In the Field: Conversations With Our Contributors—T.N. Eyer
In your short story “Date of Death” from Volume 24, you write about a fictional world, very like our own, except that people are knowledgeable about their time of death. This is an interesting concept. How did you come up with this idea? Why did you decide to explore it through your writing?
Great question. Most of my short stories start with how life would change if our world was the same as it is now but with one tweak: What if we knew our date of death? What if immortality were a possibility? What if we could increase our children’s IQ in utero but with possible mental health consequences? I guess what I’m saying is that most of what I write begins with some kind of quirky conceit and, if I’m lucky, develops into a story from there.
The format of your piece is also very unique. Each section begins with a number connected to the age of someone’s death. Why did you decide to break sections up into small chunks of text instead of a more traditional prose form?
I tried a traditional narrative format first, many times. So many times. And the story just wasn’t working. I was enamored with the idea though, so I just kept trying. Eventually, it occurred to me that the problem wasn’t the content but the format. Once I changed to this format, the story came together in a single day.
Your bio lists you as a former lawyer, how did that career prepare you or hinder you as a fiction writer?
I practiced corporate law which, at least at the junior level, is where creativity goes to die. But I will say that law school was wonderfully theoretical and full of interesting cases—both real and hypothetical—and I think that trained me to think a certain way, which has been immensely helpful as a writer. For example, I tend to think a lot (perhaps too much) about the consequences of my characters’ actions, which hopefully serves to make my story arcs more realistic.
How has your recent transition from being a lawyer to a full time fiction writer been going? What are some challenges that you are facing? What are some things that you enjoy about writing full time?
I’m happier, but I make a lot less money. I’m fortunate to have such a supportive husband; without him, I don’t think I’d have the courage to pursue writing as a full-time career. I’m too risk averse. Another challenge is the absence of a clear path to success. In law, there was a very clear path to success: work hard, bill a lot of hours, bring in new business and get promoted. Writing is not that straightforward, and it’s a lot more subjective, which can be frustrating. As for what I enjoy about writing full time—as you may have gathered from my previous answers, I’m an ideas-driven writer. My favorite thing is to come up with a creative conceit and see where it leads me. Sometimes these conceits become stories and other times I can’t seem to devise a suitable plot, but I really enjoy the thought-process regardless.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
I like a lot of speculative fiction, both classic and contemporary, particularly if it makes me think: George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Octavia Butler, Ted Chiang, Claire North. I’ll stop now.
What are you currently working on? What are some future projects you’d like to tackle?
Editing! My first novel is slated to be released by Stillhouse Press in 2023, so I’m currently working on edits for that. I’ve also just finished a second novel and am editing that. The timing of all this editing is perfect because I had a baby in December, which is so exhausting and all-encompassing that my creative juices aren’t exactly flowing at the moment. In light of that, I think the future project I’m most excited to tackle is sleep training my little girl.
T.N. Eyer writes literary fiction with a speculative twist. In addition to Water~Stone Review, her short stories have appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review and december, among others. Her debut novel will be published by Stillhouse Press in 2023. A graduate of Yale Law School, T.N. loves unnaturally hot showers, Dance Dance Revolution, and rhubarb pie. She lives in Pittsburgh with her wonderful husband and the world’s most adorable baby.