Editor’s Note: This exchange is part of a series of brief interviews with emerging writers of recent or forthcoming books. If you enjoyed it, please visit other interviews in the I’ve Got Questions feature.
- What’s the title of your book? Fiction? Nonfiction? Poetry? Who is the publisher and what’s the publication date?
Crosscurrents and Other Stories was published by Press 53 in 2015.
- In a couple of sentences, what’s the book about?
All the women in Crosscurrents deal with loss and betrayal of one kind or another. All are survivors, but at what cost?
- What’s the book’s genre?
- What’s the nicest thing anyone has said about the book so far?
Lynne Barrett—such a fine fiction writer—says this about Crosscurrents:
Gerry Wilson’s spare, lucid prose and inventive story design illuminate the secret truth that, even within the loops and tangles of relationships and family, all of us are strays, wild, fragile, and hungry. These stories explore losses and the discoveries loss impels, yet Crosscurrents is, above all, about connection—never easy, often found where least expected, but giving life surprising grace.
Otherwise, the nicest comment came from a reader who said she knew the women in these stories. She recognized them.
- What book or books is yours comparable to or a cross between?
Crosscurrents could be a cross between Michael Knight’s Eveningland and Shuly Cawood’s A Small Thing to Want. I like to think these stories are reflective of Alice Munro’s work, especially the stories in Dear Life and The Progress of Love. Flannery O’Connor’s and Eudora Welty’s short stories are huge influences. Favorites: O’Connor’s “The Life You Save May Be Your Own” and Welty’s “June Recital.”
- Why this book? Why now?
Crosscurrents predates the #MeToo movement, but there’s something of that struggle in these stories. All the main characters are women who encounter great obstacles to claiming (or re-claiming) their lives. As Antonya Nelson said about the book, “[The] characters are in mortal combat, most often with themselves.”
- Other than writing this book, what’s the best job you’ve ever had?
Maybe it sounds corny, but my best job was being a mother to my four sons. I was a single mother for much of their growing up; it wasn’t easy, and I wasn’t always great at it! But that may be the one thing that most defines me—or at least it defined my early adulthood.
As for a “job” job: In mid-life, I went back to school for an MA in English and began teaching high school students. I didn’t have a creative writing background, so when the opportunity arose to start a writing program for the school and teach creative writing, I had to figure out how to teach kids to write. I read everything I could get my hands on about teaching writing; I tapped the brains of other teachers; and as my students wrote, I started writing, too. I credit a “writing for teachers” workshop at Bard College in the 1990s for lighting the spark for my own fiction.
I wouldn’t necessarily say that writing is the “best” job. I’m drawn to it; it seems to be what I have to do, whether I publish or not. But when a story works, it’s the most satisfying thing in the world.
- What do you want readers to take away from the book?
I want all my readers—men as well as women—to come away from these stories feeling that they have been in touch with real human experience.
- What food and/or music do you associate with the book?
In “Mating,” Gail is more concerned with feeding the animals in the rundown refuge than feeding herself. In “From This Distance,” though—set on a farm in the 1950s—Iris labors all day over a meal she hopes will mend the distance between her and her husband after the death of their child. Iris’s meal consists of ham, fresh sliced tomatoes from the garden, potato salad, homemade bread, and preserves she’s made herself. I can imagine the sisters in “Sparrow, Sparrow” sitting down to collards and cornbread. So Southern food; definitely Southern.
The soundtrack for these stories is a wild mix, from classical piano and cello to solo acoustic guitar to old rock standards with a little country thrown in for good measure—as vastly different as the characters in the stories.
- What book(s) are you reading currently?
I’m reading Julia Alvarez’s Afterlife (novel) and Ron Rash’s In the Valley (stories). Other recent reads include Jack by Marilynne Robinson, Other People’s Pets by R. L. Maizes, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, and American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins. I liked them all. I learned from them! Two recent nonfiction books that absolutely blew me away: Bryan Stephenson’s Just Mercy and Natasha Trethewey’s Memorial Drive.
Learn more about Gerry at her website.
Read a review of the book here.