Interview: Michael Swanwick

Tell us a bit about your story.  What’s it about?

It’s a love story.

What was the genesis of the story–what was the inspiration for it, or what prompted you to write it?

I was thinking about my wife, Marianne Porter.  We were married thirty-some years ago and with every passing day she’s become more essential to me.  I wondered what I’d do if she were to die before I did, and it seemed logical to me that I’d start drinking systematically and suicidally.

A dark conclusion to make, possibly, but an honest one.

Was this story a particularly challenging one to write? If so, how?

The first several pages came quickly.  I got all the way to the protagonist’s return home to discover his wife still alive and himself present in another iteration and then stopped dead for several years.  I just couldn’t see any resolution to his dilemma – no honest resolution, anyway, and I felt that if I was going to put my wife into a story, it had to be in the service of something true.  So every few weeks I’d look at the story again and see if I could find something satisfactory.

I knew that it couldn’t end with the protagonist still drinking.  That was just self-indulgence in his part.  It wouldn’t have pleased Marianne.

Most authors say all their stories are personal.  If that’s true for you, in what way was this story personal to you?

This is far more personal than most.  The protagonist’s name and his wife’s are variants of my own and Marianne’s middle names.  I set the action in my own neighborhood and my own house.  And in essence it’s a love letter to my wife.  When I finally finished the story, I gave it to Marianne to read – and when she had, she kissed me.  You don’t get much more personal than that.