Our last (unless somebody surprises us today--which would be absolutely fine with us if they did) mini-interview for 2017 National Short Story Month, mini-interview #62, is of Amy Gustine, who just might have been the first author to return her questions responded to. She also provided an interesting essay earlier in the month. Her collection, You Should Pity Us Instead, was published by Sarabande in February 2016 and the half or so that I've read has been thoroughly enjoyable.
EWN: Your short story collection, You Should Pity Us Instead, was published in 2016. What story within the collection had the earliest publication history outside of being in the collection, and what was that history?
EWN: How did the publication of this particular collection come about? Were you solicited by the publisher, win a contest, agent submission, etc.?
AG: I sent the manuscript during Sarabande’s open submission month in September and they contracted the book.
EWN: Where do short stories fit within your life as an author? Primary form to work with, or something you write when an idea hits, or …?
AG: I consider them more or less an equal partner with my novel writing. For me every idea arrives in my head pre-ordained as a story or a novel. That might be a strange, unconscious process whereby I’ve learned through reading that all fiction has to fit one of those molds, but I don’t find myself struggling much with whether an idea should be one or the other, or with material that’s too long for a story but too short for a novel. All ideas and characters seem to immediately suggest one or the other clearly to me, and whatever the idea suggests, I go with it.
EWN: Where do short stories fit within your life as a reader?
AG: Again, I’d say they fit in as equal partners—but this time the split is three-way. I read novels, short stories and nonfiction in a constant jumble. I have some pet topics, like anthropology, social psychology, and ethics. Also I’m often doing research for a project, so at any point in time I’m reading some odd nonfiction book that’s research for whatever I’m writing. If I’m absorbed in a nonfiction book for research, I find it especially enjoyable to take a break and read a story. It’s a shorter diversion than a novel.
EWN: How will you be celebrating National Short Story Month this May?
AG: I think I’ll make a concerted effort to read one story every day. That seems so doable. Why I have rarely been able to meet the commitment, I don’t know. Too much TV probably.
EWN: Thank you very much for your time!
Amy Gustine is the author of the story collection, You Should Pity Us Instead (Sarabande Books), which was recently named a finalist for the 2017 Ohioanna Book Award in Fiction. Her work has also been awarded special mention in the Pushcart Prize anthology and she is the recipient of an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award for 2016. Her fiction has appeared in several journals, including The Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row Journal, The Kenyon Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, North American Review and Black Warrior Review.