I’ve been writing short stories full time for the last ten years, and I’ve been fortunate enough to see a good number—more than eighty—published. But although I’ve got piles of journals and anthologies featuring my work lying around, though I can Google up dozens of my stories in online publications, and though I’ve received awards and recognition for individual pieces, what I wanted was a book—a whole book with just its title and my name alone on its cover.
For a short fiction writer, a book means a collection of stories, and the expectation is that these stories will be connected somehow— by theme or by setting, for example, or by recurring characters. It seemed to me that I could satisfy any one or all of these approaches, as I had plenty of stories with intersecting characters, motifs, and locations. I tried basing collections on road trips, on works of art, even on parenting. Unfortunately, though some of these collections drew compliments and even recognition, none yielded an offer of publication. After a decade of hard work, I still didn’t have my book.
The idea, when it came, struck with the force of a cultural tidal wave: several of my most successful stories feature women as either narrator or principal antagonist. Moreover, these stories about mothers, daughters, lovers, sisters, and female friends reflect—and are unified by—an idea central to my writing: Kafka’s assertion that a literary work “should be an ice ax to break up the frozen sea inside us.” And so, Women of Consequence came to be.
Why “Consequence” in the title? Because it’s a term that allows ambiguity. The women in my stories are more often cautionary tales than role models. Some are victimizers, some are victims. But the characters in Women of Consequence approach the world with boldness and creativity: a fallen starlet revives her career by voicing a wretched dog-man in an animated horror film; hoping for greater profit, a surrogate nearing her due date runs off to Mexico with her valuable cargo; a meals-on-wheels driver with an eating disorder survives on bits picked from the dinners of her clients; a casting agent hires a performance artist to nurse her new baby; to become eligible for an exclusive dating service, a young professional pretends severe colorblindness; a dangerously overprotective mother attempts to destroy her child’s faith in his physical senses. These and the other women in this collection may or may not achieve their goals, but the consequences of their efforts are inescapable.
Readers may find the premises of some of these stories disturbing. A surrogate running off with the baby she carries? A mother stripping her child of his senses? And several of the stories feature ghosts and surreal or supernatural phenomena. But if the stories of Women of Consequence disturb, they do so because they represent a kind of exaggerated familiarity. The object is not simply to shock, but to compel readers to reflect on their own lives and the thickness of the ice of their inner frozen seas.
More than seventy of his short stories have been published or are forthcoming in print and online journals such as The Georgia Review, The Florida Review, The Baltimore Review, The Pinch, Post Road, Nashville Review, A-Minor Magazine, Yemassee, The Madison Review, The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review, The Los Angeles Review, PANK, Superstition Review, Tahoma Literary Review, and Zymbol. Gregory’s work has earned six Pushcart Prize nominations and his stories have won awards sponsored by Solstice, Gulf Stream, New South, the Rubery Book Awards, Emrys Journal, and The White Eagle Coffee Store Press.