Friday, June 22, 2007

Ron Carlson

Ron Carlson's new novel Five Skies is the subject of today's Page 69 Test.

Last year, Pia Z. Ehrhardt interviewed Carlson about his short story collection, A Kind of Flying, for Quick Fiction.

Part of the interview:

Pia Z. Ehrhardt: You tell consummate, full-throated stories in two pages, four pages, five pages. Many of your stories in A Kind of Flying are under ten pages long, and I‘m wondering if they started out much longer or if you have a kind of internal pacing, or tempo, that propels the piece as you’re writing it?

Ron Carlson: I start with a notion or event or image that is so provocative that I know it will have my attention long enough to drive me into the story until I can’t touch bottom. It will lead me out past what I know, which is where the next thing is always waiting. I mean this literally. But also, when I start a story I do not know or project or imagine the length. I also think that if you write stories for years, you do develop or sense a rhythm, and when I sensed that my stories were all rounding the corner at about four thousand words, I changed that rhythm.

PZE: It sounds from the forward to A Kind of Flying like you’ve written some of these stories, start to finish, in one continuous sitting. Do you stay put until most of your stories are finished? Do the shorter stories require more intense, more ruthless concentration, a quieter house, wife and kids on long, long errands? And if so, can you lose a story if you don’t mind it?

RC: When I go into a story, start writing, I keep it before me. I don’t write a story in a sitting — though I sometimes have — but I don’t let it out of my attention. I think all stories, long and short, require astonishing attention. The gift of attention is what every writer needs to bring to her work. Attention is the ruler of craft.

Read the entire interview.

The Page 69 Test: Five Skies.

--Marshal Zeringue