Through the power of facebook, I learned about Jim Breslin. When I heard his new short story collection, Elephant, was just published and I could get it for my kindle, I quickly downloaded the book and read it. I was an instant fan. I contacted him to see if he would be willing to answer some of my questions, and he graciously accepted my request. Here is the interview:


Wittle:  How did you come to write flash fiction?

Breslin: I’ve always been a fan of short stories, but I was driven to
write flash fiction by two influences. First, I’m a fan of the website
fictionaut. Many writers contribute excellent flash fiction pieces and comment
on each other’s work. Second, I read the Collected Stories of Lydia Davis. Her
pieces are little gems, many are less than a single page, and they really
capture a moment or a thought. They are simply beautiful and they led me to
start crafting short pieces.


Wittle: Describe the process you went through to place the stories in the
collection, Elephant.


Breslin: The stories in Elephant were written over a four year period. I
wanted to explore different themes while evolving my own style. After I wrote and
revised each story over time, I shared with one of the three critique groups I
regularly attend. Their candid feedback helped me decide which stories to fine
tune even further and which stories to simply shelve for the time being.


Wittle: In the first story, “The Ex,” there are a lot of great
details that do double and triple duty. I found the reveal that Aaron was an
addict as Eve was eating the Asian pear to be very well done. How many drafts
did it take for you to get details like this just right?


Breslin: Thanks for the nice words! I worked on that story off and on
for almost a year. I probably revised that section over thirty times. I believe
in the idea of sweating over every word, continually shaping the piece until
the scenes feels natural. In that scene, I just kept working on the timing of
the discussion with their handling of the pear until I felt it flowed
naturally. I’m glad you thought it worked!


Wittle:  In, “We are not Dog People,” could you describe Evan’s
deeper connection to the neighbor’s dog?


Breslin: Evan has constructed a life where he finds himself fenced in,
constrained by his own beliefs. He keeps his head down and tries not to stir up
trouble. Although the dog is a nuisance, what Evan really resents is this dog’s
boundless energy and freedom.


Wittle: I love the story, “Elephant.” Can you explain the deeper
purpose of the elephant in the story?


Breslin: This started out with the old British phrase the “elephant in
the room.” I wondered how I could deliver that uncomfortable feeling without
using the phrase. I spent about four hours working on the piece, and I still
wasn’t sure what the elephant was. I thought the couple might have lost a baby.
Later, I thought the story might work better if the elephant was only something
he could see. It took another day to write and revise the story, and the piece
is only about 500 words. I also like that the word elephant does not appear in
the story itself.


Wittle:  “Dashboard Jesus” and “The Rapture” are connected
by the one character in each story. I loved the way the reader sees two
different point of views on the connected character. Was this story ever one
story or was it always two separate stories? Would you ever think of connecting
them further?


Breslin: I had written “The Rapture” first and “Dashboard Jesus” came
some months later, though I knew it was the same man on the street corner. I
hadn’t thought of merging the stories into one, but when it came time to order
the stories in the collection, it made sense to put them together. I haven’t
thought of merging the stories further, but it’s an interesting idea. I would
like to write a collection where each story is linked by one interaction.


Wittle:  “At Night in the Field” is a haunting story because the
details are sparse but punch the reader in the stomach with their implications.
This is one of the stories that went beyond the page. Can you explain more
about the relationship the girl and stepfather have and have not?


Breslin: Driving home from the Rosemont Writers Retreat one night, I saw
a pick up truck in a baseball field. It was a strange sight and the first draft
flowed out fairly quickly. The narrator has lied to her mother, is popping
pills, and hates her stepdad. It’s hard to know what details we can trust. No
doubt, her stepdad is creepy but I don’t know if anything has happened between
the two.


Wittle:  Could you see any of these stories turn into a novel? Which one or
ones and why?


Breslin: Good question. I do think there are some characters in these
stories who eventually I might expand on. I really like Jack and Emme in “The
Pullback” and how they are overwhelmed with three rambunctious kids in the
moment. I would like to see how they fare later in life. I could see a prequel
of sorts for “The Rapture” exploring the arc of this mother and her son. Also,
the character Frank Bausch from the final story “The Pasture” has lived a long
full life that could be explored further. Interesting ideas. Thanks!


I would like to Thank Jim Breslin for taking the time to answer my questions. To read more about Jim Breslin and pick up a copy of Elephant,