by PAUL BICKLEY
Raymond Fleischmann, director of advancement communications at the Indiana University College of Arts and Sciences, published his debut novel, How Quickly She Disappears (Berkley Books), in January 2020.
The novel centers on protagonist Elisabeth Pfautz, who, isolated in an Alaskan village in 1941 and far from where she grew up, suffers a failing marriage as she home-schools her gifted daughter. Her twin sister disappeared 20 years earlier, and Elisabeth frequently dreams about her, believing that she’s still alive. A new pilot begins delivering mail to the area and soon murders a man. In jail, he asks to speak with Elisabeth and tells her he knows what happened to her sister but won’t reveal anything further unless she agrees to complete three tasks.
Fleischmann, 37, earned two B.A.s from IU in 2006—one in English and the other through the Individualized Major Program—followed by an M.F.A. in creative writing from Ohio State University in 2011. He says the book was inspired by his paternal grandparents’ move from Pennsylvania to Tanacross, Alaska, for a teaching job during the Great Depression, and by stories and photos of Alaska. It took him about six years, including rewrites, to complete the novel, working at a pace of “one to two pages at a time,” he says.
Fleischmann has 10 published stories in literary journals including The Iowa Review, The Cimarron Review, and The Pinch. “Short stories are my first fiction love,” says the Virginia native. “There’s a propulsiveness to short stories that you don’t have in novels—certain degrees of urgency. Stories also lend themselves to experimentation in ways novels don’t.” But Fleischmann says there are major similarities between his stories and his novel: “They’re stories about good people who do bad things for mistaken reasons. Characters are faced with high stakes, and so they act recklessly and rashly at times. They overthink things and are obsessive. They’re dealing with loss and grief that bubbles up years or even decades after the fact.”
The similarities extend to Fleischmann’s second novel, now a year in the making. In it, a woman moves back to the home she grew up in to renovate and sell it. When she was nine, her father was murdered there. Unwittingly, she meets and befriends the person who killed him.