Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Journey of the Imagination... an Interview with Author Elgon Williams

This week I’m sitting down with Elgon Williams, author of the novel Fried Windows in a Light White Sauce. His crazy, trippy, wild-ride on the Technicolor roller coaster of imagination book releases May 30th. It’s a mind-bending story that will complete any fantasy reader’s collection. To learn more about Fried Windows and the mastermind behind it, keep reading. 

Steph Post: Fried Windows in a Light White Sauce is your first book released by Pandamoon Publishing, but it’s not the first book you’ve published. How many books have you written and how long have you been writing?

Elgon Williams: Quite a while – how’s that for an answer? I’ve been at it in earnest for the past fifteen or so years. Before that it was a hobby more than anything else. I worked a lot of hours as a retail manager, so finding the time to write with any regularity or consistency was a challenge. Being Daddy to three kids and a husband was a challenge. When my wife and I separated in 1997 and she moved to Florida with the kids, suddenly I have a lot of time. I started writing a lot more on my time off.  At present I have amassed forty projects in various stages of completion, twenty of them are manuscripts ready for submission.

My first two books in the One Over X series are technically out of print. Last year I produced a revised second edition of the first book splitting it into two smaller volumes. Those are available on Amazon for Kindle and from CreateSpace. The second book has been rewritten extensively under a different title and should be released in the next couple of years. At least half of the original version ended up in a series titled One Pack, which is a five book series, the second volume of The Wolfcat Chronicles. In 2007, while I was between jobs, I wrote The Attributes, which is a two book series available on Amazon exclusively for Kindle.

SP: What first inspired you to start writing? Was there any particular person or event that sparked your interest in being an author?

EW: My mom told me the first thing I grasped in my hand when I was a baby was a pencil. I guess I was cursed from an early age. Growing up in west central Ohio, two miles from nowhere I had to rely a lot on my imagination for entertainment.

Mrs. Sievert, my seventh grade teacher, taught me more about English than anyone before or since.  She read Where The Red Fern Grows to the class. That book made me realize the power of a well-written story. That year I read the essential Mark Twain books and Ivanhoe. So, I was well on my way to being a writer by then.

In high school there was Kristin Hibbett. She was my ninth grade and eleventh grade English teacher. She also taught senior composition. On one assignment of which was especially proud she bled all over it with red ink. In the margin she wrote that I’d never be a writer. I took that as a challenge. Eventually, after I went away to college, we became friends and we corresponded for many years.

SP: Fried Windows is an imaginative whirlwind. The whole time I was reading it, I kept wondering where on earth you got your ideas from. So, I have to ask: how did you come up with such an imaginative story?

EW: Brent Woods is my alter ego, or evil twin – take your pick. He appears in a lot of the stories I’ve written. I think that helped in establishing the character. Some people are surprised when I tell them I wrote the first draft as a series of short stories over a period of about a month in 2012. 

As for the idea, let’s face it, writers’ brains are wired differently than so-called normal people. My brain may be a little more so unusual. I have random thoughts throughout the day and they entertain me enough to survive the tedium. I’d like to think that others enjoy working with me because of the things that pop into my head that I share. For example, last night I created an entire story involving a tube of Chapstick and a guy who asked that we hold it for him to come back later on. The real mystery is why didn’t he never make it back to the store?

SP: Even though it has many fantastical elements, Fried Windows is not all fantasy. Were there any events or experiences in your life that you incorporated into your novel?

EW: For sure, there are some scenes that my kids will recognize. Dad fixing breakfast on Sunday morning and some of relationship between Brent and his wife is pretty close to the way things were. One of the settings is Florida’s Space Coast, where I used to live. I guess Flroida in general is a perfect setting for the book because a lot of people end up in Florida chasing after their dreams. So it’s the kind of place where fantasy and imagination can flourish and mingle with reality, if you let it. Like Brent I was in the Air Force and worked in intelligence. Unlike him I wasn’t an officer and I didn’t work for a super secret organization called The Program.

SP: Fried Windows will be released in a few days (!!!). How do you expect readers to respond to your story? How do you want them to respond?

EW: To those who have read anything I have ever offered previously, you are in for a real surprise. This one is unlike anything I’ve ever done. And I think it’s pretty unique as novels go as well. So, I expect a generally favorable response. I’d love for everyone in the world to read the story because there are some very good positive messages in it. I think people will fall in love with Strawb because, let’s face it, she’s a fun character and steals the scene in many places. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear people start quoting her.

SP: You’ve been a strong advocate for other authors. What are some of the ways that you’ve helped new and established writers?

EW: It’s always been tough for writers, but it used to be hard to get published. Now that part of the equation is easier. Still, all it did was take the competition from submissions to the marketplace. Writers generally aren’t good at marketing. I have some direct experience and a marketing background. Although having so many new books out is great for the reader, it’s hard for an author, especially someone who self-publishes, to be heard above all the noise. I post things on my blog with some advice and hints. Christine Gabriel and I have started a Facebook page called Instant Fame Magazine to help promote people we know who have books out there or books on the way. Other than that I read books and write reviews for other authors I know – not everyone because I know a lot of authors – but for the ones in my genre or genres I enjoy reading. The most important thing you can do as a new author is to establish your author’s brand. You do that one fan at a time. Getting someone to read your book is a lot like asking someone out on a first date.

SP: Being such a prolific writer, I know you’ve got some other projects in the works. Care to share?

EW: My next Pandamoon project is Becoming Thuperman. It’s a book about a couple of precocious eight-year-olds, growing up before cell phones and home video games, riding bikes everywhere, playing baseball and that strange couple down the street who live in a house that everyone says is haunted. Just to make it fun, they also have some secret superpowers they are beginning to discover. There’s another project called Bongwater Moses, about a guy who has temporal dyslexia, which means he experiences his life out of sequence. For example, when he should be twelve he experiences being twenty-one. I’m pitching a series I wrote in draft from 2002 to 2005. It’s a ten book series collectively titled The Wolfcat Chronicles. Other than that I’m plotting out a sequel for Becoming Thuperman, which will be called Being Thuperman and a sequel and a prequel for Fried Windows. Lot’s of fun ahead for everyone.

Curious? Here’s the down-low on Fried Windows in a Light White Sauce:

“Leave your world behind and enter an adventure forever lost but never forgotten, where only magic is real, and anything is possible.

When Brent Woods, a middle-aged computer technician delivers a new system to Strawb, an eccentric lady who lives in a house with no windows, she offers to reconnect him with his childhood dreams and fantastic imagination. Alongside his best friend Lucy, Brent explores the seemingly infinite possibilities of the “Inworld” where she lives, a place where everything about anything can change with a thought. But in the process of remembering his past as Carlos, Lord of Bartoul, Brent exposes a dark potential that threatens his family, and his home. 

After his youngest daughter is attacked in her dreams by the very forces that took away his kingdom, and Lucy’s, Brent seeks answers that lie somewhere in the truth of what happened in his past, and how he lost his connection to the Inter-Realm. He must find a way to correct his mistakes and solve the puzzle of his best friend’s life.

Fried Windows (In a Light White Sauce) is an unforgettable journey into imagination. It is a feast of delightful characters whose perspective of their worlds will change the way you think about yours forever.” 

Want to know more about Elgon?

Born in Springfield, Ohio, Elgon Williams was given an unusual name and an extraordinary childhood growing up on a farm near South Charleston at the edge of the village of Selma in rural southeastern Clark County. An only surviving son and the baby of the family he found his sisters less than cooperative for play. And so, maybe of his childhood experience relied solely on his imagination. As he matured many of his fantastic adventures found expression in his storytelling.

A graduate of Purdue University, The University of Texas and the Defense Language Institute, Williams holds degrees in Mass Communication, Marketing and Chinese Mandarin. As a member of the United States Air Force he lived and worked in Asia and in several other parts of the United State. After leaving the military he spent most of his adult life working in retail management, merchandising, and marketing. He is also a computer technician and technology consultant.

Williams is the father of three adult children and currently lives in central Florida.







Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Flash Friday Winner!

Got a minute? Check out my Sixty Seconds with: Steph Post interview with Flash!Friday creator Rebekah Postupak about my first place win in last week's Flash!Friday fiction contest. While you're there, make sure to stop by my Winner's Page to read my winning flash story and then read some of the other amazing entries from last week. Cheers to flash fiction!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Heading to a Different Kind of South... An Interview with Jason Beem

“There’s a line that runs alongside our ordinary lives, just beyond the grind of things. Jason Beem’s novel Southbound derails your ordinary life and shoots you into the thrill, rush, and dark brutal truths of gambling and racing. And he doesn’t flinch. A glorious and visceral book. I sweat reading it.”–Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Chronology of Water and Dora: A Headcase.

Jason Beem’s debut novel Southbound was off to the races from the moment of its release and the momentum hasn’t slowed.  I was lucky enough to catch him for an interview…..

Steph Post: Southbound is based on your own life experiences. How much of the story is true and how much is made up for the sake of the novel structure?  

Jason Beem: I think the best way to put it is that much of the background stuff is completely based on me and my experiences.  That being said, most of the book after about chapter 8 is all a fictional journey of how I thought things would play out for me if I went back to the gambling lifestyle.  I actually told my mom “Just read it as though it’s a fiction book.”  She responded “Well I’m on page 3 and I know that part was true!”  It made me laugh J

SP: What gave you the idea to take a rough part of your life- your gambling addiction- and turn it into a book? Was there a person or idea that inspired you? 

JB: It actually started out as a journal entry.  I have had the fantasy to just give up my recovery, say “screw work, screw school, screw everything” and go back to gambling.  So I started journaling about what I think would happen, and essentially what that journal entry was became the start of a vague outline for the book. 

SP: For someone who knows nothing about horse racing (and only a little about gambling- I’ve gone so far as to pull a few slot machines and play a few hands of blackjack), I still found the world depicted in Southbound interesting. Why do you think people can relate to your book, even if they know very little about the actual subject matter?  

JB: I think at the very heart of the book, it’s showcasing someone who is struggling with inner turmoil.  Gambling, like many addictions, for me became about escape.  I have severe anxiety disorder and burying my face in the Racing Form or going to the track was a way to distract myself.   Ryan’s dealing with not only his anxiety, but the end of his relationship and his mother’s recent death.  Sometimes when we need comfort, we go back to things that really aren’t good for us, just because they’re familiar.

SP: Your characters are extremely realistic and not always likable.  Was it difficult writing characters who were so true to life? 

JB: I thought Ryan was very likable!  J  For me it wasn’t difficult at all because I wrote Ryan and the other characters as truthfully as I could.  Addicts aren’t often likable.  I think his charm and wit come through at several times throughout the book, but the addiction comes back more often and has a way of burying those good qualities. 

SP: Southbound has been out for a few months now and is doing very well. What have some of the responses from readers been like? Was this how you expected readers to react? 

JB: It’s been a very connective experience.  What I’ve noticed is I’ve gotten a number of very nice messages from complete strangers who are either recovering addicts, addicts, or had or have family members who were.  I got an email from an 80 year old woman in Connecticut who told me her dad was a problem gambler and she felt like the book gave her a little better idea of what her dad was going through.  That floored me.  Being able to connect with people is the greatest gift I’ve gotten from Southbound. 

SP: Are you working on any writing projects now? What and when can readers can expect new work from you? 

JB: I’ve got about 10,000 words of a new story started, but it’s slow going as this one is strictly fiction.  I’m not sure if I like it yet.  We shall see.  It’s set in the world of college hockey and is much more of a father/son story than anything. 

Jason Beem was born in Renton, Washington on the day Mt. St. Helens erupted just a hundred miles south. He attended and graduated from the University of Washington in 2002 and was even president of his fraternity, Alpha Tau Omega (think Animal House). After college Jason worked at his mom’s poker room, then got a real estate license before stumbling into announcing horse races, something he’s done since 2006. Jason’s called races at Portland Meadows in Portland, Oregon as well as spending three summers at River Downs in Cincinnati, Ohio. He announces horse races and hosts a weekly horse racing radio show in Portland. Jason has written many pieces for local and national racing publications and Southbound is his first foray into long-form fiction.

To learn more about Jason and Southbound check out www.pandamoonpublishing.com
Follow Jason on twitter @JasonBeem

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Obsession and Writing and Radiolab

WNYC's Radiolab is not only the greatest radio podcast of all time, it might just be one the greatest Things of all time. Especially for a writer. 

My husband introduced me to Radiolab a few years ago and, typical of me, I didn't think I would like it. A podcast about science? With weird sound effects? At this point in my life even the mention of the word 'science' brought back horrible memories of suffering through that 7AM Biology class in college.... But, typical of my husband, he got me in the car, put a podcast on, and made me listen to it. (Because where else was I going to go? Trapping someone in a car is a brilliant way to get to someone to listen to something they don't want to.) That first episode was the one about the two girls in England, the one with the balloon and the identical names, lives, etc. I was floored. THIS was science? But, this was interesting! This was art and literature and psychology and above all else, story telling. 

The next day I told my students the story about the girls and had them do a writing assignment on coincidence vs. fate. Since then, I've used countless stories from Radiolab in my English class. I've used the stories to spark interest, open discussions and develop projects. I even taught a book I learned about on Radiolab (Sam Kean, anyone?). I've worn my shirt with the goat standing on top of the cow to class and developed an entire lesson around it. (See- if you don't listen to Radiolab already, you have no idea what I'm talking about- but I bet your interest is peaked.... start listening, people!)

Most importantly, the stories that Radiolab has showcased have been the jumping off point for many of my pieces of fiction (everything from flash to my most recent novel). Because Radiolab is really about storytelling, with some science thrown in for good measure, it is a writer's treasure chest. It is a place to learn about people and events which are just begging to be written about. It is more valuable than any book of writing prompts could ever be. 

So if you're stuck in the doldrums of writer's block, check out Radiolab. I guarantee it will ignite your thoughts and get your pen scratching or your fingers typing And if you're not a writer, check it out as well. It will make you laugh, sometimes make you cry, but always it will make you think. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Of Witches and Wonders... An Interview with Chrissy Lessey

                This week I’m super excited because I had the chance to interview Chrissy Lessey again. Her novel The Coven and the prequel to the novel, The Secret Keepers, just released and so this is the post-published interview.  I had lots of questions about the books and her writing life, so please keep reading to learn more about this very talented author.  More information on Chrissy, her work and how to get in touch with her is below, so keep on reading!

Steph Post: So I’m not going to lie; I never read fantasy or paranormal. Yet I was hooked from the first chapter of The Coven. Did you intend on writing a book that would interest all readers regardless of genre preferences?

Chrissy Lessey: I just wrote the book that I wanted to read.  I honestly wasn’t even aware that I had a whopper of a genre-bender on my hands, until the time came to tell others about it. Is it contemporary or historical? Thriller or paranormal? Women’s fiction or fantasy? I need an “all of the above” category!

SP: You write about Beaufort, North Carolina in a way that really lets your reader imagine the area. Your attention to details made me feel as I was walking down the street with one of your characters. How important was it to you to get the setting right?

CL: Beaufort is a special town, populated with great people. It’s full of colorful history and natural beauty. The history and flavor of the town played a huge role in the development of the story, so I approached my description of the area with the same care I used with the characters.

SP: You also live near Beaufort; have you ever written about a place outside of the Crystal Coast? If not, would you?

CL: So far, my stories have been set on the Crystal Coast because I find the area fascinating. There’s a combination of history, fun, and inspiration here that fuels my imagination. I’m not opposed to using other settings, I just haven’t come up with a story yet that should be set elsewhere.

SP: The Coven centers on a family of witches and while their magical powers are an integral part of the story, the human bonds of family seem to be even more powerful.  How were you able to balance the paranormal and family drama elements of the story?

CL: The balance occurred naturally as I wrote the story and got to know the characters better. The paranormal elements could have easily overshadowed the family relationships and conflicts, but I tried to avoid that. To me, The Coven is more about family than magic.

SP: Can we talk about Charlie for a second? He’s my favorite character, as well as being a well-written autistic child. With the exception of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, I’ve never read a book that had an autistic child as an important character. How important was it to you to get the character of Charlie right?

CL: It was crucial for me to get Charlie’s character right. As an autism advocate, I’ve seen a great deal of misconceptions about the disorder and I’m happy to have this new platform for raising awareness. I wanted to be sure to present Charlie as a whole person, not just a bundle of stereotypical symptoms. It is my hope that readers will get to know (and love) Charlie and, by extension, see real-life individuals with autism in a new light.

SP: So far, in the Crystal Coast series, The Coven and its prequel The Secret Keepers have been released. Can you give us a hint on when the next book in the series will be released? Also, how many books are planned for the series?

CL: I’m still working on the next book, so it’s difficult to predict when it will be published. I’m shooting for Spring/Summer of 2015. I’m planning to do three full-length novels for this series.

SP: Finally, what is the most important thing you want readers to take away from your works?

CL: Hope is a prevailing theme in The Coven, and for me, hope is real-life magic. It makes it possible for us to carry on through life’s challenges. Not all magic involves reducing the laws of physics to mere suggestions.

Want to know more about The Coven? Here’s some details….

Photographer Stevie Lewis is a newly single mom focused on raising her five-year-old autistic son Charlie, and running the business she shares with her best friend. She lives in beautiful Beaufort, North Carolina, within walking distance of her parents. Her mother is the president of the Beaufort Historical Society, and her father enjoys watching Carolina Panthers football.

Although Stevie’s life has its challenges, it is altogether average.

That is until rich, ruthless Vanessa Moore, the bad seed sown by the pirate Blackbeard generations ago, returns to Beaufort, determined to retrieve a magical amulet and exact revenge for her mother’s imprisonment.

It turns out Stevie’s life isn’t so average at all. She learns that the Historical Society is really a coven of witches. Her mother is their queen; and Vanessa is bent on destroying them all.

When Vanessa endangers the life of young Charlie, Stevie’s dormant supernatural powers rush to the surface to save her son. With help from the clandestine coven led by her own mother, Stevie works to master her magical talent. How far will Stevie go to protect her only son?

Chrissy Lessey is an autism advocate who has mastered the art of justifying time spent on the lovely North Carolina beaches. She and her husband have two energetic children and an ill-mannered dog.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

An Interview of Blood and Gold: Talking with Taylor Brown

Without a doubt, Taylor Brown is my new favorite short story writer, and if you know how much I read, you understand the gravity of that statement. His recently released collection In the Season of Blood and Gold is like a gem mine; the stories are often cloaked in darkness, but each contains a brilliant moment that strikes out at readers and pierces them to the core. From the very first page, from the very first two paragraphs of “Rider,” I knew that I had entered into the realm of a master craftsman. After reading each story, oftentimes unconsciously holding my breath, I thought to myself, “Okay, now That one was my favorite.” And then I would turn the next page, plunge into the next tale and realize immediately that “Oh, no, This is my favorite one!” and the journey through the brilliant sorrows and stark landscapes offering brutal truths alongside secret hopes would continue. (For the record, I have decided upon “Sin-Eaters” as my favorite from the collection- I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it) If you love the work of Daniel Woodrell or Cormac McCarthy, then this book should already be in your hands. If you love excruciatingly well written fiction in general, then In the Season of Blood and Gold should be en route to your mailbox by the end of this interview.

And speaking of interviews, yes, I was lucky enough to score an interview with the ever-talented Taylor Brown. Please keep reading as we talk craft, style and what’s coming next.

Steph Post: In the Season of Blood and Gold is comprised of mostly previously published short stories. How did you decide which stories to include in this collection and is there any significance to their order in the book?

Taylor Brown: Good question!  In putting together the manuscript, I quickly realized I had no idea how to order a collection.  None!  Each of the stories was created as its own separate work, and I’d never given any thought to them as any kind of coherent whole.  My first attempt was an epic failure, to be honest.  I threw most everything I had into the mix—seventeen stories, I believe—and grouped together similar stories.  Bad idea!

Then I took the advice of a friend and fellow writer, Jason Frye, and bought a deck of index cards.  I wrote the title of each story on a card, then started playing with the order, thinking a lot about the beginnings and endings of each story and how they might flow.  I actually took a pen and tried to map or trace the arc of the stories in some sort of hand-scrawled EKG.  Strange, I know, but it really did seem to help, even if I just cooked up the idea after a couple of whiskeys.        

SP: It’s obvious, given your publishing history and winning of awards, that you are familiar with the current literary magazine scene. How important do you think literary magazines are today?

TB: I still see them as pretty darn important.  To me, it almost seems a rite of passage, racking up all those rejections.  Are you tough enough to keep at it?  Will you work hard enough, long enough, to make yourself good enough?  It takes a lot of faith and perseverance to do what we do, and I guess submitting to the magazines teaches you that early.  It’s an apprenticeship of sorts, and I can say that nothing ever felt as good as that first story I got published:  “Black Swan,” in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, in 2008.

Secondly, I think it’s a way of garnering attention.  Agents do find writers through the literary magazines.  I know Wiley Cash was found that way, and Tom Franklin too.  Countless others I’m sure.  In a world as subjective as ours, publications do lend credibility I think, and get your name out there.

SP: We’ve spoken before about “country noir,” a literary style that we both write in, and I often have people ask me what the term means. Do you consciously use this label when promoting your work and, if so, what does it mean for you? 

TB: Such a good question.  To be honest, I think I was writing stories that could fall into the “country noir” style quite some time before I heard the term.  I came across it in an interview with Daniel Woodrell—a favorite writer of both of ours, I believe—and I realized that my work had a lot of the same elements:  dark rural settings, criminal happenings, violence or the threat of it, etc.  And then I went back and read some of the early works in the style, like They Don’t Dance Much by James Ross, and realized that a lot of my favorite writers have work that might qualify:  William Gay, Larry Brown, even Cormac McCarthy and Flannery O’Connor.

To be honest, I’m a bit shy about using it to promote my work, just because a) I don’t want to get pigeon-holed into anything, and b) there is still the (unfortunate) perception that noir can’t be literary.  That it’s somehow not as elevated.  Which is pure bull, of course, but I don’t want my work hampered by such notions before it’s even read. 

Woodrell has said he began using the term before he realized what strict definitions (some) people have as to what constitutes “noir.”  Certain kinds of endings, etc.  But noir is so damn hard to define anyway.  People can impose all of these rules, and have, but really it’s one of those things that you just know when you see it—at least to me.  And, to me, it’s an atmosphere more than anything. 
Recently, I’ve been hearing the terms “grit lit” and “rough South,” which are kin to country noir, for sure.  There’s an interesting discussion of all this at the beginning of Grit Lit:  A Rough South Reader, a 2012 anthology whose lineup reads like my list of favorite writers. 

SP: Which authors have influenced you in the past and what are you reading now that excites you?

TB:I do gravitate toward Southern writers, for whatever reason, and I do it unapologetically.  William Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy are two of my big favorites.  Then there’s Barry Hannah, Larry Brown, William Gay, Pinckney Benedict, Harry Crews, Flannery O’Connor, and a lot of those other Southern greats.  In poetry it’s James Dickey and Robert Penn Warren. 
Outside of the South, I like James Salter, Tom McGuane, Hemingway, and I’m a big fan of the WWII novels of Alan Furst.  His work is actually mentioned in Justified, in a prison scene when one of the trustees is delivering books!  One of the show’s writers must be a fan!
Right now I’m really excited about John Ehle.  He wrote this seven-book saga that traced the history of the Appalachian frontier from the 18th century all the way up through the Great Depression.  I’m currently being blown away by the first book in the series, The Landbreakers, which Press 53 brought back into print in 2006.  When they did, Harper Lee sent a personal, handwritten note to the press, calling Ehle “our foremost writer of historical fiction,” among lots of other nice things.  Some blurb!

SP: Violence, both physical and emotional, plays a role in all of your stories. Do you believe this theme is essential to the identity of your work? What function does it serve in your writing?

TB: I really don’t set out to write of violence in any way, but somehow it always seems to creep its way in there.  I don’t know, I guess it’s just that violence, in real life and in fiction, is so visceral and immediate.  What a character does in such a moment reveals a lot about who they are and who they want to be, and it makes what happens pretty damn important.  I have a hard time getting into some sterile story involving a domestic squabble over whose turn it was to do the laundry, but throw in a pipe-wrench or linoleum-cutter (to channel Woodrell), and things start getting interesting :)

SP: In many of your stories, you have very specific images that serve as a touchstone of sorts for the reader. I’m thinking here of the butterfly ring in “Bone Valley,” the frozen horse in “Rider” and the cut flowers in “The Covered Bridge.” Do you know when you begin writing that these images will play an important role in the story?

TB: Sometimes I do, because sometimes a story grows out of such an image.  Sometimes there’s a picture in my mind, or some word or phrase that grips hold, and I start exploring whether there’s a story there.  But other times, I think you just find those images as you go along.  Maybe the first time it comes up, it doesn’t even seem important.  But then, by the time you reach the end, you realize it was the touchstone of the story all along!

SP: How do you expect readers to respond to your stories? They’re not exactly heartwarming, but they do seem to burn into the reader and stay with him or her long after the last page has been turned. How do want your readers to feel while reading and after?

TB: To be honest, I’m not sure exactly, except that I know I want them to feel something.  Ideally, I want some moment in the story to ring inside them, clear and true, or some image to strike deep enough they can carry it with them later.  I would like them to enjoy themselves, even if the subject matter isn’t exactly heartwarming. 

SP: You are clearly a master of short fiction, but have you ever considered writing a novel? Many of your stories chronicle a specific event or moment, but others, such as “Sin-Eaters” seem to lend themselves to the development of a longer work. Is this something you would be interested in? (And if you ever do turn “Sin-Eaters” into a novel I promise to buy the very first copy…)

TB: I actually expanded the title story of the collection, “In the Season of Blood and Gold,” into a full-length novel entitled Fallen Land.  It’s set in the wake of Sherman’s March through Georgia, and we’re currently shopping it to publishers (fingers crossed)! 

Meanwhile, I’m hard at work revising my latest manuscript, The Gods of Howl Mountain, set in the dry counties of North Carolina in the early ‘50s, when everyone is wild for bootleg whiskey and stock car racing. 

SP: In the Season of Blood and Gold was just recently released, but do you have anything currently simmering in the works? What should be fans be looking for next?

TB: All I can say is:  fingers crossed you’ll be seeing more ;)

Taylor Brown was born on the Georgia coast.  His short fiction has appeared in a wide range of publications, including The Baltimore Review, Chautuaqua, The New Guard, CutBank, storySouth, Crimespree Magazine, and many others. He is the recipient of a Montana Prize in Fiction, and he's been a finalist for the Press 53 Open Awards, Machigonne Fiction Contest, and Doris Betts Fiction Prize.  His debut short story collection, In the Season of Blood and Gold, is available from Press 53.  He lives in Wilmington, NC, and you can find him at www.taylorbrownfiction.com.

And buy his book. Seriously. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday!

I love flash fiction! I love the punch, the bite, the zing, the zip. I love it because it's an exacting narrative and it forces the writer to make every word count. And flash fiction usually has teeth; it doesn't hold back. It dives right in doesn't consider if the reader is ready or not. Here it comes.

Anyway, if you love flash fiction as much as I do (or even half as much), check out Flash Friday!- a killer site with a weekly flash fiction contest. And when I say flash, I mean like in the blink of an eye. Stories must be 150 words.....

I won a special mention in this week's contest, and I'd love to share my story with you as well as encourage you to read the many others submitted (they are open to readers). So if you have a minute, thirty seconds, hell, even ten, check out the site and read a little flash.....

Friday, May 2, 2014

Book Review: Emile Zola's "The Ladies' Paradise"

This was one of those books that I discovered in an extremely roundabout way. It started with Netflix... One of the "suggestions for you to watch" was The Paradise- a BBC mini-series. I just happened to be in the mood for a boring British period drama (yes, sometimes I actually get into this sort of mood. it's kind of strange), so I started watching. First off, it was better than I expected and a highly recommend it to anyone who likes shows along the lines of Downton Abbey. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to look up the book it was based on. I, shamefully, had no idea who Emile Zola was or even that The Ladies' Paradise was French. I have been schooled.... And now plan to read many more of Zola's social/romantic novels.

For The Ladies' Paradise is exactly that, both a social commentary on capitalism, economics and early feminism, as well as a traditional love story (that wavers back and forth between traditional and rebellious in a way that will keep a non-romance reader's attention). It is the story of one of the first colossal department stores in Paris at the end of the nineteenth century and the effect such an entity has on both the commercial model and on the human beings subject to it. At the same time, it is the story of men and women and the struggle of power raging between them. The characters are surprisingly modern for 1883 and I felt myself rooting for Denise, the heroine, throughout the book.

Granted, nineteenth century literature isn't for everyone, but I found this to be one of the most accessible books from the time period that I've read so far. Whether you're interested in the social and economic issues or just looking for a classic romance with a twist, this book is sure to entertain and enlighten you at the same time.