An Interview with Kevin Wilson
By J.C. Sirott
Everyone here at dislocate is a big fan of Kevin Wilson, whose short story, "The Vanishing Husband," was featured in dislocate #5. Recently, one of our editors had the chance to ask Wilson a few questions. We present that interview to you here.
dislocate: In "The Vanishing Husband," the protagonist works at a company manufacturing personalized school textbooks. How much research do you put into learning about a job like this? None? Thousands of hours? Was this an actual job you held?
Kevin Wilson: I put no research at all into it. I try my best to do as little research as possible when writing stories. One reason is that I can get lost for days researching the smallest point and it ends up not helping me all that much. I once spent three weeks reading about pinball machines from the early 1900's for a story that I was writing. I ended up using some of that information, but not nearly enough to warrant the time I spent reading about it.
dislocate: How dedicated are you to working within the short story form? Will your next project be a novel or will you continue with short stories? If your project is a novel, any basic differences in the writing process that you have been surprised by? Enjoyed? Disliked? If the next project will be shorts, what draws you and keeps you engaged in the short story format?
Kevin Wilson: I love short stories and the form appeals to me so much, both as a writer and a reader. As a young writer, trying to figure out how writing works, the short form is best because you can play around, make a mess, learn how to make less of a mess, and you haven't wasted two years of your life on a 300-page failure. And as a reader, especially now that my time is limited with a new kid in the house, I can read a twenty-page short story and it can have the same emotional resonance as a novel. Everything about the form just appeals to me.
But I'm working on a novel right now, partly because that's the second book in the book deal with Ecco and partly because I want to see if I can write in a longer form.
dislocate: Jeffrey Eugenides recently wrote that whenever he is blocked or uninspired, he turns to Bellow's Herzog to get the juices flowing and become re-inspired. Are there any works that you continuously return to?
Kevin Wilson: I almost never read a book twice. There's just so much to read and I spent so much of my life reading comic books and pulp novels (and I still read that stuff obsessively), that I haven't read many classics at all and I'm always trying to catch up so I don't look like a damn moron around other writers. And there are so many books coming out each month that I want to read. So I tend to read a book, enjoy it, and then move on to the next one. But there are writers I like to read sections of just to make me happy, people like Flannery O'Connor, Padgett Powell, Charles Willeford, Ann Patchett, Carson McCullers, Barry Hannah. For instance, I just went back to Patchett's novel, Taft, to find a line I had been thinking about, just for the pleasure of rereading it:
"I think she's scared of me," Ruth said. "Wonder why that is."
"You're fucking scary is why that is."
Also, I fear that if you collected the limited interviews I've done, you would find a borderline crazy infatuation with the work of Chris Adrian, especially his first novel Gob's Grief. I've read that book as many times as any book and it always surprises me with the depth of emotion going on. It makes me excited to write, to try and get something good on paper.
dislocate: Any fantastic nonfiction that you've read recently? Ideas or obsessions that have gripped you? When reading nonfiction (if you do) do you try and relate the book to your current fiction work or do you keep the two separate?
Kevin Wilson: I don't read nonfiction, mostly because there is so much fiction that I want to read that it rarely creeps into my reading list. I did actually listen to the new Malcolm Gladwell book on CD, which was fun and helped pass the time from Louisville to Nashville in the car, but because I read so much fiction (catching up on classics I never bothered to read; reading all the great contemporary fiction that comes out every month; reading the pulp novels that I love so much; reading my 100 bucks worth of comics every month; reading my students' stories), I just don't bother with non-fiction. This is a huge failing, I know.
I do, however, spend a lot of time on Wikipedia, which I find to be a lot of fun. I just go to a random Wikipedia page and I can spend hours reading about stuff I never knew existed. I spent all of last month reading about feral children, something I never knew about until Wikipedia told me about it. Now, I'm sure, I'll end up writing a story about feral children.