Smoke & Mirrors with Cameron Conover

by E.A. Aymar Read the Story December 16, 2019

What led you to the theme of “Recess?”

I wrote a few lines about kids in my old neighborhood in a notebook. A year or two later, I looked at those lines again—and realized there was a story there. I imagined what it would feel like to be running on a playground again, and the rest fell into place. 

I also worked as a nanny for three years. I couldn’t help but observe and listen to children closely. The games children play fascinate me. They can feel incredibly violent and absurd at once. In that way, childhood rituals mirror adult rituals.

“… he howls I loooove you or You’re dead meat!” offers such a wonderfully concise summary of the dichotomy central to “Recess.” Was that dichotomy your goal from the start, or something that emerged as you wrote it?

It emerged as I got down the page, but it’s always there. I write about versions of that dichotomy a lot. The way violence, sexuality, and relationships are much murkier and more complex than that dichotomy too. A lot of conversations don’t allow for that, but fiction and poetry does. 

Was this story always intended to be second person present tense?

No, but there were a lot of second-person sentences in the first draft, so I decided to put it all in second person.

There are moments of pure beauty in your prose—”liquid giggles,” the “rich, wet green” grass, and so much more. Do those descriptions occur to you during the writing, or outside of the process?

They occur to me during the writing, usually in the first draft. Images often come first for me, that’s the way my imagination works. I almost never begin with the plot or an idea. 

What are you working on next? 

I’m working on a couple of different short pieces. I work full time, so they are always waiting for me to come home to them at night! I am also working on a longer memoir.

About the Author:

Cameron Conover is a French-to-English translator, copy editor, and writer. She recently moved to New York after growing up between Portland, Oregon and Paris, France. Conover has translated for NumeroArt, Le Monte-en-l'air, and Les Requins Marteaux, among others.

About the Interviewer:

E.A. Aymar is the author of I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead (2013) and You’re As Good As Dead (2015), both from Black Opal Books. His monthly column, Decisions and Revisions, runs in the Washington Independent Review of Books, and his fiction and nonfiction have been featured in a number of other respected publications. He holds a Masters degree in Literature and is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, the International Thriller Writers and SinC. He lives outside of Washington, D.C.

About the Artist:

Paul Bilger's photography has appeared at Qarrtsiluni, Brevity, and Kompresja. His work has also been featured on music releases by Dead Voices on Air and Autistici. When not taking pictures, he is a lecturer in philosophy and film theory at Chatham University. He is the art director at SmokeLong Quarterly.