An Indies Introduce Q&A With Patrick Dacey

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Photo by Tara Dacey

Patrick Dacey is the author of We’ve Already Gone This Far (Henry Holt & Co.), a Winter/Spring 2016 Indies Introduce debut title.

We’ve Already Gone This Far is a collection of stories that introduces readers to the residents of the fictional working-class town of Wequaquet, Massachusetts. Dacey’s stories are “perfectly crafted,” said Mary Wolf of Collected Works Bookstore & Coffeehouse in Santa Fe, New Mexico. “Dacey’s unforgettable characters are depicted with dignity and heart, and in all of their tragic reality they also reflect the hope and determination of people who still have further to go. We’ve Already Gone This Far is the debut of a naturally gifted storyteller.”

Dacey earned his MFA from Syracuse University and has taught English at several universities in the U.S. and Mexico. He has worked as a reporter, a landscaper, a door-to-door salesman, and most recently on the overnight staff at a homeless shelter and detox center. His stories have been featured in Zoetrope All-StoryGuernica, Bomb Magazine, and Salt Hill. Originally from Cape Cod, Dacey currently lives in Virginia.

What inspired you to pursue a career as an author?

Patrick Dacey: I’m not sure it was a choice, or a smart choice. I ended up sacrificing a lot, and, toward the time I received the offer to have my first two books published, I began thinking I might just be wandering from job to job the rest of my life. I think I began to seriously consider writing when I read Denis Johnsons’ Jesus’ Son. I’d been in recovery for drugs and alcohol for a year or so, and I felt like someone was writing down the way I was thinking. That led to understanding that the only way to write is from a place of brutal honesty, and not about myself, but about what’s going through my mind. As for being an author, I feel blessed, and I don’t take it for granted. I work every day to get better and treat appearances, interviews, and readings as professionally as possible.

We’ve Already Gone This Far is steeped in longing and nostalgia. And while each story, on the surface, can be viewed as sad, there is also humor and a sense of hope. How did you manage to balance the sense of sadness with positivity?

PD: To me, that’s realism. The light and the dark. If it’s sadness, well, not everyone around you is sad. In my upcoming novel, The Outer Cape, one of the characters is massively depressed and calls a telemarketer late one night. She’s trying to sell him knives and he’s trying to talk through his struggles. Hope is in the searching. Sadness is in what’s found. But there has to be some levity in even the grimmest situations or else it’s not realism, it’s just bad writing.

You grew up in Centerville, Massachusetts, a small town near Cape Cod, and have tried out countless careers. How have your past experiences shaped you as a writer?

PD: I’ve stayed pretty grounded all my life. I was raised mostly by my mother, who worked for the town, and for most of my teens, my father was in Las Vegas working door-to-door sales. So I learned how to work, started construction jobs when I was 12. The guys on the job used to make me dig a giant hole and wheel the dirt across the yard in the morning, and then in the afternoon make me fill the hole back in. I think that was on account of my not knowing how to use any tools. I’ve always maintained a strong work ethic, though, and I think that’s in our family’s blood. That and sports. There’s a certain level of competiveness I have with myself to get better, no matter what I’m doing. So, working in construction, rehab centers, academia, I wanted to be the best. I do the same when I’m writing. Talent and luck are necessary, but discipline is the real key.

Is there a story in We’ve Already Gone This Far that feels the most personal to you? Why?

PD: “Acts of Love.” I wrote that in one sitting, while staying in the Affordable Corporate Suites in Roanoke, Virginia, in the middle of winter. They were certainly affordable, but not very corporate. They were behind a Pizza Hut, next to a Chinese massage parlor. You could rent a room without a background or credit check, and there were some seedy people staying there. I was hurting something terrible. But, like I mentioned earlier, there were all these strange, humorous things going on around me. I mean, I’m carrying my laundry down the walk and this guy just breaks his door from the inside, walks out, gets in his car, and leaves. Then, every week I go to pay my rent, the lady gives me a coupon for Applebee’s, and I’m sitting in Applebee’s by myself thinking what the hell did I do wrong in my life to bring me here, now? So, the story came to me that night, and the next morning I wrote it, and wrote two others in the book: “To Feel Again the Kind of Love That Hurts Something Terrible” and “Ballad.” Sometimes it can happen like that. A few of the stories in the collection took me three years to finish.

The story “Ballad” is nearly 10 pages written as one whole sentence, without punctuation. Stylistically, what motivated you write that piece as a stream of consciousness?

PD: I actually didn’t include that in the book initially because of its style. But my editor, Sarah Bowlin, asked me if there were other stories I felt might work in the collection, and I always felt a connection to that story because of how it came about, as one of the three that poured out of me in the same day. She loved it, and I’m glad, because I couldn’t imagine the collection without it. I was really trying to get at how the mind races from one thought to the next, and because, to me, it’s the root of music, I felt making that character a one-hit wonder struggling in his marriage tied in nicely.

Thank you for attending Winter Institute 11 in Denver in January. What do you hope booksellers and readers take away from your debut?

PD: I would like to think that they see this book as one that speaks to a time and place not many writers are taking on. And that if they feel things like I do, like these characters do, that we’re trying to do our best for our families and children and friends, while all around us there’s this overwhelming feeling of dread and fear, violence and oppression, then to stick with me for the long haul, because there has always been a need for accurate portrayals of present life in order to keep us from feeling alone.

We’ve Already Gone This Far by Patrick Dacey (Henry Holt & Co., Hardcover, 9781627794657) Publication Date: February 16, 2016.

Learn more about the author by following him on Twitter.

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