Tina May Hall's stories have appeared or are forthcoming in 3rd bed, the minnesota review, Quarterly West, Black Warrior Review, Water-Stone Review, Fairy Tale Review, and other journals. Her novella in prose poems, All the Day's Sad Stories, was published by Caketrain Press in the spring of 2009.
   She teaches at Hamilton College and lives in the snowy Northeast with her husband and son in a house with a ghost in the radiator. 

Short Story Collections

The Physics of Imaginary Objects
(University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010)

reviewed by Diane Becker

Interview with Tina May Hall

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

Tina May Hall: Around ten years. I work very ploddingly. It always seems to take me a few months to write the first draft, and then I come back to it a year or so later with some better idea of the shape and where the story needs to go. And then maybe two years later, I really figure out where the story needs to go. And then I try to avoid looking at the story for a while. And then maybe I send it out to try to convince myself it is done. I am definitely prone to fiddling with the stories—revision is the really pleasurable part for me.

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

TMH: No. I’m always working on several things at once because of the glacial pace at which I work. And I’ve been working on a couple of longer projects for the past several years and starting stories on the side. So one day it suddenly occurred to me that I had enough material for a collection and I started compiling things and throwing stuff out.

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

TMH: I think writers generally have a pretty good sense of which stories have achieved the shape they need to in order to hold up. It is kind of like throwing a pot—your fingertips can just feel when it is in balance. Though I will say that there is one story in the collection that I had second thoughts about and tried to remove after the book was accepted by the press, but my editor convinced me otherwise. In terms of the order, I have a lot of very short stories and then a novella made up of short shorts, so some of the placement was based purely on length and changing that up so readers weren’t just bombarded with a long stretch of very brief pieces. Also, I tend to work with repeated imagery across stories, so it was a bit like a jigsaw puzzle trying to get that into a pattern that had the right rhythm.

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

TMH: Oh, a story is a thing you give to your best friend after her third bad breakup when she calls you crying at dawn and a story is a thing you tuck around your child when he wakes with a fever and death dreams in the middle of the night and a story is a thing to hold in your mouth during dentist appointments and long train rides and endless committee meetings.

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

TMH: No, but after years of teaching writing, I have a pesky sense of what it means to set up reader expectations and a feeling of obligation to satisfy (at least in part) those expectations.

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

TMH: Where did you grow up? Do you remember anything before the age of five? How did you get that scar on your knee? Do you watch reality television? Would you pass the salt?

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

TMH: Strangely, it is kind of horrifying. And delightful. And of course, I’m very grateful to them for doing it.

TSR: What are you working on now?

TMH:  I’m working on a novel about Victorian arctic exploration that is endless because the research is too wonderful.

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

TMH:  Paul Yoon’s Once the Shore, Brian Evenson’s Fugue State, and Jennifer Pashley’s States.
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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 >>>