Ryan Bradley answers questions about his story, “West,” as seen in the February Issue.
1. The narrative of “West” is very puzzle piece like, slowly coming together to give us a full picture. How did you go about structuring “West” like this? Did you try other structure ideas first before sticking with this one?
I can’t recall exactly, but I believe I knew as soon as I had a rough idea for the story that I wanted to tell it in pieces. What those pieces would be I didn’t really know. When I wrote the first section of the story and it was time to move to the next it felt like the natural progression was to tell the event in fragments of multiple characters experiencing the same pieces of time. The story is about the convergence of a tragedy, and I think the form of the story was the best way to show that. I didn’t try any other structures, I lucked into the right one for this particular story.
2. What firearm do you prefer? What would you shoot?
I prefer no firearms. I don’t like guns. I’ve shot a few in my lifetime. Hard to grow up in Alaska and not have guns be some part of your life. I’ve had neutral experiences with guns and some bad ones. I’d be perfectly happy never seeing a gun in person again. But they show up in my fiction for many reasons, especially when writing about Alaska, because they are so prevalent there.
3. How was your high school experience? Did it push you toward a certain direction?
I didn’t have a great time in high school. I loved a lot of my teachers and the school I went to, but it wasn’t a good life period for me. I played four sports and did drama and speech and debate. But I also had some pretty serious injuries, was constantly harassed by other students, and had a lot of social awkwardness that I didn’t get over until I reached college.
4. Which John Hughes film best describes your life?
I think my life’s been a little too crazy for a John Hughes film. Maybe David Lynch. But if I’ve got to go with Hughes, maybe Career Opportunities, because I can relate to the string of dead-end jobs and at the same time am a firm believer I wouldn’t have lucked into finding my wife if it weren’t for all the lame experiences I went through before her.
5. In a perfect world, what would you want to be as a high school mascot?
I’ve always wanted to own my own mascot costume. I would rock that. I think a polar bear is as close as I get to having a “spirit” animal. At the same time, for sheer awesomeness in a mascot costume the elephant ones are pretty badass.
6. What’s your battle cry?
“I’M STILL BREATHING!”