In celebration of National Short Story Month I asked several acclaimed short fiction writers to answer five questions for me. Fair is fair, I answered them myself. I will posting installments all month. Here is the first batch:
Alan Heathcock, author of Volt.
is your favorite opening line of a short story?
"Mrs. May's bedroom window was low and faced on the east and the bull, silvered in the moonlight, stood under it, his head raised as if he listened--like some patient god come down to woo her--for a stir inside the room."--from "Greenleaf," by Flannery O'Connor.
Name one short story that inspired you to write short stories yourself?
Indian Camp by Ernest Hemingway
Who are your five favorite short story writers?
Sherwood Anderson, Anthony Doerr, Flannery O'Connor, Joyce Carol Oates, James Salter
What are five short stories that you would recommend everybody should read?
"Upon the Sweeping Flood" by Joyce Carol Oates
"The Caretaker" by Anthony Doerr
"Winter Chemistry" by Joy Williams
"The Inventor, 1972" by Bonnie Jo Campbell
"Field Dressing" by Jodi Angel
If you could fight any character in a short story who would that be?
Neddy Merrill in John Cheever's "The Swimmer". I'd punch him square in the mouth, then tell him to put down the cocktail, stop swimming in other folks' pools, and get his sh*t together. Then again, the story pretty much does that to him anyway. Still...Neddy's got a smack or two coming his way.
Lydia Millet, author of "Magnificence" and "Love In Infant Monkeys"
What is your favorite opening line of a short story?
It's not a first line, but it's a line. In Margaret Atwood's "Rape Fantasies" from 1977. A phrase, actually, that's part of a longer sentence. "I'm sure he couldn't rape his way out of a paper bag, poor old thing."