Inside the Book: Stealing Away #3

Pairing Beers with Short Stories

The Butcher Boys, the second story in the collection, is one of my personal favorites, partly because the nicer details reminded me of my small-town Wisconsin childhood, and partly because the story evolved unexpectedly as I wrote it. I let it stew for a while because I wasn’t sure how it might end or when. Was this maybe a novel? But it took a turn that even surprised me. (No spoilers here.) I really hadn’t planned for the turn, but then I knew it had to happen. And damn if I wasn’t stuck again. I couldn’t drop a reader on their head and walk off. There was more here. Back to the rumination stage.

That’s when I realized I didn’t have all my characters yet. As if remembering childhood friends and then looking at an old group photo and realizing you’d left a couple people out. So, like shuffling cards, new bits slipped into place, and suddenly I had a full deck. Again, a didn’t-see-that-coming moment. You’ll hear that a lot from writers, and for a long time it sounded kooky to me until I had a couple moments. Instead of it feeling like I’d had an idea, a solution to a problem, I felt unsettled, as if I had turned a page and found a distressing verdict there waiting for me. Robert Olen Butler addresses creativity arriving like that in his excellent book From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction.

The beer to go with this one — and I definitely needed a drink after this — is Slugfest, a Juicy IPA from Summit Brewing (A good Midwestern beer for a story in a Midwestern town). Also appropriate because the narrator recalls an epic one-sided slugfest from his childhood, when the story takes place, around the time when those punches were thrown. There may be a bit of baseball involved too.

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