Contributor Spotlight:
Interview With Randall Van Nostrand

Rappahannock Review Fiction Editors: In “The Train,” including Millie not having enough money to buy Buster a train set. How do you balance each character’s conflicts so they don’t become overwhelming to the reader?

Randall Van Nostrand: I tried to focus on the issues that are most important to Millie: her mom deserting the family, getting Buster his train, the stress with her brother, and let the rest be part of the background.

Additionally, Buster is such a good-hearted hopeful little spirit that he acts as a bit of an antidote to the conflicts around them.

RR: We felt immediately invested in Millie and Buster’s friendship. How do you go about creating strong dynamics between characters?

RVN: For me relationships always have a bit of a push-pull in how they function. One minute your best friend is making you crazy and the next he’s offering you a kidney.

Because Millie is a girl and older than Buster, they’re bound to clash regardless of how connected they are. My job was to find the places that could happen.

RR: We loved that despite not getting the gifts they wanted, Millie and Buster still had a meaningful Christmas. How did you go about writing such an emotional ending?

RVN: For me there’s nothing more satisfying than being truly seen and heard by someone you love. In the story we see how much Millie loves and understands Buster but it’s not until the end that we get to see how much he sees and understands her.

RR: We previously published a different piece of yours, “One Daughter Weeping.” “The Train” has a more hopeful tone. Do you find it challenging to display such a range of themes in your other works?

RVN: My stories usually start with a slip of an idea and a character or two.  If it’s a good day, I’ll give the characters room to figure things out so they can let me know where they want to go. If it’s a not so good day, I’ll try to boss them around which is always challenging and never gets us very far. I think one of the great pleasures of writing is discovering how a story unfolds and being willing to be surprised.

RR: What was the best gift you have ever received?

RVN: A red bicycle with white tassels on the handles. I was six and it was beautiful.

Randall Van Nostrand’s work appears in Issue 10.1 here.