Grant Faulkner’s new collection of flash fiction, Fissures, was recently published by Press 53. We asked him about the new book as well as what inspired him to write it. Here’s what he said:
Tell us about the book?
Fissures is a collection of one hundred 100-word stories. The stories are largely about the dramatic and desperate lunges that people make to give life meaning—acts that are spawned by fissures or create fissures.
I grew up in a small midwestern town, where people generally presented faces of good citizenship and upright morality. I heard many sordid stories, though: affairs and key parties, late night drunkenness and parties gone horribly awry. I’m fascinated by people’s hidden selves as a result. I don’t call such behavior people’s dark side necessarily. I think life is just a damn tough thing to make sense of, and one is likely to careen from time to time.
What inspired you to write the book?
I became obsessed by writing 100-word stories several years ago. I’d dabbled in flash fiction, but I mainly wrote longish short stories and novels. I became attracted to 100-word stories, though, because I’ve always thought life is more about what is unsaid than what is said. We live in odd gaps of silence, and these little stories move as much through spectral spaces and cracks as through text.
I also think that our memory works largely through snapshots, so the 100-word form invites an intense examination of dramatic moments. The stories rely on gesture and nuance, and the reader’s ability to fill in the gaps.
I became so obsessed with the form that I ended up starting a lit journal with a friend, 100 Word Story (www.100wordstory.org), to celebrate and explore it.
What were your biggest challenges when writing the book?
The writing wasn’t so difficult, other than the challenge to make each story 100 words long—which is a peculiar pleasure of mine.
That wasn’t always the case, though. In my initial forays into 100-word stories, my stories veered toward 150 words or more. I didn’t see ways to cut or compress. But writing within the fixed lens of 100 words required me to discipline myself stringently, and I find most stories are the better for it. By obsessively pruning my stories, I discovered those mysterious, telling gaps that words tend to cover up.
Who are you reading now? Which authors and novels have been an inspiration to you, and why?
I’m interested in creating longer forms through a flash aesthetic. I like narratives that move through images and moments rather than the connective tissue of a grand narrative arc. I like digression, poetic drifts, the ways that hints and silences can weave a story together.
So I’m reading novels that are strung together in such a way. I just read Mrs. Bridge, which is a very elliptical narrative, and I have Jenny Offil’s Department of Speculation and Peter Matthieson’s Far Tortuga on my bookshelf. And then I always have a book of poetry at hand. I just finished O’Hara’s Lunch Poems and am now reading John Berryman’s Dream Songs. I also don’t feel comfortable unless I’m paging through something by Roland Barthes from time to time.
What advice can you provide to aspiring authors?
Write the truth, and make yourself as vulnerable as possible in doing so. Your ability to be vulnerable on the page will help you connect with readers more than any expertise in craft.
Otherwise, be disciplined, but don’t be too disciplined. An excessive life tends to be a good one, for the soul and one’s stories. Smoke the occasional cigar, and then go to the gym. Tap dancing usually leads to good things. Love whenever possible, and do so extravagantly.
Oh, and then write constantly.