Interviewed by Chad Christensen – July 2021

How did you get into writing? Do you remember your first piece of writing?

I don’t remember my first piece of writing, but I very much remember why I am writing and my first piece that mattered. My English professor in college, David Martin, thought a piece I wrote about my dad and me and how baseball was the only thing that held our relationship together was what he called special. He had it published in a journal he edited. Seeing my piece in a journal like that made me feel something– I loved it. He sparked me that semester. We were to write 100 pages over a 5week summer course, and I wrote something like 200—all handwritten, by the way.

How did your collection of short stories How to Be Lonely come about? Why short stories?

Short stories are a fantastic way to tell a story. I am not someone who can write a novel in a year. I need like ten. In the meantime, I can rip some short stories out and let out the steam. I love reading them. I love writing them. I became enthralled when a friend hooked me up with a British writer who had an online workshop thing going. It was hard and fast. He was actually a bully and even had himself kicked out of the BBC writing areas, but I needed it. I had been given way too much love up to that point. I needed someone to kick my ass. And he did. I then went to MFA for Fiction at Nebraska, and that’s where I really picked up the craft more. I wasn’t an English major. I needed that network and that world shown to me.

What’s your writing routine? Do you use any writing tools or methods?

When I become blocked (stale), I go to my older stuff and see if I can take it somewhere. Or I start something new. The great writer, Ron Carlson, once told me “Always lean on the new stuff.” That is important for many reasons. I try to do that when I am feeling stuck or when I am feeling frustrated about publishing etc.

I can write whenever and know I am lucky about that. I like to write when I wake up the most, though. I feel like A head that hasn’t been contaminated by the day seems to be best. When I was younger, I used to write late at night. Whatever works, man (woman).

Has being a musician/songwriter influenced your writing?

This is something I didn’t realize until recently, but I have many poet friends (too many?), and I love their use of every word and struggle over every word in their work. As fiction writers, we rip through the writing. Sentences matter. Words matter. But far more so for the poet. As a songwriter, every word matters more as well. It has to go with every beat and tempo, and it has to feel right. You know when words don’t work, or a line just isn’t the one. I’m no poet, but I certainly have been helped by years of songwriting in that regard. I make every word count. And writing fiction or poetry and reading both have absolutely inspired and influenced my songwriting as well.

Which writers inspire you and how?

I love many writers. And it ebbs and flows with who I am too. I will just list them and move on; and these are in no particular order: Pynchon, DeLillo, Foster Wallace, James Baldwin, Amy Hempel, Mary Robison, Carver, Ron Carlson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Murakami, Kerouac, Colson Whitehead, every One Story that comes in the mail.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

For me, it is fighting Imposter Syndrome. Who the hell do I think I am? Entering the arena with these people I read and try to emulate? I know you have to tell the truth. The reader will always know. I believe fiction gets us closer to the truth of being human. We can use the characters to talk about things that we wouldn’t otherwise but exists in the world. As far as the writing, I just keep learning and reading and hoping I get better.

Are you working on anything currently?

I am always working on short stories. I also have a novel I am in the throes of. It is about a man on a journey/adventure to go back to the place he last remembers being happy; then kill himself.

What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Writing should be for yourself first, and whether you are published or not doesn’t matter. It is therapeutic. It is a mind-exercise. And maybe you will get published. The publishing business isn’t about how good it is. There is a lot of luck on who reads it and if it clicks. So write what you want and enjoy first. And never stop reading other work and never stop learning. It’s like playing an instrument: there’s always more to learn.

Dave Mainelli is a writer from Omaha, Nebraska. In 2012, Dave came down with a serious illness and reestablished some priorities in his life. Music and writing came to the forefront and has remained there since. He’s a graduate of the University of Nebraska MFA in Fiction and a singing/songwriting member of Bazile Mills. He’s also owned restaurants for over 25 years and has traveled around the world as a business consultant. He now teaches writing at Iowa Western and Wayne State College. How to Be Lonely is his first book of short stories.