Charles Tan interviews Glen Hirshberg

Glen Hirshberg is the Shirley Jackson Awards nominee of the collection The Janus Tree.

For The Janus Tree and Other Stories, how did you decide on the stories to be included in the book, as well as the sections which they fell under?

The Janus Tree collects all the short fiction I’ve published since my last collection, American Morons, plus two new novellas.  Beyond the concerns that I suspect are present in everything I do, there was no intended thematic structure to the book as a whole.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, the stories’ origins, as much as their themes or structures, dictated the book’s sections. Long stories are home base for me, and so I’ve front-loaded Janus with those. The section called “Tales From the Rolling Dark” collects all the stories I’ve read on tour with the Rolling Darkness Revue. The Revue is a performance/live music/ghost story reading project I co-created with Peter Atkins and Dennis Etchison that does shows in the American west and sometimes further afield every October. As all of those stories were written to be performed aloud, they’re naturally shorter and punchier, and they tend to be voice-driven.

The last two novellas are from a series I am developing, inspired by an astonishing series of photographs I spotted online (see the link below) of an abandoned public school book depository in my hometown of Detroit. All of these stories focus on the implications of the end of the book as physical object.


What’s the appeal of short fiction for you?

I don’t that it has any specific appeal. That is, I really try not to set out to define the shape or length of something before it exists. I try to let the form of any given piece develop naturally. The exception to that would be the Rolling Dark, stories, as they really can’t be longer than 4000 words or so. Which creates all sorts of healthy, anxiety-ridden challenges for an atmosphere-guzzling language junkie like me.


Majority of your stories in the collection begin with quotations. Why do you favor this technique?

I think I just love reading, honestly. The opening of a story seems like one more perfect excuse to share something fabulous that I’ve found, or that someone shared with me.

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