INTERVIEW WITH KEVIN GRAUKE
Rappahannock Review Prose Editors: The narrative in “The Faces of Boys and Dogs” hints at a familial history, with a lifetime of tension between the mother and grandmother. Do you find it difficult to strike a balance of detail and context in flash fiction without resulting in overextension?
Kevin Grauke: Finding the right balance of detail and context is always a difficult task, I think, no matter the length of the work; one won’t work the way it should without enough—or with too much—of the other. In this story, the substance of the familial history only has to be hinted at because the narrator hasn’t been privy to it. This lack of knowledge drives the story. He’s drawn in for what’s probably the first time by his grandmother, and the details frighten him because of the context they allude to but don’t reveal.
RR: When you write a piece of flash fiction, do you often go through many drafts, or do you find that you’re able to get your work out in a single sitting?
KG: Well, it definitely takes more than one sitting, but I do find that I can usually finish one in three or four drafts. If I need to spend more time with it than that, it will probably end up not being something I like all that much. Full-length stories usually take me months and months because I usually have no real idea where I’m going with them until I’m several drafts in, but flashes do tend to come to me much closer to fully formed, at least in terms of my concept of their overall construction.
RR: There is a theme of insecurity in this story, instilled within the narrator by his grandmother, and we’ve noticed that insecurity is a common topic within your book Shadows of Men. Is this a subject that you find unifies your work or just a coincidence?
KG: Insecurity is a natural engine of narrative because conflict always comes with it. Insecure characters are torn by their desire to be (or do) something that they’re simultaneously terribly afraid of. I find that struggle fascinating, probably because of my own struggles with various insecurities over the years. But who’s not insecure, right? I don’t trust people who claim not to be.
RR: Do you have a preference between traditional short stories or flash fiction?
KG: Because their strengths and their appeals are different, it simply depends upon what I’m more interested in reading or working on at the moment, though this interest does tend to lock itself in for months at a time. Lately, I’ve only been writing flashes, poetry, and short essays, but I don’t know how long this will last. I do tend to need to switch creative gears fairly regularly in order to keep myself excited about what I’m working on.
RR: We’re curious to know, who are some of your favorite writers that you read for leisure or for inspiration?
KG: I tend not to read explicitly for inspiration, mainly because I always expect there to be a degree of that in all of my leisure reading. I can’t imagine finishing anything that doesn’t inspire me at some level. Lately, I’ve mainly been reading nonfiction, but here are some of my favorite books of fiction from the last five years or so: Weather, Jenny Offill; Conversations with Friends, Sally Rooney; Milkman, Anna Burns; The Perfect Nanny, Leila Slimani; Reservoir 13, Jon McGregor; Bad Dreams and Other Stories, Tessa Hadley; The Wake, Paul Kingsnorth; and 10:04, Ben Lerner.
Kevin Grauke’s work in Issue 8.2: