EWN: Your short story collection, The Dark and Other Love Stories, 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?
Deborah Willis: I tend to work on my stories for a long time, doing many drafts, so the collection took me about eight years to complete. It now seems an impossibly (or embarrassingly!) long time. I wrote the title story in 2009, soon after I finished my first collection, and it was published in 2015 in the Virginia Quarterly. The first draft came quickly, but I was busy with edits on the first collection and other distractions, so didn't send anything out to magazines for a while. But one of the wonderful things about writing stories is that you can get this feedback, by sending stories to magazines, long before a book is finished.
EWN: How did the publication of this particular collection come about? Were you solicited by the publisher, win a contest, agent submission, etc.?
Deborah Willis: I had worked with Penguin in Canada on my first book, and was eager to work with them again. (Which is good, since Penguin had the right of first refusal for this manuscript.) The book was picked up by Norton in the U.S. after my agent submitted it. I've been lucky to work with two excellent editors, Nicole Winstanley and Jill Bialosky.
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 …?
Deborah Willis: Up until recently, I dedicated myself to short fiction. I read it and wrote it, and it was my main creative endeavor. I'm now attempting a novel, but I will always love stories and can't wait to return to them.
EWN: Where do short stories fit within your life as a reader?
Deborah Willis: I haven't read many short stories since beginning work on a novel; I felt I had to dedicate myself to this new form in the same way I had focused on stories when I was writing short fiction. But I love reading stories and miss them. They're a challenging form; they ask a lot of readers. But it gives me such a flush of joy when a story is beautifully crafted.
EWN: How will you be celebrating National Short Story Month this May?
Deborah Willis: By dressing up as Chekhov for the entire month! What else?
EWN: Thank you very much for your time!
Deborah Willis: Thank you for all the work you've done to highlight National Short Story Month! It's amazing work.
Deborah Willis was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta. Her first book, Vanishing and Other Stories, was named one of the the Globe and Mail's Best Books of 2009, and was shortlisted for the Governor General's Award. She was a bookseller at Munro's Books in Victoria, BC, a writer-in-residence at Joy Kogawa House in Vancouver, BC, the 2012-2013 Calgary Distinguished Writers Program writer-in-residence at the University of Calgary, and the Writer in Residence at MacEwan University in Edmonton.
Her second collection of short stories was published in February 2017 by Hamish Hamilton, the literary imprint of Penguin Random House Canada, and W.W. Norton and Company in the U.S, and will be translated into Italian by Del Vecchio Editore. The Dark and Other Love Stories was long-listed for the 2017 Giller Prize, won the Georges Bugnet Award for best work of fiction published in Alberta, and was named one of the best books of the year by The Globe and Mail, the CBC, and Chatelaine Magazine. Her fiction and non-fiction has appeared in The Walrus, The Virginia Quarterly, The Iowa Review, Lucky Peach, The Wall Street Journal, and Zoetrope. Deborah is currently working on a novel. www.deborahwillis.ca