An Interview with Dave Reidy

Posted: December 19, 2009 in Interviews
Tags: , ,

Live Nude Books: On their surfaces, the stories in Captive Audience focus on the lives of performers.  Did you originally set out to write a collection on this subject?

Dave Reidy: I wrote “In Memoriam,” my imagination of a day in the life of a fictional Abe Vigoda, before any of the other stories included in the collection. Then I wrote a couple of other stories that had nothing to do with performers. But the next two stories I wrote—“Captive Audience” and “The Regular”—excited me very much and gave me the idea that my stories might be larger than the sum of their parts if they were collected around this theme of performance. I was more intentional about writing performer stories after that, but I defined “performer” broadly to include a kid who plays guitar for the girl next door and a guy who makes rock posters for an audience of three.

LNB: Do you consider/think about audience when writing a short story?

DR: I do. I find it helpful to keep in mind that the words I’m writing are for readers, and to remember that I owe those readers some challenge and satisfaction in return for the time they are spending with my work. I guess I try to give the people what they want, but I can only give it on my terms. I have to write the stories that I am most moved and best equipped to write, and I have to write them as I see fit. Visiting the imagined, half-understood expectations of an audience on a story in progress is very likely to kill it. In the end, I think a person who buys a book is buying stories, but also an author’s aesthetic. The reader is gambling that the writer will create characters and tell stories in ways that please unexpectedly, ways that the reader might not have been able to order up even if he or she had been given the opportunity to do so. It seems the best that I can do is try to create interesting, honest characters, tell inventive, accessible stories, and hope those characters and stories please and surprise an audience.

LNB: What was your strategy for ordering the stories in this collection?

DR: My editor had some strong feelings on the subject. We both wanted “The Regular” and “Thingless” to be the first two stories in the collection. We thought they set the tone for what follows. My editor insisted that “In Memoriam,” as the collection’s shortest story, should sit right in the middle, and I agreed. And I insisted that “Dancing Man” be the collection’s final story. I suspected that some of the stories in the collection would strike some readers as bleak, and I wanted the collection to end on a note of redemption—whether the redemption at the end of “Dancing Man” is real or imagined is another question.

LNB: What are you working on next?

DR: I’m working on a novel. I’m about three-fourths of the way through a first draft, which means I’ve got a long way to go before I’ve got something finished. But I’m working steadily on it, chipping away each day for an hour or so before heading into work.

LNB: What have you recently read that you’re recommending to friends and other readers?

DR: I’m only halfway through Jonathan Lethem’s Chronic City and I’m already recommending it to people. It’s fantastic. The Manhattan of Lethem’s imagination, inhabited by his exquisitely drawn characters, is even more exciting and more revealing than the Manhattan we know—even as I write this, I can’t wait to crack the book and get back there.

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