BJI: Give us some background on Mike Mike Mike Mike.
GO: Mike Mike Mike Mike is actually an older story, but I like to think it looks good for its age. I wrote it in 2007 (I think?) and it was originally called The Plaza. It wasn’t perfect but I couldn’t leave it alone, because I knew a great story was in there somewhere.
I periodically came back to it and tinkered, but without the click. Then, in some strange alchemy, I started working on it again in 2011, tweaked a few things, cut out some soft spots and bam! – It became Mike Mike Mike Mike and I was totally on board. It’s got a fable-like quality that is different from my other work and that I kinda dig. Fairy tales played a big role in my early reading; the Andrew Lang-edited ones with the red hot iron shoes and the Little Mermaid dying at the end.
BJI: Who/what/where/when inspires your writing? Also why.
GO: Why: I want to create that feeling where I read something I wrote and actually enjoy it – with the hope that someone else will feel the same. Steve Heighton, in his Workbook, says “Writers, working well, cast a sort of spell on themselves. Years later they reread passage and say, How could I have known that then? I don’t even know it now.”
The possibility of that kind of magic is enough to keep me at the keyboard on those days where I feel like chucking my laptop out a window.
As for inspiration, it’s everything I read, but especially what I read when I was young, a lot of which was either sad or sarcastic or both.
More than anything though, it’s the people I talk to. When someone is really interesting to me, I kind of want to eat them alive (in a, uh, writerly way).
BJI: You have a novel coming out soon. Tell us how excited you are.
GO: I’m “stay up all night without caffeine” excited. I’m “run around in circles doing airplane wings” excited. “High five an intimidating stranger” excited. I feel like you could peer down my throat with a flashlight and see my heart just absolutely glowing. It might explode on my pub date when I finally hold the little beast in my hands. But what a way to go.
BJI: What’s so great about short literature?
GO: An excellent short story, to me, doesn’t feel like real life, but like something happening just beside real life, a little bit strange, a little bit tilted. It should leave an impression that you can’t quite describe, bigger than the sum of its parts. In a novel, you can point to what you like specifically, but in a great short story, there’s a sort of amorphous pleasure that is hard to pin down. And that stays with you, because it’s this atmospheric thing created by the reader and the writer together. Which is why I can tell people that Alice Munro and I often “work together”.
BJI: Last question. What excites you most about online/digital storytelling?
GO: I love how easy it is to distribute, how it can reach people instantly and easily. A single tweet can carry your work to thousands of people. I can bug everyone at once to read my work!
stories by Grace O’Connell