JUNE SECOND? How in the hell does that correlate to Short Story Month? This MUST be the Emerging Writers Network--some things wrapped their arms around us the last two weeks and barely let go, so we'll be bombarding you dear readers through the next few days if all goes well.
First up getting back into things is a mini-interview with Allen Wier, whose New and Selected story collection, Late Night, Early Morning was published by University of Tennessee Press last October. He was generous with his time earlier this year.
EWN: Your short story collection, Late Night, Early Morning, was published in 2017. What story within the collection had the earliest publication history outside of being in the collection, and what was that history?
ALLEN: The story “Cops and Robbers” that I wrote as an undergraduate won the campus short story award and was published in the university’s literary magazine. A couple of years later, in graduate school, I revised the story and submitted it to The Southern Review. This was my first story accepted by a national magazine. With the money The Southern Review paid me, $55 as I recall, I bought a used, Royal, manual typewriter (it’s gray and had swells and curves that remind me of the lines of a 1940 DeSoto). Over the next fifteen or so years, I wrote several more stories and three novels on that typewriter.
EWN: How did the publication of this particular collection come about? Were you solicited by the publisher, win a contest, agent submission, etc.?
ALLEN: The director of the university press who was familiar with my work approached me about the possibility of publishing a book of mine. We discussed some different options and agreed on a volume of new and selected stories. I put together the manuscript, and the press sent it out for confidential readers’ reports that were presented to the university press board that then approved the offer of a contract to publish 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 …?
ALLEN: Most fiction writers write both novels and stories and many also write nonfiction. To my mind, most are a little better at the novel or the short story, though some seem equally strong. I think of myself as having more of a novelist’s sensibility. Certainly, I’ve spent more time and written many more pages in the novel form (the first draft of my novel, Tehano, was 1486 pages and took me about a decade to complete, though the final, edited version was only 955 ms. pages. After writing that novel, I very much enjoyed stories that I could complete in weeks, even days, and, lately, I have interrupted work on a novel-in-progress to work on some new stories as well as some essays. All three forms have their different difficulties and different delights.
EWN: Where do short stories fit within your life as a reader?
ALLEN: As a writer who works with emerging writers at a university, I read hundreds of stories every year. I welcome novel excerpts, especially in graduate-level workshops, but I think (because in some ways it is easier to discuss a finished story than a chapter from an unfinished novel) creative writing programs have promulgated the notion that short story writing is an apprenticeship for novel writing. I think the two are very different. A bridge between or an amalgam of the novel and a story collection may be emerging in linked story collections that are subtitled “a-novel-in-stories.” I love reading stories (and essays and poems), but my preference, usually, is to settle in for a longer while with a good novel.
EWN: How will you be celebrating National Short Story Month this May?
ALLEN: The same as always. Every month in my life is Short Story Month.
EWN: Thank you very much for your time!
Allen Wier is the author of the novels Blanco, Departing as Air, A Place for Outlaws and Tehano, as well as the short story collections Things about to Disappear and Late Night, Early Morning. His wife Donnie’s painting was used for the cover of his latest.