THIS WEEK’S OTHER FEATURED BOOK, “THE LIES THAT BIND,” BY ED PROTZEL, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST, OR BY CLICKING HIS NAME ON THE AUTHOR PAGE. ALSO FEATURED THIS WEEK IS THE MONTHLY “FIRST TUESDAY REPLAY.”
THE BOOK: Bull and Other Stories.
PUBLISHED IN: 2016
THE AUTHOR: Kathy Anderson.
THE EDITOR: Alison Taverna.
THE PUBLISHER: Autumn House Press, an independent literary press based in Pittsburgh, PA, founded in 1998.
SUMMARY: “Bull and Other Stories is a collection of thirteen short stories, many set in Philadelphia, Delaware, and southern New Jersey – places where I’ve lived and worked. The people in Bull and Other Stories are varied: a teenage boy coming to grips with a transgender parent; two elderly squabbling sisters on their last trip; a middle-aged lesbian bartender falling in love for the first time; a funeral home driver; a female rabbit farmer with a son on the autism spectrum; a rich lesbian couple driving their realtor crazy. What the stories have in common is that they are about real people dealing with the dramas of everyday life that we all face – love, sex, death, divorce, working – and all are funny in some way.”
THE BACK STORY: I wrote the stories (and many others not in the book) over the past twenty years and published about half of them in literary journals along the way. My wonderful writer friend and mentor, Sara Pritchard, who has read my stories with enthusiasm and insight since we met at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in 2003, encouraged me to put the stories together as a collection and start submitting to publication contests. I didn’t think I was ready, but my manuscript started winning finalist awards in contests like the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, the Autumn House Press Fiction Prize, and the New Rivers Press Many Voices competition. So I kept adding new stories to the manuscript and submitting it until I won the Autumn House Press Fiction Prize in 2015. While I was submitting to the contests, I spent a lot of time re-arranging the stories until I felt there was a strong opening story, a flow of energy throughout the book, and an emotionally satisfying ending story.
WHY THIS TITLE? I wanted to entice readers in with a compelling opening line so I made “Bull” the title story. The story (and the book) begins with “His father was now his mother but he was still an epic asshole.”
WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? Like our neighbors and people we pass by in life, the characters in the book are a mix of LGBTQ and heterosexual, all ages, working class and wealthy – plus a couple of cool dogs! The stories are accessible, so they don’t require an advanced degree to figure out what is going on. Most of the stories are funny or include funny elements. And I’ve been told by readers that they’ve missed their bus or train stops while in the middle of reading the stories, because they were so engrossed and wanted to find out how the story ended, so I’ll share that here with great pleasure.
“Anderson’s greatest achievement is successfully avoiding the redundancy of plot or character that plagues some debut story collections. Her characters range in age from child to elderly, country kids to international travelers. Anderson writes Salty, a “minimum-wage poor” working man, with the same clarity and compassion she has for two sisters taking a final journey together, an abandoned wife, and a highly-educated librarian. These stories bring robust insight and humor to lives that might otherwise go unnoticed.” — Necessary Fiction
“These are infectiously readable short stories, and Anderson’s skill at fitting them together so seamlessly is matched by her evident joy in getting straight down to business. . . There’s a remarkable no-nonsense intelligence and grace to these funny, ugly stories; they brim with the assurance of an important new literary voice.” — Open Letters Monthly
“. . . the moments that feel truly new in Bull and Other Stories come when Anderson ascends an implausibility and tips it over into the fabulistic. She has lots of fun burlesquing the well-to-do: a histrionic lesbian power couple tormenting their realtor and each other, a pair of unhappy yuppie parents dining out with their bearded baby girl.” — Lambda Literary Review
“Anderson plays with time, with words, with memories. She inhabits her characters, jumping from one to another, sometimes dizzyingly, but with great clarity. Her characters gleam for a moment, then fade . . . Win or lose, Anderson’s characters own us for the duration of their stories.” — At the Inkwell
AUTHOR PROFILE: Bull and Other Stories (Autumn House Press, 2016) is my first book. I’m thrilled that it found a home with an independent literary press that I admire so much. My short stories have been published in Kenyon Review Online, Tahoma Literary Review, Barcelona Review, Apple Valley Review, and other journals. I’m also a playwright and member of the Dramatists Guild, with plays produced and staged in the US and in Ireland. It’s an interesting mix – being a fiction writer is all about deep interior energy, working in solitude, and being a playwright is all about external energy, working with a director, actors, and feeling the audience immediate response.
I worked as a librarian in public libraries in South Jersey, which was a fantastic way for me to connect with readers, make a living surrounded by books, and hear more stories from people’s lives than I could ever imagine. Now living in Philadelphia, I love bicycling, walking, cooking, traveling, theatre-going, and my new passion – story slams.
AUTHOR COMMENTS: For me, short stories are the hardest and most beautiful form of writing. So much has to happen in so few pages to pull it off. It’s a great high when a story comes together, one that I continue to chase.
SAMPLE CHAPTER: Amazon has a sample at https://www.amazon.com/Bull-Other-Stories-Kathy-Anderson/dp/1938769112.
LOCAL OUTLETS: Giovanni’s Room Bookstore, Philadelphia, PA Inkwood NJ Bookstore, Haddonfield, NJ.
WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Autumn House Press, via UPNE Amazon Barnes & Noble.
PRICE: $17.95 paperback, $9.99 for Kindle version.