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"Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day," by Ben Loory

Ben Loory, Stories for Nighttime
Penguin Group, Heather Conley

Jeff Glor talks to Ben Loory about "Stories for Nighttime and Some For Day," his newly released collection of 40 short stories.

Jeff Glor: What inspired you to write the book?

Ben Loory: Before I wrote stories, I was a screenwriter-- though never a very successful one. I made a living, writing X"-Files"-y kinda stuff, but knew I wasn't getting something. Then one day I saw a flier in my favorite bookstore (the Mystery & Imagination Bookshop in Glendale, Calif.) that said that Dennis Etchison was coming to teach a class for a few months on story writing. Dennis Etchison is a writer I admire-- he's won both British and World Fantasy Awards-- and it seemed like a sign, so I went to the class, and it was like he flipped a switch, and I started writing. Originally I thought I was writing outlines for screenplays, just one after another, like story treatments. It was only after I'd written 10 or 20 of them that I realized they were actually short stories. At that point I suddenly had a vision of a book-- a collection of colorful Twilight Zone-y fables. So I just wrote and wrote until one day it was done. It was almost like being possessed.

JG: What surprised you the most during the writing process?

BL: Well, that I was writing, mainly! I'd spent so long trying to force it out, and suddenly it was all just flowing. I found that stories have a mind of their own; it's like they exist somewhere, fully formed, and all you have to do as a writer is listen really hard and copy them down. When you get into a groove, time disappears, and it's like you come fully alive. I'd always thought of writing as a battle, but instead it was like flying through space.

JG: What would you be doing if you weren't a writer?

BL: No idea. I'd probably be dead. In any case, I'd be very unhappy. I really don't like to think about it.

JG: What else are you reading right now?

BL: I'm always reading a million things. Sometimes I read a book a day. I just finished an amazing novel called "The Circus of Dr. Lao." It was written back in 1935, by a man named Charles Finney, and is about a magical circus that comes to a small town in Arizona during the Depression. It was one of the strangest, most dazzling books I've ever read in my life. It was almost like a Fellini film, only in prose and 100 percent American. (It actually reminded me a lot of Erskine Caldwell, whose "Tobacco Road" is one of my favorite books.)

I'm also caught up in this mystery thing-- I recently discovered the Martin Beck series, which were written by a husband and wife team from Sweden, Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. The series was at the heart of the Swedish detective genre in the 1960s and '70s, which eventually led to Henning Mankell's Wallander books, and, of course, Stieg Larsson. They're really a wonderful series of books; my favorite is called "The Laughing Policeman." Beck is an understated but completely real character, and the books have a deep emotional core. Very satisfying.

JG: What's next for you?

BL: We shall see! I just get up every day and write. I try not to think about what I'm going to do, I just open a blank page and see what comes. I'm also adapting one of the stories from my book into a screenplay with a friend of mine. This time around it's a whole new ballgame; it's going to be good. I'm excited.

For more on "Stories for Nighttime," visit the Penguin Group website.

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