Don’t Forget the Story: An Interview with Guest Reader E.A. Aymar

by Tara Laskowski See all Guest Readers
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You published a new novel this year, The Unrepentant. Can you tell our readers a bit about that book and where they can buy it?

In the loosest, elevator-pitch, sense, The Unrepentant is about a young woman who escapes a group of criminals and realizes, to fully escape them, she needs to kill them all. More comprehensively, and loftily, it’s a study of the consequences of violence, PTSD, and human trafficking.

Violence has always intrigued and repelled me, which seems to be a very human response. We romanticize violence so much (as Americans) that its ramifications are often forgotten. And, probably because violence is something so common in this country, but also necessarily distant, we don’t dwell on those ramifications. We can’t face them.

As a response to that, I wanted to write something unflinching but readable, by which I largely mean not insensitive. And that’s what I hope The Unrepentant offers.

The book is available at all online booksellers and across all major platforms and at some local (primarily in the D.C. region) booksellers. You can learn more at the publisher’s site:

You’ve guest edited for SmokeLong once before. Thanks for coming back! What did you like most about the process?

I don’t know about last time, but what I like most this time is that you’re paying me.

You are paying me, right?


Well, then, what I really liked were the stories. It wasn’t easy to pick out the one that I thought was best, and that’s a wonderful thing. Flash fiction allows for such variety and unusual approaches, and I love that about the form. The best artists seem to invent and, at the same time, perfect a new style. Flash fiction gives itself to that type of creativity.

What type of stories do you hope to encounter in the queue this week?

I primarily write crime fiction, but that’s not necessarily what I’m looking for. I want a story with sentences that beg to be re-read. Stories where the prose lingers. I’m a fan of SmokeLong mainly because the stories offer that sense of poetry and finality. I want a story that serves as a before and after moment in my reading life. I want to be changed.

You know, the basics.

Do you have any deal breakers when reading submissions? Or, what’s a common mistake you see in writing that you’d like to caution people against?

Don’t forget the story! Despite what I just wrote about prose, I hate it when writers abandon the need for a compelling story. Something with a resolution that matters. Given its brevity, flash fiction can be confused as poetry, and some writers think that negates the need for a complete story.

If the story’s not there, then nothing’s there.

About the Reader:

Of E.A. Aymar’s THE UNREPENTANT, Publisher’s Weekly wrote, “gut-wrenching…readers who appreciate depth of character alongside gritty nonstop action will be rewarded.” His past thrillers include the novel-in-stories THE NIGHT OF THE FLOOD (in which he served as co-editor and contributor). He has a monthly column in the Washington Independent Review of Books, and serves on the board of the International Thriller Writers.

About the Interviewer:

Tara Laskowski has been editor at SmokeLong Quarterly since 2010. Her short story collection Bystanders was hailed by Jennifer Egan as "a bold, riveting mash-up of Hitchcockian suspense and campfire-tale chills." She is also the author of Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons, tales of dark etiquette. Her fiction has been published in the Norton anthology Flash Fiction International, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Mid-American Review, and numerous other journals, magazines, and anthologies. Tara lives and works in a suburb of Washington, D.C.