Street Talk

Braddock Avenue Books: Several of the stories in This is Not Your City have international settings and themes. Some stories, like “The Lion’s Gate” feature Americans abroad, but in others, such as “Going to Estonia” and “This is Not Your City,” the protagonists are citizens of foreign countries. This seems brave! How is it you felt comfortable inhabiting the point of view of characters from so many different cultures?

Caitlin Horrocks: The big cheat in both those stories is that the foreign protagonists are still outsiders, in some way.

Dracula just rang my doorbell. He wasn’t alone. Two tiny princesses, a vampire, and a pint-sized football player were in tow. It’s November 3rd and it’s Halloween. (That’s not a typo.) And when they grow up, these children will be doing their Black Friday shopping on Thanksgiving.

Let me back up a little.

Braddock Avenue Books: In Statistical Probability, four chapters are devoted to Hadley and Oliver’s plane ride to London. You would think that there would only be so much possibility for action in a situation like that, with the characters—and the setting—confined to such a small place! Did that section pose any particular challenges for you as a writer?

Jennifer E. Smith: Absolutely. When I set out to write the book, I knew I wanted to  

Salvatore Pane: My Only Wife is told through a series of short vignettes doled out to the reader in a non-linear order. How did you settle on this format? In my work, I find myself drifting toward chronological A to B to C construction about 90% of the time, and the idea of structuring a novel in this way not only impresses me but terrifies me as well.

Jac Jemc: I started writing the first draft in a non-linear way, compiling memories the narrator has of his wife.

Writing a novel is kind of like submitting to a surgical procedure every single day, with no sense of what the overall effect of these surgeries will accomplish or when, exactly, they will end. When I’m writing each day, I’m just as inaccessible to others as I’d be if I were laid up on an operating table, which some understand and some do not. The other day someone rang my doorbell while I was writing. I began walking down the stairs and saw him through the front glass—someone from a phone company I don’t use. I was incredulous. I’d left my desk, my train of thought, for this? 

BAB: It’s clear from the writing in your new novel, The Might Have Been, that you’re a great fan of baseball. Have you had any other, more direct, connection to the game?

JMS: I never played the game in any organized fashion after little league ball (when I was, frankly, not very good) but I have written a lot about it, for local newspapers and magazines in St. Louis, as well as for the old, now sadly departed Sport magazine, for which I freelanced for a time before it closed in 2000.

BAB: The Three-Day Affair is something of a stylistic departure from your story collection, One Last Good Time.  Was this a conscious decision on your part?

It’s the end of the term and I’m trying to teach my creative writing students about revision.

“It’s sort of like...”I begin, though the metaphor soon eludes me. “Or what I mean is,” I retry, “let’s think of it as a...”

I pause once more, dumbfounded by my own inarticulateness.