Best known as the co-founder of the Chicago reading-circuit staple Quickies! (each writer gets four minutes to read a complete work, no poetry, no cheating), Lindsay Hunter’s got other tricks up her (short) sleeve. The flash-fiction aficionado has just released her first short-story collection, “Daddy’s,” a Southern Gothic-infused “bait box of temptation,” in collaboration with featherproof books. I e-caught up with Hunter to get her take on Kindles, Southern magic and the unexpected benefits of super-short prose.
What do you mean by “a bait box of temptation?” Is it…you know, actually a box? If so, what made you decide to go that route?
From the very beginning we wanted to make this book an object of some sort that related to the stories themselves in terms of theme/presentation. Making the book look like an old baitbox, with crud on the outside and trays and trays of things Daddy would keep in his bait box on the inside, just made sense. The book is Daddy’s tacklebox and you better be prepared for what he keeps inside—be it a glass eye or a clump of bullets or a story about a giant jealous baby.
Speaking of book-as-object—a featherproof specialty—where do you stand on the Kindle/e-book craze and the anti-Kindle/e-book backlash? Is it the beginning of a new age? The end of reading? Good for indie publishers? Bad for culture?
I’m all for it. I don’t see how making books accessible on an e-reader could be the death of reading—it may actually revive it in some ways. There is so much possibility in e-readers in terms of making a story or images interactive…that’s the future and we can’t be afraid of it.
I will say however that, for me, it’s tons more exciting knowing my book is an actual book with pages and that book smell and not just something you can download onto your Kindle (which you can, by the way, just sayin’). And I guess that comes from my own reverence for books and all my sick book hoarding. But I ain’t mad at e-readers.
I’m from Florida. The South is plump with inspiration for me. It’s like a goll dang sweatback and I’m the fly. I adore the cadence and word choice and the opportunity to just make up a word if you can’t find the right one. There’s something about the heat, the pink evening sky, the palm trees undulating in the Wal-Mart parking lot… it’s magic.
What is your writing process like?
I definitely do not sit down and write on any kind of schedule. That works for a lot of writers but I am a spoiled idiot who would find that stifling and mean. I write in bits of time on whatever paper I can find—I just got a new phone that has a neat post-it application where I can jot down lines and shreds of stories. Then I’ll sit down and write when the mood strikes or when I have something due. It usually takes one to two hours of me twisting my hair across my face and eating all the chocolate and salt in the kitchen before I settle in. It’s painful but then it’s great.
I think in general though I’m always writing. I’ll think, How can I describe that sunset without using the word sky or night or horizon?
Where do you start when you start writing?
I tend to start with the first line and then see where that takes me. If I can get a real juicy first line then the rest is gravy. Every once in a while I’ll start with something scenic—I have a vision of something and I want to know how it’ll turn out.
What writers inspire you, and what books are you looking forward to this fall?
I love Cormac McCarthy, the Drive-by Truckers, the art of Wes Freed, murder TV shows. My friends who are writers inspire me a lot—I can’t believe the shit that comes out of their mouths sometimes, and I want to do better.
Right now I’m reading Mary Karr’s memoir, “Lit.” I’m a sucker for memoirs about addiction.
This fall: I’m really excited about Amelia Gray’s new book, “Museum of the Weird.” And Aaron Burch’s book, “How to Predict the Weather.” Mary Hamilton’s chapbook, “We Know What We Are,” filleted my balls.
What is it about super-short prose that’s alluring?
For me, “super-short prose” is all about economy. You have to choose each word very wisely, you have to tell a whole story in a very short amount of page space. You have to be hyper aware of what story you’re telling. That kind of constraint closes a lot of doors but opens other ones you weren’t even aware of—through them you can surprise yourself.
By Lindsay Hunter
featherproof books, 340 pages, $14.95