Friday, March 22, 2024

Q&A with Ross McMeekin




Ross McMeekin is the author of the new story collection Below the Falls. He also has written the book The Hummingbirds. He lives north of Seattle.


Q: Over how long a period did you write the stories in your new collection?


A: I wrote them over a period of 10-plus years. I will often start stories, put them aside for a few months, work on them again, put them aside, and so on. For me, some stories will only take a few weeks of drafting and editing, where some take years to find their way to completion.


I think the range of the stories in terms of theme, location, characters, and even styles—realist and speculative, minimalist and more lyrical—varies because of this reason. My preoccupations changed over the decade, and the stories reflect that.


Q: How was the book’s title--also the title of the first story--chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: I chose Below the Falls as the book’s title because it represents the subtexts underpinning the stories throughout the collection. What’s happening below the surface? What conflicts are swirling and eddying beneath the characters’ day-to-day lives, subconsciously shaping their thoughts and actions?


I believe meaning—through conflict—is often created through the tension between the exterior and interior desires of the characters.

Q: How did you decide on the order in which the stories would appear?


A: With one exception in the editing process, I landed on the order of the stories intuitively. I knew I wanted the first story to be “Below the Falls,” but beyond that, I didn’t have an organizing principle I was following.


So, I went story-by-story though the collection, intuiting which one felt the most appropriate to follow the one before it. Only after the collection came together did I realize the more obvious through-lines.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the collection?


A: This is a tough question because I’m not the sort of writer who sits down with a point to prove or a message to take away from a story. Almost always, the story’s meaning—or “aboutness”—comes near the end. Sometimes I don’t realize it until well after I finish the story.


If pressed, I suppose I’d hope a reader would come away with a greater empathy for humanity in all its variations—a larger sense of how complicated our lives are below the surface.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I tend to have a number of projects going on at once. In this case, it’s a novel taking place in the early 1900s at an isolated train depot, with the backdrop of the Cascade Mountains of the Pacific Northwest. I’ve been chipping away at it for years (and probably will for years to come).


I’ve also nearly finished a contemporary novella-and-stories collection that explores romantic love, both its pleasures and pitfalls.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I’d like to give a shoutout to editor/publisher Josh Dale and the Thirty West masthead. They’ve been incredible to work with, and I’m fortunate to be a part of their community through this project.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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