10 questions for … Seth FriedWritten by Dave DeChristopher | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Northwestern Ohio native Seth Fried’s first book, a collection of short stories titled “The Great Frustration,” ($14.95, Soft Skull Press) hit bookstore shelves in April. Though still in his 20s, Fried has already been published in several leading literary magazines, such as The Kenyon Review, One Story, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern and Tin House.
“The Great Frustration” has garnered a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Readers can keep up with Fried via his blog, SethFried.blogspot.com.
1. What are you working on now?
The whole process of coming out with a book is pretty daunting, and there’s still lots of stuff to be done in the next few months in terms of getting the word out. I am working on some new stories because I always like to be working on something, but for the most part I’m just trying to catch my breath.
2. Reading anything interesting now?
Right now, I’m reading a book by Alan Heathcock called “Volt.” It just came out and it’s pretty awesome. I also just finished a great book called “Other People We Married” by Emma Straub. They’re both debut collections. I think it’s exciting to see such talented writers coming out with short story collections, because these days there’s a lot of pressure for writers to focus on novels.
3. Talk a little about your Toledo years.
I attended Bowling Green State University, where I majored in Latin with a minor in creative writing. Other than that, I’ve lived in and around Toledo pretty much my whole life. The majority of this book was written while I was living in either Bowling Green or Toledo. I’m in the process of relocating to Brooklyn, but Toledo will always be my home.
4. Any favorite Toledo places and influences?
The title story of “The Great Frustration” is actually based on a painting in the Toledo Museum of Art. The painting is called “The Garden of Eden” and it’s by a Flemish painter named Isaak van Oosten. While I was attending BGSU as an undergrad, my friend and I would drive up to the TMA on the weekends and choose paintings to write stories about. I would encourage anyone who ends up reading the title story of my collection to go to the museum and check out that painting. In fact, even if you don’t read that story, going to the TMA is a pretty great idea. It’s awesome.
5. What writers have most influenced you?
My biggest influence is probably Italo Calvino. I love his work. His stories tend to be over-the-top, creative and cerebral. Also, his fiction explores different ideas and ways of looking at the world. Those are all qualities that I really aspire to in my work.
6. Do you have a mentor?
While I attended BGSU, I was lucky enough to get to work for Mid-American Review, a literary journal put out by the school. While I was there, I got to work under Michael Czyzniejewski and Karen Craigo, who have both been early and enduring supporters of my work. In addition to being great writers themselves, they really do a great job of fostering a sense of community among the creative writers in Bowling Green. Also, the opportunities they presented me with while working for Mid-American Review have been invaluable in my development as a writer. So I definitely consider them to be mentor-type figures, and I’m willing to bet that a lot of other BGSU graduates feel the same way.
7. Science and history figure prominently in a lot of your stories. Are these strong interests of yours?
For sure. As I said, I majored in Latin. So history fascinates me in a big way. I’ve always been curious about science and love reading about it. But both the history and the science in my stories are pretty absurd and aren’t really based in reality. In that sense, it’s difficult to say what I’m drawing on when I’m writing about fake history or fake science. One big advantage of both is that I feel like a lot more things are possible when I write about them. Instead of just stories featuring yet another failing relationship or dysfunctional family, I get to write stories with harems, catapults, volcanoes, mechanical dragons, mummies, conquistadors, etc. So for me that’s a lot of fun.
8. Are you a compulsive writer? A procrastinator? Do you have a set routine? Talk a little bit about your work habits.
I know lots of writers who set aside huge blocks of time for writing, but that’s not really how I work. I’m always thinking about my stories. I’m always jotting things down. I’m always reworking a paragraph or debating what needs to be cut. I never sit down and say to myself, “I am going to write for the next three hours.” Working on my stories is just an ongoing process that lasts all day.
I think this tendency is a result of the fact that writing short stories isn’t my main source of income. Most of the stories in this book were written while I was working random jobs (sorting recycling, clerking at a thrift store, laundering BGSU’s fencing jackets, working as a library attendant) and also taking college courses as a full-time student. So I’m used to my process being spread out into little moments throughout the day. I haven’t really had the luxury of making writing a separate distinct act. It’s just part of my day.
9. What are your three favorite books of all time?
“Cosmicomics” by Italo Calvino, “City Life” by Donald Barthelme and “The Knife Thrower” by Steven Millhauser.
10. What advice would you give younger aspiring writers?
Every time you suffer a rejection and don’t give up on your art, that’s a success. Every rejection that you endure with confidence is a victory. It’s something that sets you apart from all the other people who would give up on themselves. I’ve experienced a lot of rejection as a writer, and the ones that hurt the most in the past are some of my proudest accomplishments today.
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