Each of the 11 stories in the collection is set in a different time and place. When Shepard spoke at Harvard last fall as part of a panel with Stephen King, he was funny and self-effacing. He cheerfully described the genesis of one of the stories. He had come across a petition from an executioner in France dating back hundreds of years -- and what did the executioner complain about? His clothing budget.
Shepard was asked what advice he had for aspiring writers. Read an "enormous amount" and write a lot, he said. When he was asked whether he preferred writing stories or novels, he replied, "I'm just so happy to be working with a functioning idea that I don't care whether it's a story or a novel."