Author Interview - MAUREEN SHERBONDY
Today we've got something different! An author of a short story collection! Maureen Sherbondy just released THE SLOW VANISHING (Mint Hill Books/Main Street Rag). Maureen also has a couple of poetry books published: AFTER THE FAIRY TALE and PRAYING AT COFFEE SHOPS. She will be telling us about her short stories, her process, and how writing poetry improved her writing.
The illustration is of Maureen! I enjoyed drawing her long hair and putting in a slight vanishing effect on it for fun.
The stories in THE SLOW VANISHING are a combination of flash fiction pieces and longer, more traditional stories. The flash fiction pieces are very short, some as short as one page. This form allows for a perfect melding of poetry and prose. Short pieces are often surreal and image-driven. I try to create a unique universe where anything can happen. The characters have to deal with bizarre events. Subject matter varies. In "Head Above Water" a young tsunami survivor is adopted by parents in Georgia who don't understand how terrifying it is for her to be in water. In "A Comic Tale" all the funny people drop dead and the world is not a better place. In "Vanishing Sarah" a woman physically begins to vanish after too many people place too many demands on her. In "Party Planner" a woman who has devoted her entire life to planning parties for other people, plans her final event-- her own funeral.
I like different stories for different reasons. "Flamingo Fling" is one of my favorite stories in the collection. The story is about a married woman whose husband has been unemployed for a long time and no longer wants to work. To make ends meet, she opens a Flamingo business. She sets out fake flamingos in her clients' yards to celebrate birthdays, retirements, and births. She is lonely and unhappy in her life. Eventually, the flamingos come alive and talk to her.
Sometimes an idea will pop into my head. A thought begins and then is followed by a question. For example--in "Creatures" someone knocked on my door and I began to wonder what would happen if an animal showed up instead. Then I asked: What kind of animal? What happens next? Does another animal show up? How would the character react? This turned into a story about animals taking over the world. Sometimes I'll see a person doing something strange and ask: What's going on in that person's life? I have a very strong imagination. I play games in my head. With flash fiction it's a similar process. Longer stories require more character development and closer attention to the arc of the story.
I think that all fiction writers should start as poets. When you write poetry-- so much attention is paid to the sound of the language, to images, conciseness of language, and clarity. Every word matters in poetry. Writing poetry has informed my fiction, has made me a better prose writer. My two poetry books are AFTER THE FAIRY TALE and PRAYING AT COFFEE SHOPS.
Be funny! If you have a funny piece--begin with that. It warms up the audience, it puts them at ease, it puts the reader at ease. Don't speak in a monotone voice. Give a short background story before reading a poem or prose piece, something memorable and interesting. Be human. Connect with your audience. If you don't read well--you don't sell books.
Fantastic advice! Thank you, Maureen!
THE SLOW VANISHING can be purchased here!
If you're an author, editor, agent, or illustrator and would like a five question interview and a drawing of your character (or of yourself), email me at rtlovejoy (at) yahoo (dot) com. Check out the FAQ page for more information!