Smoke and Mirrors—An Interview with Gary V. Powell

by Karen Craigo Read the Story June 22, 2015

This small piece paints a convincing picture of two different environs—the small farm town and the affluent gated community. What kind of space do you move through on a daily basis? Is it different from the one where you started out?

I don’t live in a gated community, but I live near one that is similar to the gated community in the story. Every once in a while I sneak in to see what it’s like. I grew up, as did Cari, my protagonist, on a country road near a small Indiana town. Violence between neighbors and injury from farm equipment were not uncommon.

How important is place to story? Where do considerations of place come in the construction of a work of fiction?

Place plays a significant role in most of my stories. Place sets the tone, informs character development, and constrains the action. Personally, I need the anchor of place to locate the story in my imagination.

I like how the drone functions in the story—a new threat that mimics an old one and requires a change in strategy to deal with it. What are your feelings about ever-advancing technology?

Technology fools us into thinking we’re evolved creatures, when in truth we remain Cro-Magnons on an emotional level. For example, the Internet is overwhelmed with cute cat videos, our cool phones are devoted largely to hooking up and playing games, and drones are used mostly to spy and kill. Stories that juxtapose technology and raw human emotion help us remember our limitations.

What authors inspire you?

Early on, I enjoyed Russian authors, especially Chekov and Turgenev. Raymond Carver, Richard Ford, and T.C. Boyle came later. Recently, I enjoyed a story collection by Anthony Doerr. My favorite novel in the last year was Larry Brown’s Miracle of Catfish.

How do you know if you have a short story or flash fiction on your hands? I know you’re very capable in both modes.

I rarely know at the beginning whether or not a story is a novel, a short story, or a flash. I start with an image, a character, or a situation and allow the demands of the story to dictate length. At any given time, I usually have several flash pieces in progress along with one or two stories and a novel. Currently, I’m working on a longer piece that I think has the chops for a novel, but may be a novella.

About the Author:

Gary V. Powell’s stories and flash fiction have been widely-published in both print and online literary magazines including most recently Blue Fifth Review, MadHat Lit, Gravel Literary Magazine, and Best New Writing 2015. In addition to winning the 2015 Gover Prize for short-short fiction, his work has placed in other national contests including The Press 53 Prize (2012), Glimmer Train Short-Short Contest (2013), and the Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize (2014). His first novel, Lucky Bastard, is available through Main Street Rag Press. His first collection of previously published short stories, Beyond Redemption, is available at

About the Interviewer:

Karen Craigo is the editor of The Marshfield Mail newspaper in Marshfield, Missouri. She is the author of the poetry collections Passing Through Humansville (Sundress Publications, 2018) and No More Milk (Sundress Publications, 2016). 

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.