Welcome! Tell us a little about yourself.
Tell us more about your story and what you enjoyed about writing it.
While brainstorming a song to use for inspiration, my husband was talking about all the different musical acts he met while working as a bartender on Beale Street in Memphis. He happened to mention Phish. I have a friend who's a big fan of theirs, who was always encouraging me to check them out, but I just never got around to it. I decided what the hell, now's as good a time as any, and Googled them. The first song that came up on YouTube was "Heavy Things." I listened to the lyrics and thought the mordant, madcap irony of the whole thing would fit well with the kind of story I wanted to write. I knew I wanted to set it in Chicago, and I thought about that title and how it could possibly relate to the general idea I had of this woman bartender who was romantically involved with her boss and finds out he's got a secret. The title brought to mind a memory of a strange tragedy that was big news back when I was working in downtown Chicago back in the '90s. Bingo! I had a climax, the nature of that particular news story gave me the season, and everything else just sort of fell together after that.
Why do you think short fiction is important?
The broader answer is that human beings like to tell stories. It's hardwired into our brains, and the earliest form, oral storytelling, was by necessity short fiction – you know, acting out around the campfire how Glargh the Unfortunate got his ass handed to him by a saber-toothed tiger while out on the tribe's big hunt. So I think we're born with a hunger for short stories, and that whets the appetite for longer, more immersive forms, like novels.
In a more personal sense, short fiction has helped me learn how to get my point across in fewer words than is my habit. And while laboring on my first novel, each short story I've written has become a message to myself, repeated over and over, that, yes, I really can finish stuff. If you've been at it a long time, you start to wonder after a while whether you're kidding yourself, so it's good to have some kind of concrete proof, however small.
What is your favourite short story?
"Bartleby, the Scrivener" by Herman Melville. I remember reading it my junior year in high school, and the line "I prefer not to" just grabbed my teenage attention in a big way. The story was written sometime in the 19th century, and it still generates relevant questions about how work and individuality are looked upon in society, as well as how the poor are viewed. When I read it in the 1980s, the United States was in the midst of a recession and I was wondering what was in store for me once I got into the working world. With the prevailing economic conditions and corporate models of the world today, I think these questions are critical to ask ourselves going forward.
Have you got upcoming projects you'd like to talk about?
I'm hoping by the end of the year I'll have finished the first draft of my urban fantasy novel going by the working title of The Lesser Evil about a woman whose twin brother, thought to be dead, resurfaces after twenty years to recruit her to join a secret society of people with psionic abilities. I'm also writing a collection of twenty short stories, each one inspired by a different letter of the Irish Ogham alphabet, set in different eras in Ireland, written in various styles and fantasy genres; and I'm currently working on the eleventh.