…Cruel and Seductive…
Genevieve Plunkett is an emerging author of short stories with a novel in progress. Her works handle a wide range of topics: marriage, childhood, and even horses and they have been published in Mud Season Review, New England Review, and Willow Springs Magazine. I reached out to her for an interview because I wanted to understand from an author’s perspective what a short story means for the creative process – especially when that author is working on a novel. Concepts of time, thematic depth, and just what goes into a short story that differentiates it from the larger works of fiction that popular literary culture seems to consider more important – that was the perspective of this interview.
SH: What is it about the “short story” that drew you to its form before you set about tackling the novel?
GP: I find myself moved by the potency of short stories – so many last sentences that destroyed me (in an appreciative sense)! Short stories can be cruel and seductive. They can make you feel as though you have just read something perfect. That is a rare and beautiful feeling.
The alternate answer to this question is that short stories are easier to throw away. If every bad story that I had to write to get to a good one were a novel, then I would still be on my first bad novel.
SH: One of the elements that struck me the most from your most recent short story The Rodeo as well as in your earlier story Schematic is how you construct moments of time. While your stories are physically short, you manage to transport your reader away from breadth of your content into the depth of your content and this seems quite necessary considering the average length of short stories. How do you feel the physical constraints of short stories affects your story telling? Can it be considered a constraint?
GP: I spend a lot of time thinking about omission – what can be condensed, what can be cut. I am always moving chunks of text around and quite often, I find my first sentence in the middle of the story. I will take the whole fifth or sixth paragraph and move it up to the top and it will work better than what I had there before. This kind of experimenting becomes a lot harder with longer stories. So, when it comes to the bones of the story, there is more freedom in brevity.
As for depth, I find that I use short stories as a way to ask questions. Resolution can be straightforward, or it can be present in the gaps. The questions themselves open up a sense of space within the text, altering that feeling of depth.
SH: In that case, what inspired you to write a novel?
GP: I wish I had a more complex answer for this, but really, I just felt like it. I have learned that it is best to go with what is working for you, while it is working. If I try to force something into existence, it almost never turns the way I want it to – which is not to be confused with working under pressure. Working under pressure on something that interests me is one of the best possible situations to be in.
SH: How many times would you say you edit your works before you’re satisfied – if ever?
GP: Lately, I have been despairing over this very question. I am convinced that writing becomes more difficult the longer you do it. I finished my first draft of, “The Rodeo,” seven years ago, which doesn’t mean that I have worked on it every day from that day to the day it was published, but it does make me think twice before submitting something that only took three months to write. The editing process, for me, has a lot to do with superstition, patience, and the endless questioning of my own judgement.
SH: I would love to know more about how you choose to use your short stories as means through which problems can be explored. I know that I personally love the way a short story can often more easily delve into the human mind and experience than a lengthy novel can. What have you found to be the most intriguing problems that you choose to explore within your stories?
GP: I know that I want to write a short story when I encounter something that troubles and overwhelms me. In the Rodeo, I raise questions about marriage and inadequacy. Schematic deals with the nature of death and sequence. These topics on their own are too large for me and so breaking them down and scattering them throughout a narrative seems to be the most effective way to get my thoughts in order.
SH: Are you planning on continuing to write short stories?
GP: I will always be writing short stories.