Tell us a bit about your new book?
My new book is called The Big Dream and it's coming out from Biblioasis.
Here's what I wrote when asked by my publisher for a cover blurb (they didn't use this exactly, but pretty close):
The Big Dream is a collection of interweaving short stories about life at the offices of Dream Inc., a lifestyle-magazine publisher. In these stories, the Dream staff struggle to do 'and keep' their jobs in a tough market, but they're also trying to have friends, to be good parents and good children, to answer the phone and fix the photocopier and be happy. The Big Dream is a book about how life doesn't stop on company time. Sometimes the 'dream job' and dream life that's supposed to come with it don't pan out, but in The Big Dream the joys and sorrows and sandwiches of waking life are more than enough to sustain us. This is a book not about jobs, but about the people who do them.
How is it similar/different/changed from your first?
Once was a gathering of the best short stories I had written up until that point; the connections between them were incidental, though certainly present. Whereas The Big Dream was a capital-B Book almost from the get-go. TBD has a definite arc and structure (at least in my mind). There were certain things I wanted to accomplish in one story that took me several others to build to. And on a more logistical level, I wrote the stories all together, over just over 2 years, so it all came out of one period in my life and writing, as opposed to the Once stories that came from a bunch of different points.
What's a recent short story you've read that reminded you why short stories are the greatest genre on earth? What was it about the story that set off fireworks?
Well, J. J. Steinfeld's "Outliving Hitler" is pretty amazing--subtle, strange, sad, and funny. But lately my big interest is in how those aforementioned capital-B Books of short stories work, and the book that contains "Outliving Hitler" has a lot to do with the individual story's success.
The book, called Would You Hide Me? has a number of stories dealing with characters who survived the Holocaust, or whose parents did. As you might imagine, most of those are pretty wrenching--well-written, honest, sometimes even funny, but very tough reading.
When you get to "Outliving Hitler," which I would consider a warm story, and gently hopeful, it feels like this perfect grace note, and the joy I felt reading it seemed earned, you know?
The interesting thing about short story collections is that, no matter how well the individual piece is working, it also has to make sense in terms of the book as a whole. Would You Hide Me? is a masterful collection, and though "Outliving Hitler" is my favourite piece in it, I know the whole collection contributed to that.
What's your ideal vacation? Why?
I'm not a huge vacationer--I don't really chill out at the beach or in the woods...ever. I have a lot of very far-flung friends, and I like to spend any extra time I have trying to see them. I went to England this summer and saw a friend who was living in London, and that was great--and that also means I made it to England for the first time at age 33, so it was more than revelatory. Now a number of my university friends are in the states--DC, Michigan, upstate New York, so nothing too far away. I just have to get some free time (easier said than done) and make a plan to go. I miss them.