Saturday, December 3, 2016

Robert Overbey on the Art of Not Being a Dick (or Thinking You're Not)

In the 48th in a series of posts on 2016 books entered for The Story Prize, Robert Overbey, author of A Life Without Seasons, regrets not answering a reader's question.

Someone once asked me, in front of a sizable group, where my characters come from. My initial reaction was to say that I don't really like talking about writing. I also just wanted to get the hell out of there. Later that day I was thinking about that girl and her question. It was an easy answer. Why didn't I give it to her? It's true I tire of talk about the craft of writing and the holy precious process, yet there I'd just been, standing before the room, reading my stories and vaguely discussing what it is I think I do. Wasn't that the time to be truthful? Granted, as someone who is more familiar with an MRI than an MFA, I'm hardly leaving anyone hanging in heartbreaking suspense. But the question was genuine, and was asked with a genuine interest. An interest in stories I'd written. I should've appreciated that. That someone cared enough about what I'd read aloud to ask about the story behind it. But I had to be a dick about it. Well, actually, I like to think I delivered my dismissive response with grace, but it was probably with only as much grace as a dick can really possess. The answer was easy, and I think it still is. It's probably the same for most, if not all, writers. If you're out there and still interested, my characters come from some amalgam of people I've met, people I've invented, and myself. Big secret, huh? Amalgam: that's a $10 word. Thanks for listening.