Vestal Review: You’ve published short stories but more recently flash fiction. Why the small scale?
Rone Shavers: It’s not really a question of scale, it’s more a question of intention. Every story that I write is only as long as it needs to be. And while there are some things and ideas that I like to work out in a very small space, I want to explore others from multiple angles and perspectives, meaning that a longer, perhaps more verbose approach is necessary. That’s all it is. At the heart of it is a desire to experiment with different types of lengths, styles, and fictional forms.
VR: What are you trying to accomplish in your Crônica series?
RS: Crônicas are, for me, a way to deliberately defy the multiple constraints of easy literary categorization. Especially since, well, what is the crônica? Where do they fit, in terms of contemporary literary genres? Are they flash fiction, prose poetry, confessional or observational diary work (and thus, non-fiction), or something else entirely, like a collection of aphorisms? The answer is that in Spanish-speaking and Portuguese-speaking countries, they’ve been written and published as all of the above. So, since the form has room for all sorts of hybrid and/or cross-genre work, why not play around with it, if only just to see how and where it takes me?
VR: Does your novel, Silverfish, have any connection with flash fiction?
RS: Well, the novel and my shorter works both tend to revolve around the idea of narrative experimentation. Especially since I’m not all that interested in adhering to those reader-friendly, novelistic conventions such as relatable characters or a compelling plot. I’m much more interested instead in discovering just what a narrative can do, as well as how it can do it. In that way there may likely be a strong, aesthetic connection to flash, but that’s about as far as I’ll go. I’ll leave it up to critics better than myself to decide if there are any other, particular ties.
VR: What are you working on now?
RS: For the most part I’m still working on crônicas, because they’re fun to write and for the reasons mentioned above. I’ve a few ideas gestating for a longer, novel-length work, but it’s probably best not to say much about the project just yet, because I haven’t totally thought it through.
VR: Gore Vidal once observed, “Teaching has ruined more American novelists than drink.” How do you reconcile your teaching with your writing?
RS: They’re two different things, chlorine and ammonia, so I don’t mix them. Teaching takes up a lot of mental and even physical energy—every class is a performance in its own right!—so…. So I probably lied when answering your first question. Part of the reason I work on short-form fiction is that it’s a lot easier to produce during a regular teaching semester. I work on longer pieces during summers, when my time is my own and I grow mentally expansive.
Rone Shavers is the author of Silverfish, an experimental Afrofuturist novel just released by Clash Books. His fiction has appeared in various journals, including Another Chicago Magazine, Big Other, Black Warrior Review, PANK, and The Operating System. Shavers’ non-fiction essays and essay-length reviews have appeared in such diverse publications as American Book Review, BOMB, Electronic Book Review, Fiction Writers Review, and The Quarterly Conversation. He is fiction and hybrid genre editor at Obsidian: Literature and Arts in the African Diaspora, and he teaches courses in creative writing and contemporary literature at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York. For more information, go to his website: www.roneshavers.com.