Donald Ray Pollock's writing has appeared in, or is forthcoming in, the New York Times, Third Coast, The Journal, Sou’wester, Chiron Review, River Styx, Boulevard, Folio, and The Berkeley Fiction Review. His 2008 book is Knockemstiff.
His latest novel is The Devil All the Time.
From Pollack's Q & A with Charles Tan for the Shirley Jackson Awards:
For The Devil All the Time, what was the transition from writing stories to novels like? Was the novel always the goal?Learn more about the book and author at Donald Ray Pollock's website and blog.
I tend to write very spare prose–most of my short stories are somewhere between 9 and 12 pages–so the thought of writing a 250 page novel was a bit intimidating at first, to say the least. I finally decided that the only way I could do it was to write a very fast, sloppy draft, and then begin revising (in the past, with writing stories, I pretty much just moved slowly ahead with one finished sentence at a time, but realized writing a novel that way would take me years). The first draft took maybe 4 months, then I revised and changed it considerably over the next two years. As for the novel always being the goal, no, I can’t say that was the case. When I decided to try to learn how to write (I was forty-five and had been working in a paper mill since I was eighteen), my aim was just to write one decent short story. I thought if I could do that, then I would be satisfied. But good things happened, and I landed a publisher for Knockemstiff, my first book, and then they asked for a novel.
You’ve created an ensemble cast of compelling and disturbed characters. What was your approach in developing these characters?
I just kept typing! I suppose everything and everyone in the book came from a wide variety of influences: movies like Night of the Hunter and Badlands, psychological horror stories like Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” and Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado,” crime fiction, the nightly TV news, people I’ve met, etc. I wanted, if at all possible, to present the characters in a way where the reader might find a bit of empathy for them, no matter how horrible they might be, and that was certainly the toughest thing to do. Though I tend to see the world as a sad and violent place, I think there are...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: Knockemstiff.