David Philip Mullins grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada, and is the author of Greetings from Below: Stories. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His fiction has appeared in The Yale Review, The Massachusetts Review, New England Review, Cimarron Review, Ecotone, Folio, Fiction, and the anthology Road to Nowhere and Other New Stories from the Southwest. He has won the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction, the International Walter Scott Prize for Short Stories, and the Silver Pen Award from the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame, and has received awards from Yaddo, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and the Nebraska Arts Council. He lives in Omaha, Nebraska, where he is an associate professor in the M.F.A. program in creative writing at Creighton University. He is at work on a novel.
Geosi Gyasi: How did you come to write, “Greeting from Below: Stories”?
David Philip Mullins: The book came together over a number of years, but not in order. “True Love Versus the Cigar Store Indian” is the first story I wrote. The others took shape as they came to me. Then I ordered them. I fell in love with Nick Danze after writing “True Love…” and a linked collection was the result.
Geosi Gyasi: How long did it take you to write, “Greetings from Below: Stories”?
David Philip Mullins: About eight years, off and on.
Geosi Gyasi: Do you have a particular way of choosing titles for your books?
David Philip Mullins: Not really. But I often begin with a title, and the story will grow from it. That was what happened with “True Love…” Sometimes five or six different titles will come to me for a story, and then I have to choose the best one, which is always tricky and difficult.
Geosi Gyasi: When did you realize you’re a writer?
David Philip Mullins: I was seventeen, and writing some very bad poetry. Soon after, I switched to fiction. I’m no poet.
Geosi Gyasi: How would you define good writing?
David Philip Mullins: Clarity. Precision. Elegance. What else is there!
Geosi Gyasi: Are you happy as a writer?
David Philip Mullins: Extremely. But I’d love a Pulitzer or two.
Geosi Gyasi: What’s the most boring aspect of writing?
David Philip Mullins: Writing itself. Seriously. Composing bores me, because I find it inherently less interesting than revising—which to me is where the real artistry takes place.
Geosi Gyasi: When do you often write?
David Philip Mullins: In the morning, for three hours at a time.
Geosi Gyasi: Where do you often write?
David Philip Mullins: At my home office or my office at Creighton.
Geosi Gyasi: Do you come from a family of writers?
David Philip Mullins: No.
Geosi Gyasi: Why did you decide to opt for the Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop?
David Philip Mullins: It’s such a storied program. I’d always wanted to go there, from a very young age. When I got in, I had no choice—I had to go. I’m a much better writer for having attended the Workshop.
Geosi Gyasi: Do you have any fun memories about your days as a student at Iowa?
David Philip Mullins: Drinking at the Foxhead, the local writers’ bar, after Tuesday-night workshops.
Geosi Gyasi: Which writers or teachers have had profound impact on your life as a writer?
David Philip Mullins: John Irsfeld, Marilynne Robinson, Frank Conroy, Charles D’Ambrosio, Michael Byers, J.D. Salinger, Thom Jones, Raymond Carver, Chris Offutt, to name just a few. There are many, many more.
Geosi Gyasi: Do you have any favorite books?
David Philip Mullins: Franny and Zooey. My all-time favorite. A must-read for any young writer.
Geosi Gyasi: Do you continue to live in Omaha, Nebraska? How is the literary culture there?
David Philip Mullins: Yes, I do. And the literary culture here is stupendous. I’m a small fish in a very large pond, which is great. So many top-notch writers in Omaha: Brent Spencer, Mary Helen Stefaniak, Susan Aizenberg, Anna Monardo. The list goes on and on.
Geosi Gyasi: How did you come to write, “First Sight”?
David Philip Mullins: That story was an experiment, a test. I wanted to see if I could write an epistolary narrative. Not sure I pulled it off.
Geosi Gyasi: How is your novel coming forth? Do you mind sharing anything about this new novel?
David Philip Mullins: Not ready to share anything yet, but it’s coming along—slowly, surely. I’m about six months from being finished—I hope!
Geosi Gyasi: What are your literary dreams for the future?
David Philip Mullins: Very simply to keep writing and publishing. Everything else is gravy.
Geosi Gyasi: You’ve won a number of prizes including the International Walter Scott Prize, the Mary McCarthy Prize, and the Silver Pen Award from the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame. Which of the prizes do you feel most proud of?
David Philip Mullins: I have to say, I’m proud of them all—and grateful for them all. The Mary McCarthy Prize was especially nice, though, because it meant my first book publication.
Geosi Gyasi: Do you read a lot of novels as compared to poetry?
David Philip Mullins: I read both. Reading poetry makes me a better fiction writer—a better prose stylist.
Geosi Gyasi: What do you do to relax besides writing?
David Philip Mullins: Play basketball, play with my kids. Read.
Geosi Gyasi: Could you describe your work as an associate professor in the M.F.A program in creative writing at Creighton University?
David Philip Mullins: I’m an associate professor there, and I mainly teach the craft of prose—both fiction and creative nonfiction.