The title story of Roy Parvin’s collection, In the Snow Forest, originally appeared in Glimmer Train Stories. A previous collection was entitled The Loneliest Road in America, and his essays have been published in Northern Lights. He’s won the Katherine Anne Porter Prize and his fiction has been recommended for a Pushcart. He lives in the woods of Northern California.
Roy Parvin, interviewed by Linda B. Swanson-Davies:
I wanted to put it in the West. I grew up in the West and I love Western landscapes.
What do you like about them?
I like the physical aspect of the landscapes themselves. The paradox of having land that is so rugged and yet so fragile, fragile as a china cup. There’s an internal tension working that I love. I also like the timelessness about the landscape, and—perhaps because I come from the East Coast I can appreciate this—work stops during the winter in Trinity County. The snows get to be so high that, well, how many places are there except for rural America where the weather is almost a character in your life? I find that very intriguing. My writer friends are always asking about my stories, What year did it occur in? I ask, Well, what year did you think it is? And they say it can be any year from 1950 to 1980. Or perhaps even today. I try to work in a sense of timelessness, and it seems like telling a small story against a big landscape gives the story an automatic mythical quality. If I had not gone West, I probably wouldn’t be a writer, a fiction writer.
I don't know. If you look at the way one goes through life, it looks like a whole bunch of lucky breaks, hopefully, and close calls. Perhaps I would have been a writer, but I think that the landscapes spoke to me in a way that made me want to write. In all my stories, all my scenes, I want to frame the scene but also be very interested in what the trees and the mountains look like. And I don’t know if I would have gotten that perspective from the East Coast.
I was born in New York State. We moved to southern Oregon when I was ten, and it took years and years and years to not miss the rolling green. Everything got dry and brown and hard. The smells were different. There were no fireﬂies. What kind of life was that? What I'm getting at, though, is that I can see how much of an impact a change of place can make.
To me it felt like I had come home. I just read this morning something that Rick Bass, a writer I admire immensely, said: he was a Texan and he moved to Montana and felt like it was the state of his rebirth. I sort of felt that about the West. That this place...there’s something about it that is home. It's very hard for me to put my finger on it, and if I were to ever specifically put my finger on it, then it wouldn’t perhaps be home. I’m always chasing that in my writing and in my life. What makes it home. What, what, what about these wide-open spaces speaks to me? It’s always something slightly different, I think, from story to story. I was talking to a writer friend who said, You know, nature always seems like a character in your stories. It always has its say. And I think people in the West live very, very close to nature. There are earthquakes. There’re certainly bad storms anywhere, but the storms here seem to be mythic storms. It snows and that interests me. It’s something again that can’t be controlled.
Something to be contended with.
Yeah. And I think emotions are sort of like that, too.
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