Manuel Gonzales, "Two Minutes, Five Minutes, Ten"

It's December 10. Manuel Gonzales, author of The Miniature Wife and The Regional Office Is Under Attack!, always has one eye on the exit.

How would you describe your story?

MANUEL GONZALES: It's a bit of an adventure story based loosely on the world and characters from my novel, The Regional Office Is Under Attack! What I enjoyed playing around with in this story was speculating into the future for this character, casting forward as far as I could, and then offering a small glimmer of a chance that the future I laid out wasn't the future that would happen. Also, I like this woman—she's funny and a badass and I want her to win—and in the novel I don't focus very much on the operatives working for The Regional Office—I focus on peripheral non-operative characters—and it was great fun writing this woman.

When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?

MG: I wrote this a couple of years ago for a friend who was looking for new fiction to feature in the Aston Martin magazine, which was a magazine I didn't even know existed, but it does! (Or it did.) And she gave me the criteria that the story should somehow reflect power, beauty, and soul, which is also a weird conglomeration of criteria for a story, but this made me think of any one of the women who worked for the Regional Office in my novel—the Regional Office trains at-risk young women to fight the forces of darkness that threaten the destruction of the planet—and so I thought of one of these women on assignment, but an assignment that potentially goes wrong. And so it was different in that it was an assignment, and I haven't written too many assignments. 

What kind of research went into this story?

MG: None, no research, I'm horrible at research, like, research is the last thing I think to do when writing anything, which is why I stick to fiction.

What, to you, makes the short story a special form? What can it do that other kinds of writing (novels, poems) can't?

MG: The story is so plastic and malleable but also, counterintuitively, so much more contained than a novel, which can go sprawling all over the place, can take turns and languish and twist around. The story can do that, but has to be so precise in how it does these things because there's only so many pages, only so many words in which to capture everything you want to capture. The story, too, can expand to encompass an entire life or, as in this story, focus on ten minutes, on the action of one ten-minute sequence. There's something thrilling about this. 

Where can people go to learn more about you and your writing?

MG: People can go to to find out more about me, or follow me on Twitter where I say dumb things sometimes: @hrniles.

What's on your Christmas list this year?

MG: I just gave my Christmas list to my wife and it includes a nonstick omelet pan, gloves, and new sunglasses because every summer by the end of the summer, my sunglasses flit away never to be seen again, as ephemeral as summer vacation itself.

* * * * *

What did you think of today's story? Use the hashtag #ssac2016 on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to check in with your fellow advent calendarians.

Michael Hingston