The book's title, Women & Children First, echoes the traditional (male) call to the lifeboats-ironically so, since the men in these stories, with two or three notable exceptions, are not typically lifesavers; they don't direct the way to the boats or offer to give up their seats there. The women and children in these stories sink or swim on their own. Indeed, they are more interesting for lacking the support of reliable parents, spouses, teachers, or friends. Always, I am interested in seeing what they will make of their aloneness, what a sense of abandonment or desolation will drive them to discover about themselves and the world. Not that these stories are celebrations of self-discovery. On the contrary, "I" stories do not predominate here. One of the main reasons writers write and readers read, I believe, is to learn about "the other": there's a natural sense of dissatisfaction, of incompleteness that impels us to look beyond the narrow boundaries of self for knowledge, inspiration, fulfillment. The characters of mine who appeal to me the most possess some such yearning, whether it be expressed as curiosity about the world, desire for a loved one, or (as Flannery O'Connor called it) an attraction to the holy.
Oliver, born in Kansas City, Missouri, received his bachelor degree from Rockhurst College, his master's degree from the University of Kansas, and his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia.
His stories have appeared in many prestigious journals and have been honored with the Frank O'Connor Prize and the Seaton Fiction Prize. He is co-author of a book of interviews, Passion and Craft: Conversations with Notable Writers (University of Illinois Press, 1998). Married and the father of three sons, Oliver lives in Lexington, Virginia. He has just finished a short novel and his stories have recently appeared in The Virginia Quarterly Review and The Laurel Review. Another is due out soon in New Letters. Oliver has been putting together a new collection of short fiction, which includes seven short stories and his short novel, called Asunder.