish Pirate Talk or Mermalade, a novel about two pirates who are brothers who meet a mermaid. It’s written only in voices and it was very amusing to write. Sometimes constraints create more interesting writing. In 2011, Bison Books is publishing another girl of mine, Bohemian Girl, a story about a girl who was lost in a bet by her father to an Indian. It’s my answer to Willa Cather, who also appears in it. I haven’t abandoned the short story. I hope to make another book out of the hundred or so that I have published since Trailer Girl, but it’s easier to publish another novel.

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

TS:  Maile Meloy’s Both Ways Is The Only Way I Want It, Jeffery Renard Allen’s Holding Pattern, and Lydia Millet’s Love in Infant Monkeys.
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Find out what other authors, from Aimee Bender to Sana Krasikov, said about their collections, what the word "story" means to them, and how it feels to know that people are buying your books! More interviews >>>

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