So you’re doing the whole meta-fiction thing now?

No, just here to talk about my book with my favorite critic.


But you did try meta-fiction, didn’t you?

Yeah, there was a failed story that didn’t make the final cut in which a semi-fictional version of myself confronted all the book’s characters at the Cafe Kopi in Champaign, Illinois.


Jesus, how many versions of you are there?

Better to just move on.


Right. Well, the book is set in your hometown of Tuscola, Illinois. Are there any semi-fictional people running through the pages?

Lowell, the local shrink, is a semi-fictional person. The person Lowell is based on died a few weeks ago of cancer, so I am glad to have a piece of him to carry forward.


Why do you keep returning to the Midwest in your fiction?

Well, the Midwest is my home, and I’m very familiar with it. One day I suggested to a marketing guy at a former job that I was going to name my book Tuscola, and it would sell 3,000 copies. He asked me where is Tuscola, and I said it’s in Central Illinois. He said why don’t you just name the book Central Illinois?


So your book is neither a story collection nor a novel. What’s that about?

I have always wanted to write a novel, and I modeled the structure of this book on Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, a book I much admire, in fact was obsessed with for a couple of years. Since I am mainly a short story writer, I decided to re-envision the world many of my stories take place in, find the connective tissue, and write new material. And it grew into a novel.


I noticed that the last three stories are a little wilder than the early ones.

I wrote those three stories in the summer of 2015. I use a journaling tool called 750words.com and it really set me free to take these characters to places they might not have gone otherwise. It was a trip. For me and them.


Most of those characters aren’t all that religious––at least not regular churchgoers. So where did the title come from?

My hometown Catholic parish church was Forty Martyrs. I know, for a lot of bigger towns, one martyr would be enough.


PHILIP F. DEAVER was born in Chicago, IL, and grew up in the Midwest. He is the author of the Flannery O’Connor Award-winning story collection Silent Retreats, and the poetry collection How Men Pray. His poems have been featured several times on The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor. His stories have appeared in The Missouri ReviewThe Kenyon ReviewThe New England Review, and elsewhere; and have been anthologized in O. Henry Prize StoriesBest American Catholic Short Stories, and the baseball anthologies Anatomy of Baseball and Bottom of the Ninth. He is a Professor of English at Rollins College in Winter Park, FL.

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TNB FICTION is proud to showcase book excerpts and original short fiction from some of the finest writers in the world. Features have included work by Aimee Bender, Dan Chaon, Stuart Dybek, Jennifer Egan, Bret Easton Ellis, Roxane Gay, Etgar Keret, Antonya Nelson, and hundreds of other internationally acclaimed and emerging writers. Spotlighting a recent book release each week, TNB Fiction helps bring awareness of new literary fiction, from both trade and independent publishers, to readers around the world, providing a global, free-access arena for spotlighting the genre in an era of shrinking coverage among mainstream print publications. TNB Fiction has its finger on the pulse of a vibrant new generation of writers, as well as established literary greats whose work continues to shape the future dialogue of literary culture. Fiction Editor Rachael Warecki lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review, The Masters Review, Midwestern Gothic, and elsewhere, and has received residency invitations from the Wellstone Center and Ragdale. She holds an MFA in Fiction from Antioch University Los Angeles and is currently at work on a novel.

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