A while ago, I did a review of Richard Fellinger’s excellent short story collection “They Hover Over Us” from Snake Nation Press (available on Kindle and all other e-readers). If you read this blog regularly, you’ll know I’m more partial to genre fiction than the kind of literary fiction that Mr. Fellinger writes. But these stories of regular folks in Rust Belt Pennsylvania really impressed me. You can see the review here.
Anyway, Mr. Fellinger agreed to an interview, so here goes:
Where do you live and what’s your full-time job?
Did you say full-time job? I’m a writer, which means I piece together jobs that aren’t quite full-time, or at least don’t pay full-time. I work at Elizabethtown College in two roles–I’m an adjunct writing professor and writing fellow in charge of the college’s Writing Wing.
How did you get into writing in the first place?
I was a newspaper reporter for about 15 years, and later in my newspaper career I began penning short stories and enrolled in the MFA program for creative writing at Wilkes University, which is a terrific program, by the way.
Was there any particular reason why you gravitated toward short stories?
Well, my first book was a collection of short stories, but I’ve been working on a novel for the past three-plus years, so I don’t gravitate toward short stories any more. Part of the reason I did, I think, was because as a journalist, my mind was trained in shorter mediums.
Where do you get ideas for stories?
Anywhere. A lot come from personal experience. My short story collection is entirely about people from the Pennsylvania Rust Belt, where I grew up, so that area was a big influence on me. My novel is set in a fictional Central PA town, where I live now. My fictional town is tidy, small and gossipy, a lot like my new home.
Who are some of your influences?
Raymond Carver was a big influence on me when I was younger, but as I matured I made an effort to be less of a minimalist, and writers like Tobias Wolfe and Richard Ford have been big influences on me lately.
As a writer, how much of your own marketing are you obliged to do?
In my case so far, almost all of it. My short story collection was published by a small literary press that publishes the winner of a literary fiction award called the Serena McDonald Kennedy Award, so it seems most of their effort goes into the award and they hand off all of the marketing to the writer. It’s a challenge, to put it mildly.
A lot of writers I interview for this blog do genre fiction. The advantage for them, it seems to me, is that the readership tends to be relatively easy to identify and reach. As a writer of literary – as opposed to genre – fiction, how do you identify potential readers and persuade them to read your book?
I don’t think a writer of literary fiction worries too much about identifying readers. When I was in grad school, for instance, some faculty members discouraged me from writing short stories because they’re hard to sell. And that’s true, believe me. But I think we plow ahead with our stories because we feel like they’re inside us waiting to come out, and we feel a need to write them regardless of commercial value.