Monday, November 25, 2013

Victoria Redel's Secret Joke

In the 43rd in a series of posts on 2013 books entered for The Story Prize, Victoria Redel, author of Make Me Do Things (Four Way Books), discusses where she likes to do her writing and how she puts together a collection.

Where do you work?
I try to get away and most especially from the familiarity of my own home. So I go to the library. I love the library because of the anonymity it provides, nothing needs me, no one is asking for attention, affection, or when I’m making dinner. It’s kind of funny I’ve come to this, since when my kids were little I often worked right in the midst of the tumble and chaos of our everyday life. My office was also where we kept our television. On days when a child was home sick from school, I’d pop a video in—Peter Pan, The Little Mermaid—and while Chef Louis crooned, "Les Poissons, Les Poissons"—I’d try to eek out a day's work. There are more than a few lines from children's movies buried in my books. It is my secret joke. I felt a little ruthless writing while dosing a kid’s spiking flu. But now, even with the kids grown and gone from home, I go to the library where I don’t feel compelled to look up if someone at the next desk sneezes.

How do you organize a collection?
Each time I’m working on a new story I honestly believe (or conveniently delude myself) that the concerns and questions in that story are new territory for me. And, of course, lo and behold, my concerns and interests and obsessions show up in all the stories. Half the stories in this collection stay close to a man’s perspective and half to a woman’s perspective. This wasn’t intentional but now seems inevitable. I’m interested in how we manage (or not), stay true to (or sabotage) our goals, dreams and obligations. Our lives and choices are usually messier, less streamlined than we’d wish. The ways we stray from ourselves and from those we love is a concern that weaves through all the stories in this collection. I’ve tried to organize the stories so that they speak and fight and talk to one another a bit. In organizing a collection there’s also some politeness to the reader—mixing things up—length and humor and disaster and grace.