Archive for October, 2011

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Interview: Laura Ellen Scott, author of Death Wishing

October 31, 2011

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.

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New Fiction: “The White Rose of Memphis” in Needle: A Magazine of Noir

October 20, 2011

The Fall 2011 issue of Needle: A Magazine of Noir has just been released, and I’m fortunate to have a new story within its pages: “The White Rose of Memphis,” a dark little tale about a young couple who’ve signed on for a Tennessee hotel’s twisted new tourist attraction, a historical reenactment of a late-’40s murder. Needless to say, things don’t entirely go as planned. The issue features fifteen stories in all, including the third and final installment of Ray Banks‘ serialized novel Wolf Tickets and a previously unpublished story by ’50s and ’60s pulp master Gil Brewer, plus fiction by a mix of established names and talented up-and-comers: Daniel Davis, Andrew Hook, David James Keaton, Nolan Knight, Alan Leverone, Michael Moreci, Peter Morin, Michael Oliveri, Keith Rawson, Stephen D. Rogers, Michael Sheedy, and Holly West. Thanks to editor Steve Weddle for including me in the mix. — Art Taylor

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Interview: Steve Almond, author of God Bless America

October 16, 2011

I’m pleased to welcome two great short story writers this week: the inimitable Steve Almond in conversation with Tara Laskowski. Almond is just on the eve of a new book publication, the short story collection God Bless America, and a short tour with some key stops worth mentioning. On Wednesday, October 26, Barrelhouse will host Almond at The Black Squirrel in Washington, DC. On Saturday, November 12, he’ll keynote the Baltimore Writers’ Conference. And in the midst of a several appearances in North Carolina—beginning with Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill and ending at Raleigh’s Quail Ridge Books—Almond will also keynote this year’s Writer’s Week at UNC-Wilmington, where he’s currently serving as a visiting writer this fall; that talk, on Wednesday, November 16, also serves as the official launch party hosted by the publisher, Lookout Books. The book itself is available for pre-order at Lookout.org for 30 percent off the retail price until October 24, and will be released on October 25. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the chat below. — Art Taylor

After six years, fans of Steve Almond are pleased to hear that he has a new collection of short stories out. God Bless America, Almond’s third story collection after The Evil B.B. Chow and My Life in Heavy Metal, offers up 13 new glimpses into the lives, hopes and dreams of Americans.

Packed with humor, tragedy, sadness and hope, the collection is written, as the New York Times Book Review says, by a “gifted storyteller” who delivers “always enjoyable, often hysterical stories.”

Almond is an opinionated guy, and his stories don’t shy away from politics either—the effects of war, terrorism, the economy, big business, religion. As Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia!, says, “Almond’s characters are sons and fathers, inveterate gamblers, thwarted dreamers, the mothers of children gone astray, and God Bless America teach us how to love every one of them.”

I had an opportunity to ask Almond a few questions about the collection, current and future projects, and his thoughts on the state of the country he so carefully paints a vivid portrait of.

Tara Laskowski: You capture here some very distinct portraits of Americans. How did this collection come about? Did you sit down to write about America, or did you find later as you were writing these pieces that this was the common thread throughout?

Steve Almond

Steve Almond: This is going to be disappointing. I basically just chose what I took to be my strongest stories and put together a manuscript. I wanted to be in the world of short fiction again. I didn’t consciously set out to write about America. But like every other sane person in this country, I’ve watched in a kind of horror as our country has descended further and further into moral ruin. So obviously, that concern crops up in the work. But I’m mostly interested in particular Americans, and the way in which people seek to cope with their loneliness and regrets.

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Interview: NC Author Sarah Shaber in Mystery Scene

October 5, 2011

The Fall 2011 Mystery Scene has just arrived, and I’m pleased that the new issue includes my interview with North Carolina novelist Sarah Shaber, talking about the first book in her new series, Louise’s War. (Readers of this blog have already had a glimpse at my chat with Shaber here.) The new Mystery Scene also includes a wide range of other articles, including a cover story on Val McDermid (interviewed by the always-delightful Oline H. Cogdill), features on James Sallis, on supernatural mysteries, and on the new Spider-Man, and a tribute to the magazine’s former publisher, the late Martin H. Greenberg. Get your copy now! — Art Taylor

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