Sandra Arnold interviews Molly Giles about her stories in New Micro (W.W. Norton & Co., 2918)
SA: Molly, your two stories in New Micro, No Soy for Joy and Protest, while deceptively simple on first reading, require, like all good micros, a deeper engagement to find the subtle truths that have been left unstated. In my second reading of No Soy for Joy I realised both protagonists are engaging in a different sort of fantasy. The apparently mild-mannered lover uses the word ‘rape’ while watching Joy searching in his wife’s cupboards for the right ingredients to prepare a meal. Joy’s thoughts reveal her contempt for the man and her alarm at what she perceives as the wife’s deliberate sabotage of her liaison. Could you tell us about the origin of this story and what it means to you?
MG: I love the intelligent way you’ve read this story! Thank you. But I may not be as deep as you; I was simply drawn to write it because I liked the way the title sounded when it occurred to me one night in my kitchen. The kitchen is traditionally the wife’s place – a man bringing his mistress to his wife’s bed is always a betrayal but bringing her into his wife’s kitchen is an outrage. Joy knows this and is deservedly paranoid and the poor husband is so busy relishing his new role as a man running two women that he doesn’t see he is in danger of losing both.
SA: In Protest, the act of two teenage girls lying in the middle of the road draws an interesting mix of reactions from passers-by, including anger, indignation, concern, prejudice and fear. The way they react tells us something about their personalities. For example, the man who says, “You know what? You deserve to get run over,” seems to be responding more to the fact the young girls dared to challenge him and were indifferent to his criticism. When the girls refuse to move at the ‘soccer mom’s’ request she looks at her own children and says “Don’t ever grow up.” The chilling last sentence as she sees her son’s reaction indicates her realisation of what may unfold in the future. The reasons behind the girls’ decision to lie in the road is not explicit so we wonder whether they are indeed protesting about something in particular or rebelling by annoying and then ignoring the adults simply because they can. What were your intentions for this story?
MG: Just what you said. The girls are 13. If they are protesting anything it’s the knowledge that they might have to grow up to be one of those solid stodgy passers-by and they don’t wanna. Right now, they are gold. Nothing can touch them.
SA: You have written several short story collections as well as a novel. Do you have a preference for writing in the long or short form?
SA: You have taught writing as well as working as an editor. Have these activities influenced the way you write?
MG: Probably not. My hope always is that my input has helped the way others write!
SA: Some micros are closer to straight narrative while others are closer to the prose poem. What makes a micro work, in your opinion?
MG: Not all of them do, as you know. So much depends on the last line.
SA: What draws you to micro fiction, both in the reading and writing of it? Which writers of micro would you recommend?
MG: Impatience is probably what draws me to micro. Wanting things to move. I admire all the wonderful writers in NEW MICRO. Some others I love: Margaret Atwood’s brilliant LONGED FOR HIM. GOT HIM. SHIT. Nabokov’s famous description of a freak accident: (PICNIC, LIGHTNING).
SA: You have won awards for your writing. How important is it, do you think, for writers to be recognised through awards?
MG: It’s wonderful for the ego, not so good for the pocketbook, and very bad for book distribution. Essentially, it sounds better than it actually is.
SA: How long does it take you to complete a story. How much revision do you do?
MG: Lots of time, lots of revisions.. I just finished a novel I started twelve years ago and have revised over 60 times at least. I am still dissatisfied with a 12 page story I started in 2008; it has been rejected 27 times and each time it comes back I totally rework it. It still isn’t right. Why can’t I just let it go?
SA: Flash fiction and micro are often taught on Creative Writing courses because of their brevity and apparent easy style. Are they easier to write than short stories, in your opinion?
MG: Yes. I know that’s not a popular answer, but yes, definitely yes.
SA: All writers receive rejections of their work from time to time. How do you handle rejections?
MG: I go to bed for a day or two.
SA: When did you know you were a writer? What do you find to be the best and worst aspects about being a writer?
MG: I still don’t know I’m a writer. That may be the best and the worst things about it.
SA: What qualities do aspiring writers need to succeed?
MG: To be published? Or to succeed? To be published, I’d say luck, contacts, and timing. To succeed: talent, heart, empathy, attentiveness and perseverance.
SA: Do you have any current writing projects? And can you tell us something about your future writing goals.
MG: I just finished a novel titled THE HOME FOR UNWED HUSBANDS which is kicking around New York and I submitted a new story collection titled WIFE WITH KNIFE, so right now, no, I am at that awkward stage where all my old doubts are in full bloom and no new seeds are being sown. As I’m writing this though, at the end of a terrible season of fire and drought here in California, the first autumn rains are starting to fall. And that’s always a good sign.
Molly Giles is the author of a novel, IRON SHOES, and four award winning collections of short stories: ROUGH TRANSLATIONS, CREEK WALK, BOTHERED, and ALL THE WRONG PLACES. She has new work in Wigleaf, SmokeLong, Willow Springs, and West Marin Review.