Epiphany: William Trevor began his adult life as a sculptor and later described his writing as chipping away at a block of marble. Are you a chipper or a builder? In other words, do you chip away at a block of writing, or are you more methodical, building up the block brick by brick?
Jack Austin: Builder, but I don’t think there’s anyone out there who doesn’t do a little bit of both simultaneously.
What was your first publication?
A poem in Deep South magazine. I don’t know how to explain it other than to say I was reading Shelby Foote’s Civil War at the time. The love life of Jefferson Davis is surprisingly touching.
Five books you are reading or thinking about now?
Airships, by Barry Hannah, The Flamethrowers, by Rachel Kushner, Twenty Grand, by Rebecca Curtis, Great House, by Nicole Krauss, and Coast of Chicago, by Stuart Dybeck
If you had to inhabit a fictional world, what would it be (i.e., the environment of which novel or short story or poem)?
I have no idea how to answer this question. Whatever fictional universe where I’d have gainful employment. The real answer is probably Narnia—I don’t care how old I am.
Most interesting day job you've had (from the perspective of a writer)?
I was a bartender for the last five years. People tend to think that’s pretty interesting, but after a while it just gets depressing. You realize how much people have built their lives around the consumption of alcohol. It’s time for all of us to get new hobbies.
Novels? Short stories? Which do you prefer to write?
At this point, I’ve only tried to write short stories, so I really can’t say for sure, but novels, definitely novels.
One sentence of advice regarding writing?
You don’t have nearly enough talking animals in your work.
Your story title: was it your first choice?
Yes, absolutely. I saw it in a Dereck Walcott poem, and I immediately thought, “I’m going to steal this.”
In a nutshell, what are you working on now?
A collection of short stories about death in the suburbs.
What's an interview question you've never been asked that you wish had been?
Anything that would allow me to discuss the deep psychological impact that the Milwaukee Brewers have on an entire region. Seriously though, I’d like to talk about the role certain teachers have had in my life, and how they’ve pulled me out of oblivion.
Jack Austin is a writer from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is currently an MFA student at Hunter College, where he also teaches undergraduate creative writing.