Nichols Ford Malick

Nichols Ford Malick

A micro-interview with Nichols Ford Malick by KR Associate Aaron Lynn.

Nichols Ford Malick lives in Oakland, California, with his wife and daughter. He earned an MFA from the University of Oregon. “The Boy in the Lake” is his first published story, and appeared in the Winter 2012 issue of KR.  It was chosen by Ron Carlson as a runner-up in the 2011 KR Short Fiction contest.

KR: Is there a story behind your KR piece(s)? What was the hardest part about writing it?

I nearly became a geologist. The science and the people interested me, so the summer after my freshman year of college I took a job conducting a bathymetry survey of the Belgrade lake system in Maine. I drove a boat and hiked through marshes to collect core samples. Around the same time I lost a close friend. I kept seeing him in the water.

KR: What internal or external factors have the biggest influence on your creative process?

Time. Like most writers, my writing won’t feed my family. I teach middle school full time. When I get home, I enjoy my daughter and wife. My writing gets squeezed into the hours after my daughter has fallen asleep and before the rest of the world wakes up. I’m not a natural night owl, so if I don’t set an early alarm, I don’t write.

KR: Nicole Krauss said in a recent Guardian column that “We’re programmed to do the ‘easier’ thing… People no longer have the concentration to finish things; we skim along the surface, and it’s miserable.” Do you see this absbathymetryence of ambition in the literary audiences of today? How do modern attention spans affect your writing?

Frankly, when I’m writing I don’t concern myself with literary audiences. I craft stories that interest me. The length and depth of a story is dependant on the piece, not the reader. Maybe this is why I can’t make a living writing. Truthfully, the attention span that matters the most is my own. It takes a great deal of concentration to hold a story together, to be able to understand how each change sends ripples through a draft. If I can’t focus, I can’t write.

KR: What have you learned about the writing process in the last five years?

There are lots of reasons not to write. Writing is the manifestation of willpower.

KR: When we publish, whether in print or online, we hope we’re making a sustained art–something that endures and continues to be significant. What role will sustained art have in a future that’s sure to be full of iPads/Pods/Phones and Kindles, hyper fast computers, and a reality where we can always be online, all of the time?

The best works stick around, the rest is forgotten. I don’t think that is changing anytime soon. In order for a work to be sustained, it needs a reader. I said before that I don’t concern myself with a literary audience. This is, of course, a lie. I concern myself with an audience, but only once a story is complete or nearly complete. Short fiction is not the most popular form, but those who read short fiction seek it out, online or otherwise. Stories have been around for thousands of years. That won’t change with the advent of the Internet.

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