Today, I bring you an interview with Patricia Abbot, whose short story collection, I Bring Sorrow & Other Stories of Transgression, just recently hit shelves. Enjoy!
“A sparkling collection from Edgar-finalist Abbott...This brilliant collection is sure to boost the author’s reputation as a gifted storyteller.”
―Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
What drew you into the genre you write in?
Although a lot of the fiction I read would not be categorized as crime fiction, I am drawn to writing it because there is an immediate and compelling focus to the story: a crime of some sort, a grievance, a loss, some issue to be addressed. My first dozen or so published stories did not feature a crime per say but many were about marginalized people. Certainly many of my favorite books dealt with victimization, or feelings of desire unmet. My characters are often dissatisfied with their lot in life and how they address that dissatisfaction becomes the story.
How important is the setting in your collection?
The setting is very important to me. In both of my novels, the story reflects the city they take place in. Philadelphia of the 1950s-1980s (Concrete Angel) is very specific to me. One chapter, in particular, recalls the grand dames of department stores in the 1960s: Lit Brothers, Strawbridges, John Wanamakers and Gimbels. Going downtown to shop in those stores necessitated white gloves and high heels- even for a teenager. Shopping was an event. In Shot in Detroit, I tried to capture Detroit at its worst moment without being patronizing or callous. But all of my short stories treat place as an important part of the narrative, too. I would say after character, setting is the most important element for me. How to capture Tuscon, or Pacific Beach, CA or Portland, Maine without overdoing it is great fun for me.
What single book has been most influential to you as a writer?
The Great Gatsby can be read multiple times without losing its freshness. The book I read at 20 is different than the one I read last year. Each time, it reveals new insights on how to create character, place, plot in a very short novel. Every character in The Great Gatsby is dissatisfied. Unmet desire overwhelms all of them.
Did your collection have an alternate title?
It’s original title was Flight Tales. That made sense because in nearly every story someone is running from something: a woman from her bi-polar mother, an elderly woman from the Detroit that has changed, a man from his harridan of a wife. However, that title had no poetry to it. So I began to look for another way to express the theme. I Bring Sorrow is from an aria Maria Callas sang called “La Mamma Morta” (They killed my mother) from the opera Andrea Chenier by Umberto Giodana. It was beautifully used in the movie Philadelphia, bringing everyone to tears.
Do you have a set routine as a writer?
When the writing is going well, I write off and on all day. I am a pantser, so getting up and mopping a floor or taking a walk is part of the process for me. My unconscious needs time to catch up with my conscious mind. Lately, the switching between shorts and novels has been difficult. My head has not been in the right place to allow characters and incidents to take hold. Hopefully I am behind that.