Smoke and Mirrors—An Interview with Michelle Elvy

by Tara Laskowski Read the Story April 3, 2015

Can you talk about how this story idea came about?

Fragments and disconnects. Those two things were on my mind. And then also how a connection can be conveyed with the smallest hint. Dust, for example: how it fills the space between us and may or may not mean something. I had been thinking about dust and color at the time I wrote this story—those themes figure into some of my other work, too. And then Antarctica seems so impossibly far away, most times—but something quite desirable, too. The inexplicable search for something we know we need but can’t describe: I think that is Antarctica.

Is anyone going to find Antarctica?

This is a question for the Magic 8 Ball: Don’t count on it. Or, shake it again: Signs point to yes.

I love all these connections and moments between strangers, but then there’s also the intimacy of the moment between the man and his wife. Can you talk about how these interactions play off one another in this piece?

I like the juxtaposition of what we think we need and what we really need. The man is able to feel a longing in connection with this small boy while there’s something frozen between his wife and him—even in their intimacy. And that orange? Don’t ask me, just something about the absence of color that permeates the story, and then that flash of bright. Not necessarily happy-bright. Traffic-cone bright. A warning, perhaps?

Are you more of an “enjoy the cold” or an “enjoy the heat” kind of person? Would you ever actually want to go to Antarctica?

I’ll answer the latter first: Oh yes! I long to see Antarctica for myself, to walk across a tiny portion of that vast white. It represents something so remote, so wild, so uninhabitable. For me, Antarctica is wrapped up in the lore of the Southern Ocean, so going there is not something I take lightly. But it’s something I dream about: to travel there under my own sails. As for what I enjoy, I seem to thrive in sub-tropical or tropical zones. But I do like snow, and perhaps even romanticize it a little too much. I spent some time in Alaska and was captivated by the blue of the glaciers. And I fancy a pair of big fluffy mukluks—they would be a great addition to my footwear, which consists almost entirely of flip-flops.

If you had to give a TED talk tomorrow, what would your topic be?

Dust.

About the Author:

Michelle Elvy is a writer, editor and manuscript assessor, originally from the Chesapeake, based in New Zealand's Bay of Islands and currently living aboard her sailboat in SE Asia. She has not been to Antarctica—not yet. She edits at Flash Frontier and Blue Five Notebook, and is an associate editor for the forthcoming Flash Fiction International (W.W. Norton, 2015).

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.