Christine Sneed’s new story collection, The Virginity of Famous Men (Bloomsbury, Sept.), has been with her for a while. She first wrote a (different) story with that title about 12 years ago, but decided it wasn’t good enough. She then used that title for another story, and wrote two more, “Prettiest Girls” and “The First Wife,” which eventually became the world for her 2014 novel, Little Known Facts. Those three stories—“Prettiest Girls,” “The First Wife,” and the title one—now find their place in this new collection, along with others that veer off into other worlds.
Her intervening novel, Paris, He Said, which had a stellar right-on-the-money review in the New York Times earlier this year, showcases her love affair with Paris. Sneed agrees that the reviewer read it correctly: it’s not really a love story, but more an exploration of self: “Being a writer or artist, it’s so easy to doubt yourself.” In Little Known Facts, the chapter that takes place in Paris was her favorite chapter to write; she was a French major in college, and studied abroad there during her junior year.
This is Sneed’s second story collection. Most of these were written by 2006; she is constantly working on new ones, and will have two stories coming out in journals this summer. Writing short stories, she says, “has a similar compression to poetry,” and she enjoys how it’s possible to “create a whole world in 20 to 30 pages.” She is currently working on another novel, O Husbands!, which she started eight years ago, and then put aside for six years. Asked how she gets feedback, she says, “I only rely on one reader, my partner. He’s not a writer. He’s very perceptive.”
Sneed can be found at several upcoming events, most with other writers. “I prefer multiauthor events,” she says. “We need to try to remember that there is room for everyone if you’re doing good work. I cultivate the impulse of generosity—my mother was very generous, and I always looked up to her for that.” She does indeed cultivate it, with a blog full of congratulations for other authors’ releases, and q&a’s with many up-and-coming writers. She advises, “Go forward and be kind. Our TV culture is so full of snark and meanness.”
Sneed will be part of the “Hot Fall Fiction” panel tomorrow, 12:15–12:45 p.m., at the Downtown Stage, and will be signing galleys in the Bloomsbury booth (1859), 1–2 p.m.
This article appeared in the May 12, 2016 edition of PW BEA Show Daily.