Grant Faulkner Writes about Life’s Fissures

Fissures_Screen-Shot-196x300Grant Faulkner, the author of Fissures, published by Press 53, is a living Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. He is both the director of National Novel Writing Month and the co-founder of 100 Word Story. I believe we can safely say that Grant has an unabashed fetish for microfiction as well as an enduring, romantic love of the long-form novel, and the creative processes relating to both.

This strange infidelity of form, I believe, has helped to develop Grant’s truthful, brilliant, mischievous, and whimsical voice. Grant’s stories and essays have appeared in dozens of publications, including The New York Times, Poets & Writers, Writer’s Digest, The Southwest Review, PANK, and Gargoyle.

Here, I am asking questions of Grant about his first full collection of 100-word stories, Fissures, a collection that is highly addictive, delightful, and sinfully truffle-like.
—Meg Pokrass

Meg: Grant, how do you deal with the concept of creating “meaning” in your own writing. Do you think that, as a writer, you actively seek meaning out? How does it make itself known?

Grant: The primary reason to be a writer is the search—the never-ending and always shifting search—for meaning, right? I prefer to search for meaning in stories because I can explore the nuances and contradictions of human nature, its foibles and desperate lunges and attempts at nobility, as opposed to the more didactic approach that other disciplines encourage.

The wonderful thing about life is its ineffable qualities, the mystery of who we are and why we do the things we do. Meaning is always tenuous, never certain. I guess the search for meaning resides more in poetry than logic for me.

Do you start with an idea in mind? Or do you make it up as you go?

I start with a mood or an image most of the time. Maybe the scantiest glimpse of a situation. And then I make it up as I go. I don’t want to know where the story is going. I like to just follow the scent of its drift.

When your characters talk, and they do so in Fissures so perfectly, I feel they so often miss each other. They fly past one another. They react to what they don’t hear. For example, in “Slicing,” there’s the dialogue: “‘I’ll love you forever,’ he said. “‘I’m done with my pie,’ she said.”

I’ve always been interested in the disconnections that exist between people, especially in intimate situations. So much of life’s drama happens in the way we hear or don’t hear others, how we’re so focused on speaking our needs, as if we’re still children. We are still children, of course. Almost everything we say is “I want that / I need this,” in some form.

Since these 100-word stories are so condensed, the dialogue tends to magnify these disconnections. The existential grist of the distances between us all comes to the foreground with more pique because of the brevity of the form.

Why do we, as writers, seek trouble? Why is trouble interesting to people? Where would we be without trouble?

I’ve always said you can’t be a saint without first being a sinner. Seeking trouble, or just finding yourself in it, is part of the search for meaning. If we didn’t get in trouble, who would we be? And how can we consider who we are without reading about others sorting through their troubles.

We should be more forgiving of all who find themselves in trouble, for they’re really just experimenting, diving into the drama of life. And if we think we’re not in trouble? We’re wrong.

Do you try to make sense? Or is this not a concern. What I love about Fissures is its offbeat sense of making “sense” out of what does not make sense at all.

There’s really only so much sense we can make of anything, so I don’t worry a lot about making too much sense in my stories. I don’t like to write to the answers, but to the questions. If we find sense, it’s a momentary, fleeting thing.

So maybe that’s where the “offbeat sense of making ‘sense’ out of what does not make sense at all” comes in. No one’s got this figured out. We create ourselves over and over again, sometimes without even knowing it. Life, identity, is fluid. That’s the joy and the misery of it. That’s the sense I write toward.

Do you use stuff that you care about when you’re inventing pieces? Or do you walk through your inner junk shop, looking for odds and ends?

My true calling is actually to be a junk collector, perhaps even more than being a writer. I was either a rag picker in my past life, or I will be in my next. I love patinas of rust. I love ragged, torn clothing. I love finding abandoned items on the street. I save wrapping paper, my kids’ old plastic jewelry, and odd shiny objects in a big box called my “collage box”.

So, yes, I like walking through my inner junk shop as well, looking for odds and ends. That’s the perfect metaphor for the way I like to write, the way I like to think and live. The more forlorn and blemished the object, the more I want to burnish it by putting it in a story. I’d be perfectly happy living on the Island of Misfit Toys.

Do you know your characters? Have you met them? How much of them are you?

I know some of them, or bits and pieces of them. I’ll put a little of myself into a character sometimes. But developing characters is truly about “walking through my inner junk shop.” Every character is a collage of observations, imaginings, and questions.

I’ve never been able to say, “This character is my friend Mary. This character is my friend Joe.” Because writing about specific people usually takes the mystery out of it for me. I can’t write if I’m not writing toward the mystery.

Where does plot fit in to your stories? What would you say about “plot”?

I’ve stopped thinking of the notion of plot because I find it too onerous, and even downright unhelpful. I’m just not a natural plotter, so instead of trying to force my stories into plots, I like writing about situations. I like exploring the small, telling pivots of a moment. “Character change” is even too big of a way to put it.

I was quite taken by Nathalie Serraute’s Tropisms when I first became a writer. She defined her tropisms as “inner ‘movements’… which are hidden under the commonplace, harmless appearances of every instant of our lives”. These “inner movements” are how I think of plot. We live mostly in the nuances of ourselves, the seesawing ideas of identity and life, not the grand outbursts.

To read one of Grant’s 100-word stories, see The Toad.

For more, go to grantfaulkner.com, where you can read a selection of Grant’s 100-word stories, as well as his essays and interviews.

You can also purchase Fissures.

Meg Pokrass is the author of Damn Sure Right (Press 53, 2011); My Very End of the Universe, Five Mini-Novellas-in-Flash and a Study of the Form (Rose Metal Press, 2014); and Bird Envy (Harvard Bookstore bestseller). Meg’s third full flash fiction collection The Dog Looks Happy Upside Down is forthcoming from Etruscan Press (Spring, 2016), and her first collection of prose poetry, Cellulose Pajamas is forthcoming from Blue Light Press (Blue Light Book Award, 2016). Her stories have appeared in more than 200 literary magazines and anthologies, including Flash Fiction International (W.W. Norton). Meg serves as associate editor for Frederick Barthelme’s New World Writing, and is the founder of New Flash Fiction Review.

One Response to “Grant Faulkner Writes about Life’s Fissures”

  1. Jayne Martin says:

    Thank you for this. I’m ordering both of the books right now.

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