The London Magazine interviews Conor Patrick ahead of his debut collection, Goodbye Crocodile, being published.
What was it that first got you into writing?
It’s hard to say. I’ve always valued stories. I grew up around a lot of books, and was lucky enough that my family encouraged reading whatever I could get my hands on. Both my parents read to me when I was small. My father is a newspaper man, and I used to hang around the newsroom a lot of the time when I was a kid. To keep me occupied, they’d give me a typewriter and a couple of sheets of paper.
Are there any particular books or stories you’ve read throughout your life which have really stuck with you?
Dozens and dozens. Too many to name. I think the short story that stuck with me most in recent memory is “Otis is Resurrected” by Brady Udall. I hope someday to write a story as good as that one.
You’re about to have your first collection of short stories, Goodbye Crocodile, published at the end of this month. What inspired you to write the collection?
I didn’t set out to write the collection as a whole, per se, but I did start to notice that a lot of my stories had common themes. I tend not to think too much about how stories will go together in a book, instead just focusing on the impact of each one on its own. Then, if they lend themselves to a collection, it’s a natural progression.
Do you have a favourite story out of the collection Goodbye Crocodile?
I think they all have their merits, but “For the Living Know” is probably my favourite.
Why is that?
It’s hard to say. I think it’s one of the only stories I wrote that deals with griefs and endings as, instead, a beginning—that particular story leaves me, at least, with a good feeling. A little hope goes a long way.
What is it you’d like your readers to gain from the collection?
That feeling you get when you stand on the edge of a cliff and lean over.
There is a distinctly American theme running throughout many of the stories. To what extent are these stories based on your own experiences of living in America?
I was raised in America, and whether I like it or not, it’s in my blood. The thing about America is that it’s a huge place. Even though I was raised there, I haven’t seen a lot of it. Places like New York City and Daytona Beach and New Orleans weren’t in my back yard—they were mythical far-off places, and even though I’ve crossed the Atlantic, they still are. America’s a place where landscapes loom large, and landscape plays a big part in how I write. The places I lived in the US were all four-season—lots of snow and red autumns and breezy springs and lazy, warm summers. Some of the stories directly reflect the places I lived or visited—Northern Arizona, Mexico—and some of them are explorations of places I’ve never been. America is both beautiful and desolate—physically, emotionally—and that duality has swallowed me whole. America is a big place of big dreams and promise—where manifest destiny has a huge cultural history—but because of that promise, it has these hidden, hollow bones where smallness, sometimes, passes without witness. I want to be that witness.
In the story for which the book is titled, the narrator seems to be dealing with a certain kind of loss. Here at TLM we’ve debated what this ‘loss’ could be and have all had different interpretations. Could you tell us more about the ideas behind it?
Goodbye Crocodile certainly deals with loss. It’s a good thing that it’s open to interpretation—loss itself comes with many faces and voices. Loss changes who we are. It changes how we see the places we live and it especially changes how we see those we have lost. Sometimes we can’t face it — we can only look at it obliquely, as if at an eclipse.
What other projects have you been working on recently?
I have a half a novel on my desk about an artist-turned-nude model living in New York City just as World War II is beginning. I should probably get around to finishing that. There’s another big project in the works as well, but that one’s a little farther out on the horizon. Stay tuned.
Goodbye Crocodile is now available to buy worldwide. Whilst primarily sold as an ebook, a limited number of print copies will be available for purchase here.