A Troy James Weaver story reminds me of when I want to eat at a Waffle House, by myself. Or go to DisneyLand, but just to walk around. He depicts the awareness of being alone in a crowded space better than any writer I know. Of the calculated, precise sentences of Édouard Levé or Gary Lutz, but with a humble radiance that seems ready to explode in a vicious hellfire at any moment, Selected Stories is the collection you run looking for because you left it in the corner booth at the 24-hr. diner just before the apocalypse. I interviewed Troy via email. I have a google email, he uses yahoo.
I remember you posting on twitter when the collection was announced that this would be your last book for a while. Is that still true? If so, did that decision impact the writing at all, or did you already have the book put together, and then decided?
Yeah, that’s true. I made up my mind after most of it was done. I just want to get back to a more pure kind of writing, back to enjoying doing it without the pressure to publish or find an agent or peddle my work through social media platforms. I’ve been lucky to have published with so many great presses and magazines and zines and the like, but I would rather get back to writing from a place within myself where I don’t care about any of that.
This book felt like it was about characters who struggle to find something pure, despite the pressures of their day to day responsibilities and desires. Did you find that publishing-pressure having a negative effect on your writing, or life in general?
I wouldn’t say it had an impact on my writing, just that my desire to do so started to slowly diminish over time. It became less enjoyable. It is a lot more enjoyable now. I just want to do what I love to do without any kind of outside crud coming into that, at least for now. I’d say life is about finding something pure, even in the everyday and most mundane places you could possibly imagine. Otherwise, what’s the point? I think that’s all I write about, to be honest, even though I don’t really think about it like that when I’m doing it. I just like creating art.
In another interview you said that you wrote some of your books on a notepad in your car while on lunch break. I mean, that itself reflects a pretty beautiful mundane purity. Where and when and over what time did you write Selected Stories?
There are two stories that I wrote 5 or more years ago and reworked and rewrote for the collection, but most were written in one short spurt of time in early 2018. Two came mid 2019, while constantly trying to make them all better right up until I felt they were done. I wrote most of them at home on notebook paper and a pen, then edited them with pen, then rewrote them in the notebook, then typed them and printed them, then edited them again, type, print, edit, etc. until I was satisfied with them. That’s been my process from the beginning. I started writing them as a way to take a break from a novel I’ve been struggling with for a couple of years.
The tone is incredibly consistent throughout. All the stories seem to build off each other’s energy, while at the same demanding their space and attention. What made you decide on Selected Stories as the title? Were there others you were thinking about?
I feel like the stories are all concerned to a degree with the same things, which is why I thought about doing a collection in the first place, but I didn’t really think about it too much, until Ben [Devos, Apocalypse Party Press] came along and said he wanted to publish it. To be honest, I’ve always liked those kinds of titles. Scott McClanahan’s Stories, Stories II, and Stories V, for instance. Doesn’t have to have a great title, because what you are after is inside, something like that, I don’t know. And also, because they are just stories I selected from a batch of stories and put into a book.
How important is content for you? Are traditional things like setting or plot something you think about?
For me the most important thing about content is style. Plot and story are not that important to me, though I think they’re unavoidable. When you put words together, in a way, plot is implied. My favorite books are the ones that are rarely trying to tell stories, though they often are despite the writer’s intention not to, and perhaps are more engaged in the possibilities of bending meaning or inventing meaning through an innovative use of language. A great sentence is a great sentence. That’s all. I don’t think about plot or anything, really, when I write, just images and words.
Do you consider yourself a writer’s writer?
I think most of the people who read small press books are other writers or aspiring writers, whatever that means, so in a sense I suppose that would be true. However, I don’t think it means much. I’m happy that anybody would read and enjoy what I do. I don’t write for anybody but myself, but over the years I’ve been getting the feeling that people expect a certain kind of writing from me and it started to feel restrictive, so what I’ve been working on for a couple of years is totally different, historical fiction in the vein of surrealism. So we will see what becomes of it, eventually, hopefully.
That sounds awesome. What are some of your influences right now?
Sparklehorse, James Tate, Wu Tang Clan, Joy Williams, Hobart, playing guitar, my wife and dogs, New York Tyrant, Steve Anwyll, Little Debbie, Chelsea Hodson’s book being read by Kendell Jenner, Kawabata, Dazai, Mishima, Oe, Don Carpenter, The Carpenters, my friends.
Just one more: what’s the story behind the picture on the cover?
Nostalgia for better times. Innocence. Masked desire.