Smoke and Mirrors: An Interview with Shasta Grant

by Tara Laskowski Read the Story March 21, 2016

Congratulations again on winning the 2016 Kathy Fish Fellowship! We absolutely love that you’re here. Can you tell me how it’s going for you so far? What can we improve on, and what has been your favorite part so far?

Thanks, Tara! I’m honored to be the Kathy Fish Fellow this year. I’ve loved jumping into the submission queue and joining the dialogue with the editors. There’s much to be learned from that and the writing in SmokeLong’s queue is really good. All the editors are smart and they made me feel welcome from day one. They’re also kind and committed, reading multiple drafts of my stories and really pushing me and challenging me as a writer, particularly with my story endings. It’s hard to pick a favorite part because I love all of it.

“Real Sports” is told in second person, and I think it’s really effective. Can you tell me why you chose that particular point of view here?

I don’t usually write in second person but that’s the way this story came to me. I wanted the reader to be inside it. The first draft came out of a writing prompt from the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop. Our instructor sent us to the Gund Gallery to write a triptych or a diptych. I was mesmerized and kind of horrified by this enormous photograph of what I thought was a dead deer. In workshop the next day I found out it was an elk, not a deer, but whatever, for my purposes it was a deer. The story was originally going to be a diptych, with the second section about a different boyfriend, inspired by a different photograph. But the other part never took off. I originally wanted to show how a young girl might take on a persona that she thinks is what her boyfriend wants. The second person point of view was related to that—I wanted to use it to get the reader inside that girl’s sense of herself shifting with each boyfriend. I thought it was still effective, even as I let go of the diptych form, so I kept that point of view.

One of the things I’m drawn to in this piece are the very contrasting images of blood/death and wedding bliss/family. It’s very effective. You go, for instance, from this very romanticized dream of the perfect backyard wedding to getting fucked in the back of a truck. And yet the narrator, in some ways, treats both of those aspects of the relationship with equal weight. Can you talk about your choices in selecting these kinds of details?

I wanted to show that while this girl is morphing herself into something this boy will want, she’s also, in her mind, transforming him into what she wants. She can’t see that fucking in a truck on the side of the road isn’t all that great, or that being left behind to spend the day with his mother isn’t what she wants. When she sees the deer, she begins to understand things more clearly.

OK, so someone forces you to write a follow-up flash with this narrator when she’s 10 years older. Give me the summary of it.

She’s just had a baby and her mother-in-law comes to help and has all these ideas for the way things should be done, which sends the narrator into mama bear mode, where she conjures up all that wildness she felt ten years ago. It ends with a big fight between the two. They’re in a hallway, the mother-in-law is wearing only a slip and a bra, and the narrator sees how old and vulnerable her mother-in-law is but it’s too late, she’s already attacking her. The mother-in-law, completely defeated, packs her bags and leaves.

I’m obsessed with your cat. Can you please share with everyone the cutest photo you’ve got of him? And tell me, what does he think of your writing?

IMG_5119 (1)Oh, thank you for saying that! My husband says people are only humoring me about being interested in the cat. We got Langston in early January, and I’m completely smitten with him. He is not very impressed with my writing but he does spend most of his days sleeping on my desk, keeping me company.

About the Author:

Shasta Grant is the 2016 SmokeLong Quarterly Kathy Fish Fellow. She won the 2015 Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest and will be the Spring 2017 Writer-in-Residence at the Kerouac House. Her stories and essays have appeared in cream city review, Epiphany, WhiskeyPaper, wigleaf, and elsewhere. She has an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and is Managing Editor of Storyscape Journal.

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.

About the Artist:

Alexander C. Kafka is a journalist, photographer, and composer in Bethesda, Maryland. He created the cover image for Lost Addresses: New and Selected Poems by Diann Blakely (Salmon Poetry, 2017). His work has also been published at All Things Fashion DC, BuzzFeed, Fast Company, Juked, Vice, The Washington Post, The Writing Disorder, and many other periodicals. He has been on the documentation team for the Washington Folk Festival at Glen Echo and is a contributing concert photographer for DMNDR. Kafka studied fine-art figure photography with Missy Loewe at the Washington School of Photography and portrait photography with Sora DeVore at Glen Echo Photoworks.