Very pleased to be hosting another interview between two fine writers. Tara Laskowski, who interviewed Steve Almond here recently, chats this time with Laura Ellen Scott, currently on tour with her first novel, Death Wishing. Thanks to both authors for taking the time to set this up. — Art Taylor
Set in post-Katrina New Orleans, Laura Ellen Scott’s debut novel, Death Wishing, is also set in a delightful alternate reality in which the dying wishes of some of the populace are magically fulfilled—though often with unexpected results. The book follows Victor Swaim, a cape and corset maker trying to recover from a divorce in carefree New Orleans. After a series of those deathbed wishes come true—including the curing of cancer, the elimination of cats, the return of Elvis (1967 vintage), the clouds turning orange, mothers growing third eyes, and cups of coffee becoming bottomless—the hysteria that grows around “Death Wishing” forces Victor into action. He is forced to consider: What would he wish for the world without him in it?
Scott teaches fiction writing at George Mason University. Her work has been selected for The Wigleaf Top Fifty of 2009 and Barrelhouse magazine’s “Futures” issue. She has twice been nominated for Dzanc’s Best of the Web 2010 anthology. She will be reading from Death Wishing at various locations in November; find out just where on her website here. Additionally, you can also email her through her Wish Tank website and tell her what your own dying wish would be. Even if she can’t make it come true, your wish might be chosen for publication on the web.
In the meantime, Scott helped our wishes to come true by answering a few questions about the new book.
Tara Laskowski: Where did the idea for this novel come from?
Laura Ellen Scott: This Army PR guy died and left a statement that there were aliens at Roswell in 1947, so my husband and I were joking around with the old saying: “wishing doesn’t make it so.” I was already writing in the narrator’s voice, having him struggle with weight loss in New Orleans when I thought, why not introduce an element of the fantastic, see what happens? I’d written some ghost stories before, but nothing with this sort of altered reality. I guess my fantasy-obsessed students finally got to me. But basically, I had all the different ideas cooking in small pots before I realized how well they all went together (sidesteps gumbo reference).
Were there any death wishes that you had happen in earlier drafts of this book that never made it in the final cut? Or are there any that you wish you’d put in?
All the wishes made it in, but some were modified along the way. At one point I thought Elvis was too obvious, so I tried to write about Conway Twitty instead. That idea never made it out of a single paragraph.