In The Field: Conversations With Our Contributors–Zachary Gerberick
1. Tell us about your fiction piece, “The Man from Lowville,” in Volume 21. How did it come to be?
“The Man from Lowville” is one of those stories you decide to abandon only to return to years later. In fact, so much time has passed since the initial drafts that it’s difficult for me to recall what the impetus of the story exactly was. And I suppose, for me at least, it doesn’t really matter—all of my stories come about in different ways, and I’m not interested in making a routine around it. With that said, I do remember wanting to create a narrative that examined the perpetuation of toxic masculinity, and although historical fiction is not something I tend to write, at the time it seemed WWII-era America added a unique dimension to the piece, when some of the men—those who were 4-F’ed, unfit for military service—often struggled with feelings of inadequacy and unmanliness while at the same time women were stepping up and taking over roles in the workforce. But the truth is, unfortunately, this story could have just as easily taken place today as it did seventy-odd years ago.
2. What excites you as a writer? What turns you off, makes you turn away or stop reading a piece of writing?
At the moment, what excites me most as a reader and writer is narrative voice. I’m more than happy to read a 500-page novel where nothing happens as long as I find the narrator captivating. Falling in love with a voice, becoming hypnotized by language and cadence, can be one of the most powerful experiences for a reader to encounter. It’s also something I’m attempting to achieve within my own work. The other thing that excites me, and always has, is the bizarre. I simply feed off strange.
As for the second part of the question—it’s difficult to say. If I’m not struck by the voice or the characters or the prose of a novel, then I’ll simply move on. Sometimes this has nothing to do with the strength of the work itself, but with my own taste, or perhaps where I’m at emotionally or mentally at the time of the reading. Either way, I no longer feel guilty about giving up on a book—there’s merely not enough time in one’s life to read stories that don’t move us.
3. How does the current political climate influence your art or creative process?
It permeates everything I write whether I want it to or not. At times I attempt to tune down the political part of my mind because I can sense my work becoming didactic, and that’s not what readers want. Because of that I constantly remind myself to balance my politics with my love of characters, to make them real, fully fleshed, and not mere pawns. But in the back of my mind I often find myself asking: Why is this story important to tell right now? And I always make sure to have an answer.
4. Do you practice any other art forms? If so, do these influence your writing and/or creative process?
I owe being a writer largely to my early love of film. That’s really where my interest in storytelling began. I have just as much passion for filmmaking than I do for writing stories and essays. The thing is, it’s a hell of a lot cheaper to write a story than to make a movie. Although it’s a bit difficult fluctuating between the two mediums, it also has its perks. I both love and hate the collaboration of filmmaking. I also both love and hate the solitude of writing. When I tire of being stuck by myself writing stories, when I start to feel that incessant need to work with others, I usually take a break in order to do some sort of visual project—as little as it may be—and once that project is completed, after dealing with all of the particular struggles of filmmaking (funding, equipment, egos, etc.) I’m excited to once again hide out in my apartment to write some fiction. It’s a strange pattern, but overall beneficial to my creative output.
5. What projects or pieces are you working on right now?
For the past few months I’ve been working on a feature-length screenplay. It’s something I wrote around the parameters of a micro-budget so that, possibly, I can assemble a crew and make it myself. We’ll see what happens. But I’m looking forward to returning to some short fiction for the time being.
Zachary F. Gerberick received his MFA in Creative Writing at Florida State University. His short stories and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in River Teeth,New South, Water-Stone Review, among other journals. Recently, his short story “Adirondack Express” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by New Limestone Review.