Allison Graves: “I live in St John’s where there’s brilliant writers everywhere who seem to write and publish often”

February 2024

Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a PhD student at Memorial where I’m working on a thesis in contemporary Irish literature. I live downtown St John’s and usually serve coffee somewhere while I write and work at the university. I climb Signal Hill every day and play drums and bass in bands with my friends!

One short fiction how-to is to get the reader quickly into the situation, but I was really struck by your situations – the protagonist who answered the help line for IKEA, for example. I guess this isn’t so much a question as noting your knack for that.
Aw thank you! This collection was written as my master’s thesis and the theory that tied it together was all based on non-places – gas stations, supermarkets, post offices. So, the characters find themselves in weird consumer spaces quite often ha. I’m happy it’s reading well!

What about last lines, how do you know when a story is finished?
I feel like a short story is kind of like a knot or a puzzle or something. I really like this about short forms – everything can come together and circle back in a way that’s cohesive and clean which I find satisfying. An ending is important to me — sometimes I can’t help but give in to the cheesy ending and tie it all up with a bow!

What’s the best writing advice you’ve been given?
Oh, I mean, I live in St John’s where there’s brilliant writers everywhere who seem to write and publish often. I feel so lucky to live in that community where everyone pushes and supports each other to make work. Every time I see Lisa [Moore] now, she just asks what I’m writing. I think it’s easy to stop for swaths of time and let life get in the way but Lisa’s always telling me just like write the words down. Just write!

What’s a work of art, not necessarily literature, that you find inspiring?
I would like to say something visual but all I do right now is read books for school. I am in a place of reading all Edna O’Brien’s books and am just floored everyday by how singular she is.

What’s next for you?
Right now, I’m working on my dissertation at Memorial so most of the writing I’m doing is academic in nature. But I wrote half a novel during the pandemic that I’m nursing back to life! I’m going to Ireland for a conference this summer and other than that I’m just walking around town.

Soft Serve is published by Breakwater Books.

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