SP: One of the things that I loved about your latest collection is the slight dark turn your work has taken. The four stories collected in No Man’s Wild Laura all resonate with themes I’ve come to expect from you- loss, family, the search for identity, connections with the natural world- but they all seem to carry a bit of a darker tone than the stories of your previous collection, I am Barbarella. “Regarding Suebelle,” in particular, is downright gothic. Was this change in tone deliberate for this collection or does it reflect a new direction in your writing?
SP: While there are certainly lyrical elements in your work, especially in your crafting of voice, No Man’s Wild Laura is clearly a collection of short fiction. How then, did you hook up with the poetry-publishing Hyacinth Girl Press?
BG: I am a fan of their poetry chapbooks. I love that they are a small, feminist press, which consistently puts out provocative work. I also loved the design of the books and the fact that they’re handmade. It seemed like a perfect fit for my little collection, and when I saw they were accepting prose manuscripts, they were one of three places I sent it. In the acceptance letter, they told me the prose was gorgeous and I felt, coming from poets, that was the highest of compliments. It’s pretty cool when someone else sees the effort I put into the music of the language.
SP: In addition to writing short fiction, you are also the fiction editor for LittleFiction. What does it take for a submission to really knock your socks off? Have you ever found a short story in your inbox that absolutely took your breath away?
BG: For a submission to knock my socks off, the language, voice, and character must be crisp and original. I look for music. I look for tension. I look for an emotional connection. I look for atmosphere. I want to be unable to stop reading. It’s extremely rare to find all of these things in one piece, but when you do, it’s a glorious feeling. It snaps you out of your angst or ennui and gets you excited about stories again. You forget all the difficulties of this writing life and remember why we are all still fighting the good fight and trying to make art. Of course I love all the stories we’ve published since I joined the team, but there was one in particular last November that still floors me. I think about “Dive” by Daniel Knowlton often. The attention to detail, right down to the lexicon of the sea and of science, the extensive research he conducted, the atmosphere he created, and the utter despair I felt at the end, these are not things you see in your average story.
Did I also mention how completely badass Beth Gilstrap is? Yeah... So, check out her work and keep her on your radar. Cheers and happy reading!