AB: I lead a fairly simple life. I live in a house on a lake with a wood-burning stove and a little dog (a dappled miniature dachshund) who’s sleeping beside me right now. I’m a night owl, which is too bad, because I’ve heard the sun rises over the lake. But the moon rises over it, too, so it all works out.
MW:How did you start writing, and how do you sustain your writing life?
AB: I started writing after my sister gave me a 1994 volume of The Best American Short Stories. Something about the stories in that anthology gave me a feeling of having come home. For many years I sustained my writing habit by proofreading for BusinessWeek, but I was laid off in 2009 when the magazine was bought by Bloomberg.
MW: What can you tell us about your writing process? What helps you nurture your work?
AB: I tend to write a lot when an idea is exciting to me and a project feels urgent — then I can really take the night owl tendency to extremes — and not to write very much when things aren’t hot. This is probably the exact opposite of what you’re supposed to do, so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, but it’s how things seem to work for me. I find ideas everywhere; the book I’m working on now takes its opening line from something a writer named Mo told me a couple of years ago at the all-night post office across from Madison Square Garden.
MW: Can you give us a view into your world of writing short stories? What makes the form of fiction interesting to you?
AB: I like intelligent stories with humor and heart, and that’s the kind I try to write. The thing I love about storytelling — I’ve been thinking about this lately — is that sense it can give you that everything is somehow okay, even when things are stupendously, outrageously not okay. There’s a mysterious sense of consolation that accompanies a well-told story.
MW: Your stories link through decisive moments. Each one looks to emerge from or respond to a slice of time that is significant for your characters. Did you always have that link or did that develop as you wrote?
AB: I had a teacher who told us that a writer should always be asking: “Why is this night different from every other?” I’ve tried to abide by that, even when it’s not Passover. The thing that interests me are those moments in life — even if they are subtle — when everything changes.
AB: Thank you for the compliment! I tend to write about everyday people in everyday situations but I try to find that spark of the extraordinary. If I can’t keep a story fresh and engaging, it goes in the trash and I start over. Life is short.
MW: The stories take place in the Northeast mostly—with my city being a shining exception! Do you see geography as important either for your stories in the collection or for your self as an author?
AB: Who doesn’t love Chicago? Actually, I’m not very interested in geography, and I don’t think of myself as a regional writer in any sense. When other writers start to talk about geography, that’s usually when I take a nap. The landscape that interests me is the human heart.
MW: What are you reading or about to read these days?
AB: I just read CORPUS CHRISTI by Bret Anthony Johnston; I’m partway through VOLT by Alan Heathcock; and I’m about to pre-order THE WORLD WITHOUT YOU by Joshua Henkin.
MW: Are you currently working on things you can talk about? If so, what? And how can my readers keep in touch with you?
AB: My agent has my next book, a short novel called THE KEY, about a woman who’s missing her dead father when a stranger in Grand Central Station hands her a key. The next next book is about two brothers, one successful and one feckless, who spend a weekend together. I love hearing from readers — it’s been my favorite part of the publishing experience. They can find me at http://aletheablack.com.
Now for the giveaway. If you’re interested in getting a free copy of Alethea’s collection, leave a comment with the title of the last book you read and a sentence about what you thought of the book. And maybe tell other people to do the same. Leave the comment by Friday 8, 11:59p.m. I’ll choose a winner sometime Saturday and email the winner for a mailing address.