Maxim Loskutoff


Maxim Loskutoff is the award-winning author of RUTHIE FEAR and COME WEST AND SEE. His stories and essays have appeared in numerous periodicals, including the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Ploughshares, and GQ. Other honors include the High Plains Book Award, Nelson Algren Award, and Montana Innovation Award. A Yaddo and MacDowell fellow, he lives in the Rocky Mountains of western Montana where he was raised. His next novel OLD KING will be published by W.W. Norton in 2024.

Q: Tell us about your journey as a writer (How did you get started? What propelled you into the industry? Were there pivotal moments or key inspirations?)

As a boy walking in the Montana woods, I felt that literally anything was possible around each bend. From the towering beauty of a hawk skimming over a snow-covered field of scree, to the horror of a mutilated deer carcass, and beyond: spirits, ghosts, the whispered memories of the land. I knew they were present because I felt them. It’s this sense of wonder and possibility that drew me to writing. Attempting to express the inexpressible. The boundless human potential when we reconnect with the earth, and the freedom and surrender of reacquainting ourselves with everything else alive.

Q: What genre/s do you write in? What aspects of this genre or genres captivate you most?

Westerns. I’ve always loved western literature but felt constricted by its tropes: the lone gunman, the glowing sunset, the town that must be saved. In the novel Ruthie Fear, I set out to write a town that must be sacrificed, a toxic cloud of smoke, and a lone gunwoman who pulls the trigger to destroy them all. Part of a cosmic regeneration, a rebirth that she has sensed from her first breath, which coincided with her father killing the last wolf in the Bitterroot Valley.

Q: What do you write? (short stories, novels, poems, etc.)

Novels and short stories.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Love your strangeness, your raw edges, the parts you hide. Observe them and let them sing. Move past your insecurity, your desire to fit in…writers are meant to be outsiders, showing what others are afraid to see. It’s not a comfortable profession. If there’s some disturbance inside you, something that makes you uncomfortable, then likely it's a story that needs telling.

Q: How do you overcome writer's block? Can you share personal strategies and experiences?

Inside every writer there's a cup of inspiration, and when you write a story or a book you empty out that cup. For me, there’s no writer’s block, it's just giving the cup time to refill. Learning patience has been a huge challenge. Getting out in the nature helps. When I’m stuck, I get in my van and drive. I find a remote dirt road, go as far down it as I can, and camp there. Then I pay attention to everything happening around me. An entire universe unfolds.

Q: Tell us about the most recent story you have written for Storiaverse? What themes or elements can audiences expect? Why did you want to tell this particular story?

The End of the West came to me in a bar in Wyoming when someone told me that cattle outnumbered people five to one in that particular county. I wondered what would happen if suddenly the cattle turned…. Our relationship to animals is I think the most fundamental marker of where we are as a species. We love them as pets and we’ve come to acknowledge the incredible depth and breadth of their personalities, yet still we turn a blind eye to factory farms, slaughterhouses, this incredible machinery of brutality all around us. For me, the end of the west will come when that changes, either through love or (as in the story) fire.

Q: What do you like about the opportunity to merge reading with animation?

In high school, I dreamt of being a film maker, and part of my brain still always imagines my stories onscreen, so it’s a dream come true to see them come to life through the vision of brilliant animators. I never know quite what to expect and that’s the joy. Seeing my story as a spark lighting a fire in another creative mind, a collaboration emerges which is bigger than the sum of its parts.

Q: What are you working on now?

Old King is a novel about the Unabomber. It began to form in my mind when I was a seventh grader in Missoula, Montana in 1996. When Ted Kaczynski was captured in a one-room cabin outside the tiny town of Lincoln, my home state was suddenly thrust into the national spotlight, and I realized that something in the Montana woods could change how we think about America. For me, on the cusp between childhood and adolescence, this moment was a revelation, the inspiration for everything I’ve written about the American west. The fact that the Unabomber had been living in the forest not seventy miles from my house, a forest nearly identical to the one I walked in every day, validated everything I’d suspected as a child: there were monsters in the dark, secrets hiding in abandoned cabins, and a mysterious volition to the trees. This spark turned into Old King, a novel about three very different men trying to reinvent themselves in one of America’s last wild frontiers during the bicentennial summer of 1976.