Thursday, November 17, 2016

Q&A with Steven Nightingale

Steven Nightingale is the author of the new story collection The Hot Climate of Promises and Grace. His other books include Granada and The Wings of What You Say. He lives in Palo Alto, California; Nevada; and Granada, Spain.

Q: How did you come up for the idea for your new book, and for its title?

A: The book arose from my meeting and working with many extraordinary women, in many walks of life. Over the years, I came to see that there needed to be a book of short stories in devotion to them, in praise of them; a book that would try to portray the subtle, powerful, far-reaching way women’s work makes our world brighter and more peaceful and graceful.  

The title is taken from one of the stories in the book, the final story, which is about the way love is both sensual and transcendental. That is, those in love dwell in a Hot Climate of Promises and Grace. 

Q: The stories are divided in four sections, and each section begins with a portrait of a famous woman of letters. How did you decide on the four sections, and on the women you included?

A: The stories are brief, but at the same time lyrical and musing, direct and searching. So there needed to be breaks in the text, where we could all could take a break, have a rest, look at some beautiful epigraphs, and begin again. 

The four women whose photographs are at the beginning of each section—Emily Dickinson, Emilie du Chatelet, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz, all did remarkable and enduring work, and changed history by the sheer force of their fine, powerful, playful time on earth. 

Q: Did you write these stories specifically for this book, or were some of them written earlier?

A: The stories have a long history, and were written over 20 years. There are many more of them. But these are the ones I want to share now. 

Q: You've written novels, nonfiction, and poetry, as well as short stories. Do you have a preference?

A: Writing is a way of loving strangers, the readers that one so rarely gets to meet. So all the genres have their place, their own way of understanding the world, their own virtues, possibilities, and power.  I love all the genres, and want to work in all of them, according as I am permitted by time and fate to do so. 

Q: What are you working on now? 

A: I have a number of mischievous projects in hand, but I remember the comparison someone made to the growth of a baby within its mother: it’s best to let nature take its course and the new life be seen at its appointed hour. 

Q: Anything else we should know? 

A: That these short stories draw upon traditions of parables, folklore, Jataka fables and Sufi stories; that most of them are very short, one to three pages long; that they are composed to be ideal for reading aloud; and that they show how we live in a world handmade by women. 

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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