Thanks to Barry Maxwell and CutBank Literary Magazine for allowing me to interview my friend Keith Lesmeister about his new collection of stories, We Could’ve Been Happy Here (published by Midwest Gothic Press). Lesmeister lives and works in rural northeast Iowa, and all 12 of these stories explore the contemporary Midwest in some way. Here’s an excerpt from the interview.
DL: I wanted to ask you about the stories all being set in Iowa, which is your home state. The idea of the Mid-West is apparent in a lot of your work, especially in regards to how you create a sense of place to inform and impact your characters. Do you find it easy or difficult to write about this region that you call home?
KL: Very difficult because I’m from here, which means I take a lot for granted. I’ve had to readjust how I interpret my surroundings, thinking of myself like a tourist when I drive around, trying to take it all in. And despite the stereotypes, several parts of Iowa are quite beautiful. That’s been a big surprise for me as I’ve written this collection—how much I truly love the landscape around here.
It’s funny for this to come as a surprise to Lesmeister because when you’re reading his work, it’s pretty obvious how much to loves the place he’s writing about.
There’s also more in the interview about his love of basketball, and there’s some talk about how difficult it can be to herd cattle. Please read the entire piece at CutBank Online: http://www.cutbankonline.org/cutbank-blog/2017/9/cutbank-interviews-keith-lesmeister.
Lesmeister’s fiction and nonfiction have been widely published, and We Could’ve Been Happy Here has received praise from writers such as Benjamin Percy and David Gates. Bret Anthony Johnston said, “These are brutal stories—brutally good, brutally urgent, brutally hopeful.”
Most importantly, be sure to buy the book. You won’t be sorry.