A Short Interview w/ Austin Ross
"Bonus material" for Austin Ross's short story, "The Beach Leads All the Way to the Deep Sea," published on Tuesday, 8/08.
The plan for Short Story, Long is to feature long short stories, each paired with original art. A new story will publish every week, on Tuesdays, and then, in between stories, we are going to feature some kind of “bonus material” for each — an interview with the author, outtakes or trivia about the story, etc. The stories are always going to be available for all, for free, with the “bonus material” saved for subscribers only. Paid subscriptions help pay writers and artists.
Aaron Burch: Can you tell me a little about the genesis for this story? I'm always at least a little curious where stories came from and what the seeds of idea were... and with this one I especially love the mail truck that basically becomes the "setting" for the story and I'm not sure I've read a story that uses one before and I kinda found myself immediately jealous (a sign of a great story!)
Austin Ross: I'd had the central idea—mail carrier robs houses when they put their mail on hold—for a long time. Probably at least ten years or so. My wife and I went on vacation somewhere and put our mail on hold and it struck me that the post office would know when exactly we'd be gone, and I remember wondering how easy it would be for an unethical mail carrier to try to come up with some sort of plan to take little things from each house so that no one ever notices. I'd tried to write it off and on for a couple of years but this version came about because I needed to write something for the word west Denis Johnson workshop that you and I were in. I remembered that main idea and decided I'd knuckle down and get a draft finished. All the rest of it—stealing a baby, realizing there was this family connection with the narrator, the death of the mom—was a product of me being bored of writing at the time. I'd recently finished my novel and I felt pretty drained, creatively, so I wanted to make it as interesting as I could so I'd actually want to finish writing it. I'd just read Jim Shepard's "The Gun Lobby" for the first time, and that story takes these huge left turns every few pages. I wanted to recreate that sort of feeling with this piece. The title was something my six year old said a few years ago when we were on our way to the beach and it immediately lodged itself in my brain. I have a number of titles like that, things people say to me where I'm just waiting for the right story to be the perfect fit.
I remember you mentioning Shepard's "The Gun Lobby" in that class, and I love the way you mention it here, wanting to try to recreate the "feeling" it gave you. This kinda builds into the DJ question, and is maybe too abstract of an idea to go anywhere, and/or too much of a not-really-a-question, but can you expand on that at all? Maybe what it is you so love about certain stories, how a short story can make you feel? And/or how you use that as something of a guiding light or inspiration or helpful reminder when working on something of your own?
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