Roddy Ryall on "Chase Faustman Turns 27"

What motivated you to write the story “Chase Faustman Turns 27”?

I read the biography of Kurt Cobain and one of the most powerful moments in the book for me is reading his suicide letter. Everyone was trying to interpret it, but no one could get a handle on it. It was this aspect of his overall story that really intrigued me. What if the only reporting on someone is their suicide letter, but you can’t speak to them? You’d have to rely on what they wrote. I always found that mysterious and intriguing.

Does it relate to anything in your life?

When I first wrote it and shared it with friends and family to read, the first question they would ask me is if everything was OK. I had to assure them that it wasn’t supposed to be semi-autobiographical at all. But, some traits of Chase’s personality do have some truth. Sometimes, I feel—and I think most writers feel this way—a little powerless, a little lost when you’re writing a piece and you have bad days when it’s not working. You feel like, “Oh my God, why am I doing this? Why did I decide to do this rather than get a normal job?” Sometimes thoughts like that pop into your head when you’re trying to immerse yourself in the writing. However, it’s not autobiographical.

What inspires you to write?

I always liked to write when I was younger. I used to write little kids’ books and kept them to myself. I never let anyone read them. I didn’t do much writing in college, but read lots of books. But by 2012, I started to think if I wanted to write I bet I could put something down on paper. I was always a deep admirer of those who found ways to channel their creativity. After college, I tried to find my way to do that. I wrote some incomplete screenplays, but as I was writing them I realized I wasn’t enjoying them, wasn’t getting anything out of them and wondered why. It occurred to me that screenplays that aren’t produced are like well-drawn blueprints. You can’t really enjoy the blueprint. You need to see the finished product. With short stories, once I was done editing them, that’s a finished product, and even if they are never published, I’d still get some satisfaction from them. Once I figured that out, I just kept writing short stories. This is the first time I’ve been published in a major book.

What writing rituals do you have?

I do like to sit down in isolation, where I don’t hear noises or anything that can disturb me, and I listen to instrumental music while I’m writing. There can’t be any words; just music. When I wrote “Chase Faustman,” I listened to Sidney Bechet and Explosions in the Sky.