Well, Patricia Ann McNair, perhaps you’ve noticed that many of these interviews here at TNB are filled with wit. Snappy banter. Cleverness. How do you expect to compete? You are not funny.

I am too funny.

 

Are not.

When is a door not a door?

 

Isn’t that the title of one of your stories in your linked collection The Temple of Air?

And it’s a joke.

 

Not a funny one, really.

One of my characters, Emily Emory, thinks it is hilarious.

 

Yes, well. She’s retarded.

“Developmentally disabled” I think we say now. “Special.” Seriously, though, (since I apparently am not funny) Emily is a good example of the sort of character I am intrigued by. She is innocent in some ways, and on the verge of understanding perhaps more than she should ever have to.

 

Is that why a number of the main characters in this collection are teenagers?

Precisely.

 

Speaking of teenagers, who is the babe in the front cover picture?

Ignoring that question. You know, it’s guys that usually ask me that question. I’m disappointed in you.

I will answer this question instead: What is the book about? Leah Tallon, who writes for TNB, used words like “sprawling fields,” “quiet starry nights,” “juicy gossip.” The stories all take place in New Hope, a surprisingly hilly Midwestern town close to a river where things often go wrong (illness, carnival ride accident, the family tragedies left in the wake of war) and sometimes go right (running through the woods, sharing bubble gum and ice cream, sex—lots of sex.)

 

You do write about sex a lot. Why is that?

I like sex.

No, really what I mean is that in this book, as in life, people often turn to one another and share bodies in order to feel better about things. In response to loneliness, grief. Joy, too. Delight. Relief. “The Things That’ll Keep You Alive” is one of the stories in the collection that hits on all of those things.

 

Why do you have three names?

I don’t really. Most people just call me Patty. Or McNair. But my mother told me once—after I’d already published under the name Patty—that she chose my name, Patricia Ann McNair, by imagining what it would look like on a book cover. You can’t screw with that kind of karma.

Cool.

We done?

 

We done.

PATRICIA ANN MCNAIR has lived 98 percent of her life in the Midwest. She’s managed a gas station, sold pots and pans door to door, tended bar and breaded mushrooms, worked on the trading floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and taught aerobics. Today she is an Associate Professor in the Fiction Writing Department of Columbia College Chicago, where she received the Excellence in Teaching Award as well as a nomination for the Carnegie Foundation’s US Professor of the Year. McNair’s fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared in various anthologies, magazines, and journals including American Fiction: Best Unpublished Short Stories by Emerging Writers, Other Voices, F Magazine, Superstition Review,Dunes Review, River Teeth, Fourth Genre, Brevity, Creative Nonfiction, and others. She is also published in The Truth of the Matter: Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction edited by Dinty W. Moore. She’s received numerous Illinois Arts Council Awards and Pushcart Prize nominations in fiction and nonfiction. McNair divides her time between city and small town with her husband, the visual artist Philip Hartigan.

2 responses to “Patricia Ann McNair: The TNB 
Self-Interview”

  1. Welcome to TNB, Patty! I’m so happy to see Temple of Air out in the world! Congrats, and thanks for sharing your work with us!

    (BTW, my parents used to sing my name. They said they chose it because it was the most musical of the names they considered. I think they wanted me to be a jazz singer. Man, were they ever barking up the wrong tree with that one . . . )

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