Smoke and Mirrors—An Interview with Gary Fincke

by Michael Czyzniejewski Read the Story June 22, 2015

This story’s theme, if I had to pinpoint one, is fathers and sons. Your own son, Aaron, is a well-established musician. What’s your favorite story about being a rock star dad?

I always loved having those laminated all-access passes, walking past bouncers, seeing behind the curtain, so to speak, and getting into the stash of beer and wings and pizza on the tour bus. And once, a number of my students who were fans showed up for class all together in Breaking Benjamin T-shirts. Writing my book Amp’d about the whole thing was its own reward, too. But ultimately, it’s always been about the joy of seeing him perform—probably close to a hundred times by now—and knowing that despite the success and all that might come with that, he’s remained the same guy he was when he left home fifteen years ago—more experienced, sure, but still decent and honest and without arrogance.

The narrator in this story will eventually feel guilty about what’s happened, or at least live his life thinking, “That could have been me.” How do you think this will change him?

Forever guilty, for sure, and mostly through the reactions of the adults. Already he feels ghostlike, the one that the driver believed had fallen, the one that his parents will obsess over, the shadow of the dead boy always cast across every action he ever takes. He could become timid, but I feel he’d go the opposite direction, more adventurous, as if he’s been freed somehow by being close to the edge and not falling.

This group had just eaten at Burger King before the incident. Is it possible that because of this, Steve just committed suicide?

Steve loves his Whoppers with no mayo, and he always eats two plus a double French fry order and a large Coke because no mayo lowers the calories. So careful about his fast food and so careless about something like a locked door.

The speed limit in most states has climbed to 70 mph, even though stats show the higher the speed limit, the more deaths will occur. As if arguing in a student essay or debate tournament, list three reasons why we should lower the speed limit and three reasons we should raise it.

I hate those kinds of essays and debates, C-minus work—the argument should always rely on narrative. My three closest brushes with disasters on the highway all came where the speed limit was low and the cars went double those limits. The rest of them were carelessness—there’s no way to legislate paying attention; it’s like trying to sober people up with prohibition.

Every great rock band has at least one dead member: The Beatles, The Stones, The Who, The Dead, Zeppelin, the list goes on and on. Is Steve’s death just cementing this trumpet corps in rock lore?

Early in my son’s career, the singer from Drowning Pool, a band they traveled with, was found dead. Not a great band, but so nearby that it makes you stop and think. Without a doubt—they became part of the corps when “that happened.”

About the Author:

Gary Fincke’s latest collection of stories A Room of Rain is just out from West Virginia University.  A novel How Blasphemy Sounds to God was published in 2014 by Braddock Avenue Books.  An earlier collection Sorry I Worried You won the Flannery O’Connor Prize and was published by Georgia.  He is the Charles Degenstein Professor of Creative Writing at Susquehanna University.

About the Interviewer:

Michael Czyzniejewski is the editor of Moon City Press and Moon City Review. His stories have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Boulevard, Western Humanities Review, Salamander, Bull, Necessary Fiction, and Wigleaf.

About the Artist:

Ashley Inguanta is a former art director of SmokeLong Quarterly and author of three poetry collections: The Way Home (Dancing Girl Press, 2013), For the Woman Alone (Ampersand Books, 2014), and Bomb (Ampersand Books, 2016). Next year, Ampersand Books will publish her newest collection, The Flower, about how death shapes us.