EWN: Where do short stories fit within your life as a reader?
TW: I enjoy magazine or journal short stories as sorts of beautiful found objects. My house is often littered with magazines and books that come in the mail, and it’s a certain pleasure to pick up an object and read a short story inside without knowing what the story is about or even who the author is most of the time. My reading list is often crowded and probably too carefully curated, so that sense of surprise and wonder that comes from spontaneously jumping into something new is often lacking. Short stories, particularly stand-alone stories, fill this need in my life as a reader.
I’m ecstatic to be featured on the page, as the TbL Q&A Series is a great resource for writers, both beginning and established. It’s well-worth your time to check out the archives, including interviews with Maggie Smith, Dana Gioia, Sandra Marchetti, Karen Craigo, and Saleh Saterstrom. The Q&As are heavy on the process of becoming an established writer and are great for writing students.
Thanks so much to Tethered by Letters for including my responses, and for Amanda DeNatale for conducting the interview.
Here’s an excerpt:
Probably like most writers, I’ve always had an inescapable urge to tell stories. Some of my earliest memories are of using a George Washington paper-doll my mom made to recreate scenes from a Time-Life series of American history books we had in the house, and I was writing some of these stories down by the time I started elementary school. That’s not a career event, of course, but where things started. For most of my childhood I planned on being either a sports writer for a newspaper or a comic book writer for Marvel when I grew up. What I do now isn’t too far off from that—my day job is as a reporter (but on civil law and politics, not sports) and I write literary fiction instead of super hero comics. Most of my life has been following an impulse to write, which led to different jobs and styles that allow me to keep going in ways that are fulfilling. I don’t think there was ever an epiphany, more just doing what has kept me engaged and happy.
Fyi, I’ll reading from Bad Faith at the Imaginary Gardens Reading Series on Tuesday, April 18 at 7pm, with poet Katie Berger. Put on monthly by Michael Skau at Mister Toad’s downtown pub, the series is in its third year. Originally a poetry series, Imaginary Gardens recently opened its doors to prose writers, and I’m certainly excited they did.
This will be my last event to promote Bad Faith before setting my sights on the August 1 release for Kings of Broken Things. Since I’ve already done a few readings in Omaha from the collection, I’ll try something new for this event, I promise.
On a more personal note, the writers group I’m in meets periodically at Mister Toad, so it will be fun to read my work in the space. Their back room is a great space to hang out and read. Usually that’s done quietly, but reading aloud will be fun too!
The event is free and open to the public.
Imaginary Gardens Reading Series
Tue April 18, 7pm
Mister Toad, 1002 Howard St, Omaha
Check out my guest blog piece posted today on the blog of The Story Prize: “On Writing Stories from Inside Trump’s America (Before It Was).”
The Story Prize is the biggest book award for short story collections in the US, awarding a $20,000 bounty to an author each spring. In addition, they also open up their blog for authors of new short story collections to write a post about their books or an aspect of their practice, which is where I come into the picture.
Thanks so much to Larry Dark, Director of the prize, for inviting me to write something and for putting up my short essay. Here’s a sample:
Going off my friend’s suggestion, I began to think about who fit into what electoral bucket. Certainly the crotchety Harry Kleinhardt of my opening story, a man who’s forced to face his disappointment of a son while dying from cancer, who spends his afternoons sunning himself in the mudroom listening to Limbaugh and reminisces about how bright life once was, at least before it all went to shit. There’s one vanguard of Trump’s America. Then there’s Anna from “Impertinent, Triumphant,” who met her politician husband while both were congressional interns for Kit Bond, the former Republican Senator from Missouri. It’s easy to see how Anna would coalesce behind the Trump campaign. While not a “build that wall” kind of gal, she wouldn’t be opposed to chanting “lock her up” if others were doing so, say, on the floor of the Republican National Convention, exchanging a loftier political ideal or two in order to take a pantsuit-wearing liberal down a peg.But there’s some noise in the populous of Bad Faith—as with anywhere, the distance between perception and reality isn’t so clear. Sam and Jacq, also from “Impertinent,” a former travel entrepreneur and an experimental landscape artist, leave Manhattan to settle on a ranch near the Sandhills. And what about the biracial man from Omaha who has to face his fear of being an outsider in a small town (and being exposed to small town police) to attend the funeral of his estranged white mother?
Getting an early start on your 2017 holiday shopping list? Lucky for you, my novel Kings of Broken Things is now available for pre-order on Amazon at 25-40% off! The book really will make the perfect gift for family, friends, spouses, speed-daters, and any other folks you might become close with over the next thirteen months. Whether you’re celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah or X-Mas, or even Labor Day or Veterans Day or National Model Railroad Month–Kings of Broken Things will make the perfect gift for that special someone (or hobby enthusiast) in your life.
And if for some reason your didn’t finish shopping for the 2016 season yet, there are still copies of Bad Faith for sale too! BUY NOW!!!
Check out this great new review that was posted today on the Ploughshares blog!
Thanks to Denton Loving for his well-considered and spot-on review, and to Ploughshares for publishing it on their blog. (Btw, Ploughshares is currently looking to hire their regular bloggers for 2017. It’s a paid gig!)
Click on over to Ploughshares to read the whole review. Here’s a sample:
One character points out that the Romans believed whoever summoned the Furies “also ended up getting fucked over in the end.” No character in Bad Faith exemplifies that better that Aaron Kleinhardt. A series of heart-in-your-throat moments lead to a startling confrontation when Aaron becomes entangled with Amy, a young woman almost as confused and lonely as Aaron has been.
By anchoring his collection around Aaron Kleinhardt, Wheeler creates subtle connections. The stories feel linked in an understated but solid way, creating a canvas with more depth than any one short story alone could give. Wheeler’s characters are people we know. They are the people who have failed us, as well as the people we have failed. His stories are reminders that few things in this world are completely random. Not luck or grace or pain or violence. Certainly not death or karmic justice.
Check out a new interview posted today on Midwestern Gothic, as I talk with Allison Reck about vulnerability, Bad Faith, and finding voice among a diverse cast of characters, along with my thoughts on napping and what is an appropriate time to eat supper on the weekend.
Friends of the blog may recall that my story “The Mercy Killing of Harry Kleinhardt” (the opening story in Bad Faith) was published in Midwestern Gothic 8 back in the winter of 2013. At the time I was also featured in their Contributor Spotlight, which makes for an interesting comparison with the latest interview. (It’s particularly funny that when asked what literary figure I would like to meet (living or dead) that I responded with George Saunders–as I had actually met George Saunders before. Maybe I forgot that I’d bumped into him at the Key West Literary Seminar in 2012–or maybe it was that our conversation then was limited to whether or not the pasta salad looked edible–but somehow that must have slipped my mind.) Thanks so much to Allison Reck for conducting the interview, and Midwestern Gothic for posting it.
Read the entire interview here, but in the meantime, here’s a highlight:
AR: In the advanced praise for Bad Faith, fellow authors hailed you for your “nuanced understanding of human nature” and said that your stories revealed the “malice, confusion, and ultimate frailty of us all.” Do you agree with this commentary, that your collection exposes humanity as confused, malicious and frail? What did you hope to convey about humanity in writing these stories?
TW: I didn’t really intend to write a mean-spirited book, and I don’t think it is. There’s something really compelling to me about vulnerability, particular those who are willfully exposed and those who try to cover up weakness by being cruel to others. There are a few malicious characters in Bad Faith — notably Aaron Kleinhardt, a criminal element who appears in two stories and seven between-story vignettes — but for the most part these are people who are vulnerable and different, but not really that interested in covering up their frailty.
Hi, all. A few notes to update, including that I’ll be reading on Friday November 4 at the new Solid Jackson Books location at 3925 Farnam Street in Omaha, starting at 7pm sharp. (See here for more info.) Joining me on the bill are poets Trey Moody (author of Thought That Nature) and Jeff Alessandrelli (author of This Last Time Will Be the First). The three of us were senior readers together for Prairie Schooner a few years back–more than a few now, I guess–so it will be great to share work from our first books and a special night all around, as Jeff and Trey recently moved back to Nebraska, and are new to Omaha.
In other Bad Faith news, a strong review of the book recently appeared on Necessary Fiction. Many thanks to Greg Walklin for his analysis here and excellent riffs off of the Nebraska Nice ad campaign. “Most of the characters in Bad Faith aren’t nice, and Wheeler plumbs that not-niceness throughout. The Pythagoreans talked of good as definite and finite, and evil and indefinite and infinite. Niceness may make for a slogan, and a friendly face to provide directions, but it is often just a veneer.”
Check out the Bad Faith book page here on the site for links to all the reviews and press the collection has received to date. I’ve been pleased with the reception the book has received, especially as a small press book, and am very grateful for the coverage. The book has been out for three months now, with a couple events still on the agenda. In addition to the November 4 Solid Jackson reading, I’ll also be reading at East City Books in Washington DC on Wednesday February 8, 2017, an off-site during the AWP Conference. This is the Key West Literary Seminar Workshop Alumni reading with Amina Gautier, Paula Whyman, Jay Desphande, and Sam Slaughter, something I’m thrilled to be a part of.
Also, if you check out my events page you’ll notice that I’ve already booked the first appearance to help launch my debut novel next year, as I’m scheduled to read from Kings of Broken Things on Friday, September 15, 2017, at the Writers Place in Kansas City.
Speaking of Kings of Broken Things, there’s been a lot of activity behind the scenes to get the book ready for publication next year. You can pre-order the Kindle edition for one thing, if you’re so inclined, with the bones of the page coming along over there. The publication date is set for mid August, and an audio edition of the novel is going into production too. How cool is that?! Copyedits were finished up last week and the process is moving along apace, with a cover and galley editions not too far off. !!! !!!
After taking off a month to recharge and tour behind the release of my debut short story collection Bad Faith, the crew behind Pageturners Literary Pub Quiz will be back this Wednesday, September 7 at 8pm! Ryan, Drew, and I have put together some entertaining and mildly challenging book trivia for your enjoyment, along with some cool prizes for the top two teams. We hope to see you there!
PTL Pub Quiz Schedule (First Wednesday, 8pm, 5004 Dodge Street, Omaha, Neb.)
Sept 7: Prairie Schooner, grandame of lit journals, with managing editor Ashley Strosnider
Oct 5: 1877 Society Contest Reception and Winners Announcement