Connor Coyne

recorded in Chicago, IL

 

Connor Coyne

My name is Connor Coyne, I currently live in Chicago. I’m originally from Flint, Michigan. I grew up in Flint. It’s a major auto town, one of the original homes of General Motors. My dad worked with Buick for 35 years before becoming a tool-maker until his retirement and because of that, I was able to get a great education at the University of Chicago, where I originally went for theatre. After that, I wanted to go back to Flint because I really love the place, but I was very seriously dating somebody at the time, and if you’ve ever been to Flint, talking an outsider into going there is kind of an uphill battle, understandably so. Also, though, it was very difficult to find a job. I worked as a temp worker for four years and I would save up money during the year and then I would go back to Flint to do writing over the summer. And theatre. And it was actually pretty great because the cost of living there was small enough that I could live off what I had saved, as a temp worker, for three or four months at a time. I got married, I got into graduate school in New York City at the New School and I went out there, worked with Jeffrey Reynard Allen, and that was an incredible experience, and then moved back to Chicago because my wife and I knew a lot of people there, and also because she had gotten into nursing school, and she’s currently a nurse. And we most recently had our first child, Mary, and we are getting ready to move back to Flint, probably in 2011. I’m excited about this, and a little anxious about what the future holds. So that is the short synopsis.


The Knox Writers’ House

Do you think there’s a Midwestern voice? And your wife can jump in too…Are you a Midwesterner?


Mrs. Coyne

I am.


KWH

Yeah, well that’s what we—


Ms. Coyne

But I’m not a writer [laughs].


KWH

That’s fine. So what do you think? Is there a Midwestern voice?


Coyne

I do. And I actually think that the potential to be the next big thing. I don’t know whether I’m being objective here or whether it’s regional chauvinism but, basically, at the period when the South was going through its greatest economic decline coincided with its greatest cultural productivity, specifically Southern Gothic. And I think that possibly, we may see a Midwestern Gothic emerging in the next 20 or 30 years, partly as a result of the de-industrialization, large-scale flight from the major cities of the Midwest. Chicago’s somewhat an exception to that, but virtually every other major Midwestern city has suffered an extraordinary exodus, and that has required a re-calibration in artistic communities, which I think brings out the best work in people.


KWH

So do you feel like your writing has been influenced since you came to Chicago or do you still feel like the majority of your influences while writing here are being drawn from Flint.


Coyne

They’re almost all drawn from being in Flint and it’s almost sometimes a little frustrating. I’m part of the Flint Diaspora—I mean, thousands and thousands of people have left these cities, and Flint in particular. I’ve tried to write about Chicago. I’m just now writing some stuff about Chicago that I like. I never was able to write about New York. There’s just something about the place that just gets in your head and you can’t really get away from it. So it’s problematic, because people stayed behind. They feel, legitimately, I think, that they’re the people who have chosen to establish their careers there, so for me to be living it up in Chicago where there’s a greater level of prosperity, certainly better employment prospects, but writing about Flint like I’m from Flint, it’s a little bit uneasy. But you have to write what you feel drawn to, and that’s the part of myself that I identify with most powerfully and that’s where I feel my richest literary ideas come from.


KWH

You were talking about the future of the Midwest voice. Do you think there’s anything, presently, that you would demarcate as, This is Midwestern, in form or subject?


Coyne

It’s kind of hard to say, just because you need to have such a broad base of knowledge. I think that, traditionally, the kind of literature that the Midwest is known for and has kind of excelled at is this sort of…oh, it’s solid, and incisive, insightful realism, but I think that what would be a unifying idea about Midwestern writers in the 21st century is the whole conundrum about staying versus going.

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