Falling (Author Interview)


Falling looks like an exciting short story collection. Can you tell us a little about it?

Falling is my first collection of stories. I thought that after having lived with short story theory for years, it was time to try it out myself. I started collecting my material while doing my post-doc at Brown University, and obviously, many stories take place in New England, and almost all protagonists are part of the setting there. The transition from writing about the short story towards writing short stories was quite a bumpy one!


Any plans to turn it into a series?

Actually, the attentive reader who reads story after story will see that there is quite a         connection between the stories. Sometimes it is in a very deep structure. The stories were not published first somewhere else but were deliberately designed to construe a short story cycle. Within the cycle, there are a few which can e read in sequence. “Paradise Lost” followed by Paradise Regained, for example. Some characters are recurring. I do not have any plans to write a script even though someone suggested it would make a good serial on tv. But, I do have plans to distill two novels out of two very dense sequences.


What inspired you when writing Falling?

As mentioned, I went a few times for a longer time to Brown University and spent a lot of time on public transport. I like overhearing ( a bad habit!) what people say, what they think about the word. Of course, I did not literally hear the stories on a greyhound or on an Amtrak strain. But let’s say that their conversations often on the phone triggered me to start fantasizing.


Most of your stories take place at an Ivy League University. Are you obsessed with this type of elitism?

No, not at all. Pretty much to the contrary. I was there as an outsider and an observer. If I had been part of it in the sense of being a student there, I probably would not have had the critical distance I have now. Moreover, what attracts me to the Ivy League is the history of the United States. The foundation of the nation and colonial English “pre-history”. Most Ivy League universities conserve and preserve and are very interesting hotspots to study this history.


How did you come up with the title for your book?

 Actually, it took me a long time to come up with a title. A colleague of mine read the stories and said: it is so strange, all these people seem to be falling… If not literally, at least metaphorically. I was then halfway through the original collection and started tailoring the next stories to this idea, which is, in fact, a magnificent idea! That is also why you had the impression they serve to make a serial. You can easily continue writing about falling heroes with a loose interconnection, just like in the nineteenth-century feuilleton.


What surprised me reading your book is that there are so many references to medicine and so many of your falling heroes are medical doctors or students of medicine.

Yes, I know. This is not a coincidence. I started studying medicine at Harvard about a year ago. Their online program is Harvard HMX. I had a private tutor in England, and of course, besides tutoring, there is a lot of time for talking and suggesting…

And you know, in this age where God (or the Gods have disappeared), the only moral principle still standing is medicine. Medicine is the ultimate frontier to be explored by fiction. It is both science and magic.


Did anything stick out as particularly challenging when writing Falling?

Many things, really! But the most important thing was that once you start writing, it is like someone else is taking over control. It is incredible. You have an idea, you try to imagine how you would read a short story, what the final product would look like, and then when you feel happy and start writing, everything turns out very differently… Well, it was not exactly my intention to publish short stories. For many years I had a scrapbook where I kept a record of dialogues and incidents as I was travelling through the North East of the U.S. The stories are the results of short notes and literary tryouts, which I stitched together and then fictionalized. And which a friend of mine – Sean Gordon—then streamlined stylistically.


Is there new work coming up? And where can readers find more about you and your work?

Let’s answer the last question first. I am working on a website with new work. erikvanachter be. I found out that a website, probably more than Facebook, is very instrumental in book promotion. Also, I take pride in my covers. I hope one day when I am finished writing, my covers can be assembled in a photo book.


So what about the upcoming work?

It is a short story collection. Again, but working on a novel, as already suggested. The new collection’s title is Billy Rubin and other stories. Again they are through and through America but are no longer restricted to the East Coast. On the website, possible readers can find so-called teasers. Clippings from the story by way of appetizer


What do you like to do when not writing?

Mostly reading. You need to read a lot and like reading when you want to write. The more you read, the less you imitate your models, i.e., those short stories you like and those which impressed you. I also read a lot of newspapers and magazines and especially American local newspapers, for inspiration for my next literary moves now that I am back in Belgium. Furthermore, I like to travel and study. Recently I took a fancy to collegiate wrestling. Friends taught me to see the ingenuity of this very old Olympic discipline.