Smoke and Mirrors: An Interview with Christopher Notarnicola

by Karen Craigo Read the Story December 19, 2016

I’m fascinated by this character, who carries such a great burden with him to the mall bathroom. I don’t want him to be confined to this story—he feels bigger. Is he someone you’ve written about before, or do you intend to do more with this character or the PTSD theme?

I suppose I could involve this character in a larger story, though I don’t feel compelled to. “Field Protective Mask” was always a concept-driven piece for me. I wanted to write a piece that represents a post-war existence as I’ve seen it. In my experience, military veterans are complex, often self-aware, and sometimes injured, and, more often than not, they are capable of overcoming the difficulties of adjusting to civilian life after combat. I wanted to write about the veteran who has experienced trauma, is aware, and carries on not in spite of those experiences but alongside them. I feel this character has served this purpose. At least for now.

You write very knowledgeably about the military components. What’s your own military background, if any?

I served four years with the United States Marine Corps, 2006-2010. This, like everything else, informs my writing.

This stuff is pretty heavy. Describe your lightest guilty pleasure.

B movies. I’m a big fan of low-budget cinema. My guilty pleasures are really bad genre films—the hard-to-watch, MST3K, turn-the-volume-down-and-make-up-the-dialogue kind of so-bad-they’re-genius films. Maybe even guiltier than that is how much I enjoy watching mass-market action films on the big screen, paying for popcorn and sneaking in crab Rangoon, creating a way-too-literal catchphrase for the protagonist and shouting it every time something explodes. If you’ve never raised your voice in a movie theater, you should try it. Start with a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

What’s your worst public bathroom experience, and did you include elements here?

I don’t have a good public restroom anecdote. Should I? Probably. I’ve been in a few public restrooms where the mirrors were so covered with graffiti that I couldn’t make out my own reflection. That image stayed with me, I suppose, and became the genesis of the setting in this piece.

I’ve read some of your other stories, and loss seems like a theme. Do you see it this way? What draws you to write stories about loss?

Interesting. I hadn’t considered my work in terms of recurrent topics. I guess I do see loss as a theme. Who doesn’t like a good story about loss? It’s one of those aspects of the human experience that everyone has in common. The second law of thermodynamics. What’s interesting to me is how—given that loss is a part of everything—this idea can be exhibited with such beautiful variety.

About the Author:

Christopher Notarnicola studies writing at Florida Atlantic University. His work has appeared in Noise Medium and North American Review. He lives in Pompano Beach, Florida.

About the Interviewer:

Karen Craigo is the author of the poetry collection No More Milk (Sundress, 2016) and of two forthcoming collections, Passing Through Humansville (Sundress) and Escaped Housewife Tries Hard to Blend In (Tolsun). She is the interviews co-editor for SmokeLong Quarterly.

About the Artist:

A Best Small Fictions 2015 Winner, Dave Petraglia's writing and art have appeared in Bartleby Snopes, bohemianizm, Cheap Pop, Crack the Spine, Five:2:One, Gambling the Aisle, Hayden's Ferry, matchbook, Medium, McSweeney's, Necessary Fiction, North American Review, Per Contra, Points in Case, Popular Science, Razed, SmokeLong Quarterly, Up the Staircase, and others.