Carver: on writing

Interviewer: Where do your stories come from, then? I’m especially asking about the stories that have something to do with drinking.

Carver: The fiction I’m most interested in has lines of reference to the real world. None of my stories really happened, of course. But there’s always something, some element, something said to me or that I witnessed, that may be the starting place. Here’s an example: “That’s the last Christmas you’ll ever ruin for us!” I was drunk when I heard that, but I remembered it. And later, much later, when I was sober, using only that one line and other things I imagined, imagined so accurately that they could have happened, I made a story–“A Serious Talk.” But the fiction I’m most interested in, whether it’s Tolstoy‘s fiction, Chekhov, Barry Hannah, Richard Ford, Hemingway, Isaac Babel, Ann Beattie, or Anne Tyler, strikes me as autobiographical to some extent. At the very least it’s referential. Stories long or short don’t just come out of thin air. …… Of course you have to know what you’re doing when you turn your life’s stories into fiction. You have to be immensely daring, very skilled and imaginative and willing to tell everything on yourself…A little autobiography and a lot of imagination are best.

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