Intern Bob interviews Jacob Appel, author of “Animal Control” in the Best of Potomac Review

1) Since “Animal Control” was published in Potomac Review Issue 42, where else have you been published?

I’ve now published slightly more than 200 stories, most recently in Crab Orchard Review, New Orleans Review, Bellingham Review and Gettysburg Review.  I find myself wondering if there are other authors out there with two hundred short stories in print and yet no book deal.  If there are, they should feel free to contact me at jacobmappel@gmail.com.  Maybe we can join in solidarity and commiseration.

2) Where and when did you come up with the idea for “Animal Control”? Was it based on a moment you experienced, or is it snatched directly from your imagination?

I’ll confess I have absolutely no idea where my stories come from — and “Animal Control” is no exception.  I am certain that they do not come from real life.

3) How long did it take you to finish writing “Animal Control”? Are you the type of author that can sit down, bang out a story and call it a day, or do you have to make many edits?

I do most of my writing in my head over the course of several weeks or even months.  By the time I sit down to write a story, I already have it mapped out in my mind, so it’s really a matter of getting the wording right and working out the smaller details.  Revising is a necessary evil, but not a fun one, so I try to get as much right as possible the first time through.

4) Are there any authors, publications, or genres you find particularly engaging? What do you enjoy reading?

I love reading short stories.  That’s why I write them.  I think it’s well known to anybody who knows my writing that I am deeply indebted to the brilliant Kevin Brockmeier, whom I have never actually met, but whose genius looms large over contemporary short fiction.  I am also particularly passionate about Robert Olen Butler, Chris Adrian, Elizabeth Graver and Dan Chaon and Bret Anthony Johnston.  Brigit Kelly Young’s stories are always at perfect pitch.   My own mentor, Andre Aciman, never ceases to amaze me.  I should also mention that I very much enjoy the work of my own students and former students, such at Chanan Tigay and Christie Hauser, who are starting to carve out niches for themselves in the literary journals.  I’m also a fan of plays, both seeing them and reading them.  I would be nowhere without the wisdom of the brilliant Tina Howe, and I count myself lucky to have been taught by her on practically a daily basis.

5) What are your interests aside from reading and writing?

In my other life, I am a psychiatrist and professional bioethicist, so I am very interested in improving mental health services.    And I love going to the theater.  I would go all day, every day, if I could — which probably reflects poorly on my work ethic.

6) I know you write plays as well as fiction. Do you prefer one to the other, or does each serve a different purpose?

I don’t think it’s a matter of preferring one or the other.  Rather, different stories are best told through different media.  One of the hardest challenges of writing in multiple genres is figuring out whether a particular narrative is best conveyed in theatrical or prose form.