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University Press Week: The Invisibles by Hugh Sheehy

The Invisibles by Hugh Sheehy

The Invisibles by Hugh Sheehy won the 2012 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction

November 11-17, 2012, is the first annual University Press Week. Established by the Association of American University Presses, University Press Week is designed to “highlight the extraordinary work of university presses and their many contributions to culture, the academy, and society.”

One example of these important contributions comes from the University of Georgia Press. The Invisibles by Hugh Sheehy is a collection of short stories published as part of UGA’s Flannery O’Connor Award series. The Invisibles was selected as part of this annual competition that typically attracts more than 300 entries.

I first learned about the The Invisibles when Publishers Weekly included it among other works being released on their “Best Book Day of 2012.” The short story collection earned a starred review from PW and Booklist.

Hugh Sheehy currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, where he teaches writing at Yeshiva College. When I discovered that he was visiting Georgia State University–where he had once taught and where I am now a graduate student–I asked if he would be willing to meet with me to discuss The Invisibles. Hugh generously obliged.

SS:  The book is called  The Invisibles, which likely borrows from one of the short stories with the same name. Define  an “Invisible” for us.

HS:  It’s a weird condition because it’s kind of a paranoid condition. It’s a person who is unmemorable for some reason, who doesn’t get detected by other people. Other people don’t pick up on their presence. They are there, but nobody notices them. When they’re gone, it’s as if they’ve never been there. They’re there lurking.

SS: I thought it was interesting that someone who reviewed your book said that she thought an “Invisible” was created by death. People of significance died and then these people became invisible. I thought that was an interesting interpretation.

HS:  I guess that’s one way to think about it. Each of us is really only important to a few people in the world. So if you lose the people who are most important to you, the people to whom you are most visible, then I can see where it’s isolating.

“It’s someone who doesn’t get noticed, who for one reason or another isn’t memorable. I think some of them go bad, become things like kidnappers, or serial killers.” From “The Invisibles” a short story in the collection by the same name.

SS: Cynthia, the main character in the short story “The Invisibles,” tries to explain to the detective what an “Invisible” is. She says it’s based on your role and how you are positioned in terms of other people. Is that a fair description?

HS: Yes, I think that’s what I had in mind when I wrote that story. It was this idea of someone who doesn’t show up in other people’s perception. They’re there, people might see them, people might brush against them, but they don’t remember them. They just don’t get collected in something like a group memory.

SS: Another short story, “The Tea Party,” reminded me of the George Clooney movie Up in the Air. How they travel and they’re basically in and out firing people. They are not going to get noticed either. They’re going to swoop in for a day, and then they’re gone.

HS: What interested me with that was I have some friends that do this kind of consulting work, although they don’t fire people they just…travel so much. They own property in places and they have family in places, but they mostly live in hotels. The consequences of doing that kind of work is that they often get lost in their home towns. If you’re living in hotels and drinking coffee from Starbucks–eating sandwiches in the little bags–I think you probably lose some sense of a former imagination of who you were, so you might become something like invisible to yourself in some way. That’s what I thought was fun about that story.

SS:  Obviously this is the book that won the Flannery O’Connor Award this year. The first story “Meat and Mouth” was reminiscent of “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” Just the whole element of meeting the characters Meat and Mouth versus The Misfit [character in Flannery O’Connor’s short story]. What inspired that story?

Hugh Sheehy, Author of The InvisiblesHS:  When I sat down to write that story, I was thinking about this place where I went to preschool [Hugh grew up in Ohio]. I was missing the snow and thinking about what would happen if a couple of guys on a crime spree passed through a space like that. I was just curious to write a story about those kinds of intersections where people who are very involved in different things would cross each other’s paths. That story was fun to write because the Maddy character is trying to make sense of what’s going on. She’s definitely frightened by them. It’s difficult to define these characters except for these wandering criminals, like some kind of murderers who just show up. It would be reminiscent, perhaps, for some readers of what it’s like to have bad things happen to you that are way beyond your control. You have to do what you can in the face of terrible catastrophes and find your ability to act very, very limited.

SS: The Invisibles is a collection of short stories, most of which have been published in other places over the years. Was it just a coincidence–did it just happen–that there was this undercurrent, this theme of an invisible person in everyday life?

HS:  I think that’s the way fiction writing works a lot of the time–and maybe a lot of other arts are like this as well. Often an individual can get really fixated on some idea, or some set of images, or some set of characters in the case of storytelling. I find ways to revisit those images or characters or ideas until they’re exhausted. You might write a story about a set of characters, put that down, and then try to write something else. But in your attempt to write something new, you may actually return to those old characters without recognizing it.

SS: Do you feel like you’ve extinguished the themes here?

HS: Most of the new fiction that I’m writing has moved away from mystery, but I have a couple of other short stories that I’ve finished in the last year or so that are in the same vein as some of the stories in The Invisibles. I’m also working on a novel that has elements that you can find in some of the stories of the The Invisibles. It’s also a novel, so it’s pretty different from a short story in a lot of ways. It’s far more expansive in terms of the way that it’s written.

To learn more about Hugh Sheehy, visit his author website at

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Southern Spines Podcast: Collin Kelley, Author of Kiss Shot

Kiss Shot by Collin Kelley

For a limited time–Friday, October 5 through Sunday, October 7–Amazon will be offering a free copy of Kiss Shot, a book of short stories by poet and author Collin Kelley. Here’s the book description:

Award-winning author Collin Kelley (Conquering Venus and Remain In Light) explores his Southern roots with this collection of four short stories set in the town of Cottonwood, Georgia. In “How Fanny Got Her House,” a devoted maid recalls the hijinks surrounding her employer’s death from a brain tumor, while a teenage boy comes to terms with his sexuality during an unexpected game of pool in the title story, “Kiss Shot.” A woman escaping an abusive relationship arrives in New Orleans during a rain storm and wanders into the famed “Clover Grill” on Bourbon Street, and “I Got A Name” follows the trials and tribulations of an overweight woman looking for love at a community theater company.

Southern Spines contributor Stacie Boschma sat down for an interview with Collin at Thinking Man Tavern in Atlanta, Ga. They discussed everything from self-publishing to Margaret Atwood and her love for the “modern telegraph” of Twitter.

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Two Tuesday New Releases – Best Book Day of 2012?

Publishers Weekly has dubbed Tuesday, October 2 the “Best Book Day of 2012.” And with no fewer than 60 new books coming out this week, we thought we’d borrow one of PW’s favs and mention one more that we’re adding to our To Be Read (TBR) pile:

The Invisibles by Hugh SheehyThe Invisibles
By Hugh Sheehy
Hardcover Short Fiction
University of Georgia Press
192 pages

On the Publishers Weekly “Best Book Day of 2012” list is The Invisibles by Hugh Sheehy. This debut collection of short stories won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. In the publication’s starred review of The Invisibles, PW said that “A little violence goes a long way and the lurking fear at the heart of these stories elevates them beyond the merely promising to reveal a wicked new talent.” While Hugh Sheehy is currently a lecturer at Yeshiva College in New York, he  previously taught at Kennesaw State University and Georgia State University in the Atlanta area. Sheehy earned an MFA in creative writing from the University of Alabama.


The Hot Country by Robert Olen ButlerThe Hot Country
By Robert Olen Butler
Hardcover Short Fiction
Mysterious Press
336 pages

Pulitzer Prize and National Magazine Award-winning author Robert Olen Butler is releasing his first crime novel, The Hot Country.
This novel promises a combination of intrigue, espionage and historical fiction. In The Hot Country, Christopher Marlowe Cobb, aka Kit, is  an American newspaper correspondent who travels to Mexico in April and May of 1914, during that country’s civil war. Robert Olen Butler is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of twelve novels, six story collections and one of our favorite books on the creative process, From Where You Dream. He teaches creative writing at Florida State University.


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