Smoke and Mirrors: An Interview with Sean Lovelace

by Sam Martone Read the Story December 14, 2015

I’ll admit I suffer a bit from Franco fatigue, so it was such a pleasure to read “Memory,” where his appearance felt strange and fresh and didn’t overpower the story. So why James Franco? How’d he end up in this piece?

I’d agree with you—I also suffer from Franco fatigue. I’m writing a manuscript about Franco right now, initially as a take-down: I was sick of the man, period. But as I’ve written, I’ve developed empathy for the character. He seems desperate/flailing, at least in my fictional rendering. In one piece, he helps start World War One; in another, he blows up a sculpting studio (in a barn) and injures a lot of goats. Still, I’ve almost quit several times, too, because I again get ill of James Franco. So it fluctuates.

The narrator’s exaggerations in “Memory” are truly lovely. Are you prone to exaggeration? Do you think it’s a useful trait for writing fiction?

Well, the hyperbole is just a technique. See, the real challenge—and why I’m sticking with the book manuscript; I like challenges—is to actually write about James Franco without relying on easy defaults. So I have to find ways to actually pull it off in the face of enormous Franco fatigue (I like your phrase). So I use A LOT of techniques. Hopefully, the language of this text actually overcomes/transcends the subject matter.

Tell me a bit about how you title your work. What do you like to see titles doing (or not doing) in flash fiction (or fiction in general)?

I write with a working title, then, once finished, go back and re-title. Titles are VERY important to flash, just like with poetry. You don’t get many words, so you have to do a lot with your title, as in gain interest, add context or situation, add connotation, etc. I always admire a really strong title. Also, it’s an intellectual game to come up with a satisfying title. I mean it’s sort of fun. One of my favorite titles actually comes from Smokelong Quarterly—”Me and Theodore Are Trapped in the Trunk of the Car with Rags in Our Mouths and Tape Around Our Wrists and Ankles, Please Let Us Out” by Mary Hamilton.

What’s your favorite flavor Pop-Tart? Icing or no icing? Thoughts on Toaster Strudels?

I don’t eat Pop-Tarts. I eat nachos.

What book or story should everyone be reading as soon as they finish this interview?

Wow, that’s tough. I’m going to go with Field & Stream magazine and A Book of Luminous Things, a poetry anthology edited by Czeslaw Milosz.


About the Author:

Sean Lovelace lives in Indiana, where he directs the creative writing program at Ball State University. His latest collection is about Velveeta and published by Bateau Press. He has won several national literary awards, including the Crazyhorse Prize for Fiction. He reviews flash fiction for Diagram Magazine. He likes to run, far.

About the Interviewer:

Sam Martone lives and writes in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. He is the 2015 Penn State Altoona Emerging Writer-in-Residence. His recent work has appeared in Cartridge LitwigleafSwarm, and The Mondegreen. Find him at

About the Artist:

Claire Ibarra is a writer, poet, and photographer. Her photographs have appeared in numerous journals and magazines, including Roadside Fiction, Alimentum--The Literature of Food, Foliate Oak, Lime Hawk, and Blue Fifth Review. She was an artist in residence for Counterexample Poetics and art editor for Gulf Stream Magazine. Claire’s work was included in the “Finding the Light” Exhibition at the PhotoPlace Gallery.