A Springfield, Mo. native, Steve Yates is the winner of the Juniper Prize in fiction. The University of Massachusetts Press published his collection Some Kinds of Love: Stories. Yates is the author of the novel Morkan's Quarry (2010) and has published stories in TriQuarterly, Southwest Review and many other journals. In Best American Short Stories, Richard Russo named one of Yates’s stories a distinguished story of 2009.
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Some Kinds of Love: Stories
Sometimes the opposite of love is not hate, but depravity. In 12 stories set in the Missouri Ozarks, New Orleans and Mississippi, Steve Yates reveals lovers clawing back from precipices of destructiveness, obsessiveness, cruelty, vanity or greed. They seek escape and yet find new barriers, realizing true love may not be at all what they imagined. Pioneers, limestone quarry owners, young German American Civil War survivors, bankers, sex toy catalog designers, highway engineers, Pakistani terrorists, attorneys, missile guidance masterminds and furniture factory workers who can see the future populate these pieces. From the Ozarks of the 1830s, when locals perceive doomsday in a historic starfall, to the near future at an all-night slow-pitch softball tournament when Armageddon looms yet again, these stories chart the dark side of love, the ties that bind families and the sweet complications of human desire.
What is the most important lesson readers can learn from your book Some Kinds of Love: Stories?
These twelve stories have a wide variety of settings and characters. Seven stories happen in the Missouri Ozarks, four stories happen in Mississippi, and one is set in New Orleans. The great Greg Langley said in his splendid review of the book in the Baton Rouge Advocate: “quirky is in the water in these places.” If there is any lesson from all twelve stories it would be “Love takes work, and is never what you imagine at first blush.”
What motivated you to tell these stories?
The book is dedicated to my wife, Tammy (22 years of marriage in November 2013!), who dared me to write a happy ending. Don’t know why, but when I was in undergraduate school in the late 1980s and in the creative writing program at Arkansas in the early 1990s, there was such a vogue among new writers. They styled toward either Raymond Carver’s minimalism or this overblown, violent, semi-Gothic, hyper-lyric Cormac McCarthy maximalism, both styles with insistently dark, inconclusive, obscurantist endings. She hated it. And I thought it was all pretty boring and overwrought, too. Writing toward a happy ending---which I could never achieve without doubt or irony or surprise---led me to paths that belonged not to me but to the stories.
What was the most enjoyable part of the process of writing this book?
The miracle of publishing it with a great university press, and the miracle of publishing it at all. It was a finalist everywhere in short story competitions: The Iowa Prize, The Flannery O’Connor Prize, twice a finalist at Black Lawrence Press, and at Dzanc, and other places I forget. Place Horse Syndrome! See my blog at http://fictionandhistory.wordpress.com/2012/04/05/place-horse-syndrome-finalist-again-the-oddities-of-short-story-collection-contests/. It was a miraculous day when Bruce Wilcox at University of Massachusetts Press called me and said I was the winner of the eighth annual Juniper Prize in Fiction and the UMASS Press would publish the book in 2013. There is a nice interview with me and Bruce at https://vimeo.com/65834300
What excites you about the festival?
It’s just very well run, and such a golden chance for a beginning author to meet new readers, which is becoming harder and harder to do. Plus, I am assistant director and marketing director at University Press of Mississippi. Many of our authors will be there, and the festival gives me a chance to record them for UPM and share their awesome content. See https://vimeo.com/album/2471004 . We film every year and love it!
What should people look forward to by coming to your presentation at the festival?
A laugh or two. My God, stories can be funny, please! We’re all so serious when we craft LITERATURE.
Is there a question I should have asked you, or one that you have wished someone would ask?
I think it’s worth noting that every one of these twelve stories was published in such distinguished, national literary reviews as the Missouri Review, TriQuarterly, Western Humanities Review, Harrington Gay Men’s Literary Quarterly, Turnstile, and so on, and that one of the stories was chosen by Rick Russo and the editors of Best American Short Stories 2010 as among the Other Distinguished Stories of 2009. Sometimes when you are a servant in the temple of literature (which is what I am at University Press of Mississippi) it is hard to feel legitimate when you are asked to prophecy and witness. I can’t show you the burning bush, but I can at least point to those publications and these endorsements at http://fictionandhistory.wordpress.com/praise-for-some-kinds-of-love-stories/, and hope that some will overlook my ratty cloak and sandals and believe.
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