Ideas for stories come in really different terms and really different ways for me. Sometimes they're from books, sometimes they're just kind of out of the air, from nowhere, sometimes they're biographical, or sometimes they're other things [everyday life].
I don't think that writing, real writing, has much to do with affirming belief--if anything it causes rifts and gaps in belief which make belief more complex and more textured, more real. Good writing unsettles, destroys both the author and the reader. From my perspective, there always has to be a tension between the writer and the monolithic elements of the culture, such as religion.
Julio's Day is a story of one man's life, but it's a great more than that as well. It's the story of the life of a century, also told as if a day. Beginning with Julio's birth in 1900 and ending with his death in 2000, the graphic novel touches on most of the major events that shaped the 20th century.
One of the primary differences for me between fiction and poetry is that fiction uses every sort of tool that poetry does but hides it much, much more. Fiction doesn't necessarily reveal what it's doing with rhythm and sound and patterning.
I don't always know what's going to go on in terms of the mood of the story. Sometimes I start with the mood, but sometimes I just try to work toward discovering it. But I do think often there's a mood or unsettling quality, in which the reality of the world seems to be taken away, that I really love, and it's something that I almost always unconsciously move toward.
There is, in every event, whether lived or told, always a hole or a gap, often more than one. If we allow ourselves to get caught in it, we find it opening onto a void that, once we have slipped into it, we can never escape.
I'm pretty instinctual when I write, and I really like to get to a point where I'm writing where I don't know what's going to happen next. Usually when I get to that point, something will happen that I find intriguing or interesting, or that will push the fiction in a way that I really like.
Like a cross between Paul Auster's The Book of Illusions and Janice Lee's Damnation, The Absolution of Roberto Acestes Laing is at once smart and slyly unsettling. It is expert at creating a quietly building sense of dread while claiming to do something as straightforward as describe lost films—like those conversations you have in which you realize only too late that what you actually talking about and what you think you are talking about are not the same thing at all. With Rombes, Two Dollar Radio deftly demonstrates why it is rapidly becoming the go-to press for innovative fiction.
I read individual stories a lot in magazines and other places, too, but I really think there's something to be said for reading story collections as collections. That's not true of all story collections, to be honest, but for good ones I think it often is true.