“No Such Thing as Down” by Bernard Grant was first published in our Spring ’16 issue and can be read in its entirety here.
Tell us a little about “No Such Thing as Down.”
First I should say: “No Such Thing as Down” is part of a collection of interlinked stories, a short story cycle. Sam, Gene, Brenda, and Kem appear in other stories I’ve written. All of the stories are set in the same town, Olympia, Washington.
A couple of years ago, when I was struggling to start a story, I decided to write about an incident that happened in my life. That seemed like an easy way to write a story and I figured I’d be done in no time. Of course, it wasn’t easy, and though I wrote the first draft prettty quickly, I revised “No Such Thing as Down” for nearly two years before it felt ready to submit.
The incident that got my fingers moving became a small part of the story, a scene toward the end. “No Such Thing as Down” began to shape itself around the characters’ needs and the sequences of events in the other stories in the collection. By the time I’d finished it, it barely resembled my own life.
What was the most difficult part of writing “No Such Thing as Down?”
Since this is part of a story cycle, I had to make sure “No Such Thing as Down,” was emotionally complete, and I also had to consider what happens to these characters before and after these events. This is one reason revision took so long. As I wrote and revised the other stories, I had to change details of this one to match the others. Similarly, details I changed in this story affected the others. I had to revise with an eye toward linking past events and telling the collection’s narrative within the story’s narrative.
Recommend a book for us which was published within the last decade.
Battleborn by Clare Vaye Watkins. It’s a short story collection about the author’s home state, Nevada. It’s one of the few books I’ve read multiple times. The setting is strong— love how she deals with the vastness of a place—there’s a brothel, casinos, desert, tourists, a ghost town, and a well-researched story about the Gold Rush. And though the book doesn’t feature recurring characters, I find it helpful to return to while I work on my own stories, which captures the interconnectedness of a small college/government town from various perspectives.
If you could have a drink with any living author, who would it be? Why?
Rebecca Solnit. Having a drink with her would be a great chance to ask her the questions that attracted me to her work—questions about research, motivation, intention, and cohesion.
What are you working on now? What’s next?
I’m looking for a home for my flash fiction manuscript Fly Back at Me. Mainly, though, I’m revising my story collection. Every once in a while I get distracted by an unrelated piece of flash fiction. Other times, a personal essay. I’ve been writing essays that merge coming of age in the traditional sense with the coming of age that is illness.
Our thanks to Bernard for taking the time to answer a few questions. Read his work “No Such Thing as Down” in its entirety here: www.sequestrum.org/no-such-thing-as-down.
Bernard Grant lives in Washington State, where he is an MFA candidate at the Rainier Writing Workshop MFA Program. His stories and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review, Stirring, Thin Air, Compose, and Fiction Southeast, among others. His chapbook Puzzle Pieces, winner of the 2015 Paper Nautilus Press Debut Series Chapbook Contest, is now available from Paper Nautilus Press and can be purchased though Paper Nautilus or Bernard’s website. He was awarded a 2015 Jack Straw Fellowship and serves as Associate Essays Editor for The Nervous Breakdown. For more on Bernard and his writing, visit www.bernardgrant.com.