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Behind the scenes with Michael Nye

Vox looks at Nye's writing process for Strategies Against Extinction

Cover art courtesy of Michael Nye.

December 20, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST

Michael Nye has been stomping around, cursing and searching for anything he could do rather than write his book.

Most would view this behavior as dire procrastination, but Nye knows that walking away from his story to give it some breathing room is the best method for crafting his work. After giving his book six years’ worth of on-again, off-again space, Nye finally released it in October.

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Nye, managing editor of The Missouri Review, has been tinkering with creative writing since college, but Strategies Against Extinction is his debut short story assortment. The book includes nine short stories that he says are meant to appeal to anyone interested in contemporary fiction.

Each story illustrates the art of reinvention. The characters, including a comic book storeowner and a 1950s radio announcer, reach pivotal points in their lives, during which they are challenged to begin anew. Conflicts facing the subjects include major surgeries, domestic violence and career changes. The characters in each plotline contemplate ideas of self-destruction through reinvention, human motivations that Nye says connect the stories and the readers. Observant details of everyday life comprise the entire collection and create serious prose saddled with human experience.

The inspiration for Nye’s book stemmed from the ideal of identity re-creation that comes with starting over in a different town with new people every few years. Nye says he realized by attempting to change himself constantly that reinvention is an unattainable notion. Nye notes that there is a “nugget” of himself in each character he creates.

Get Lost Bookshop owner Amy Stephenson says she has had to reorder copies multiple times, a testament to how popular the tome has been in the Columbia area. With a copy of Nye’s book resting on her lap, Stephenson says that it’s amazingly well-written. The book has sold more than 300 copies, which Texas-based Queen’s Ferry Press publisher Erin McKnight says is pretty impressive for a collection of short stories distributed by a small independent press. Nye believes the reason the book has been so successful in the Columbia scene is because the residents love supporting local artists.

“People feel an affinity for people that are doing work that is meaningful in their town,” Nye says. “It’s a connection.”

As for his next project, Nye says that he’s been stomping around and cursing an awful lot lately, which can only mean one thing: More stories are in the works.

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