Smoke & Mirrors: An Interview with Jeff Landon

by Beth Fiset Read the Story September 17, 2018

Jumping right in, I have to ask about your inspiration for this piece. Do you have a certain fascination for the Beatles, particularly Ringo Starr? What was your reason, if any, for choosing a fictionalized version of him as this sort of foil to the narrator?

I like the Beatles, sure, but I figured Ringo would be the most likely to have a foot fetish.  I picked Ringo, seriously, because it felt more possible for the narrator’s ready-to-leave wife had this moment in her past. The story is about obsessives/destructive impulses … I didn’t have to dig too deeply to understand how they work.

Your narrator here is complex, though in flash sometimes that complexity is difficult to draw out. What changes for you when writing long-form fiction (novels, novellas) versus flash? How does the development and presentation of your characters change?

I’ve written failed novels—not bragging, but, yeah, nailed it, another never-to-be-read pile of paper. With novels, you really get to know your people, where they live, how life hits them. Things play out. Side journeys occur. Stories, short and shorter, are glimpses (more or less), and you don’t have time for long descriptions. They feel more like movies playing in your head—to me, anyway. I need/want to see just enough, and I don’t think explanations work that well in fiction or life.

There are two moments in the story where the narration from the character mixes with the authorial vantage point. I’m speaking particularly of this moment: “I can’t even spell enunciate. I just now looked it up.” I’m also speaking of the moment when the narrator says, “I know, I know ….” Was this intentional, and how much do you find yourself mixing with first-person narration?

It was intentional. For the “I know, I know,” business, that was just me putting up some defensive hands, going, OK, yes, I understand this is nothing new I’m saying here. For the moment when he couldn’t spell a word, that was, sadly, an admission to age and getting more stupid with every passing moment. These moments, of course, are way more likely with a first-person POV. They would be crazy awkward otherwise, and maybe they already are.

Tell us about your use of food imagery, particularly fruit within this story.

I wasn’t aware of that at all. I like to bring in food for sensory reasons, but, that’s it. I do love tomatoes and the smell of mulch, but I’m no friend to the apple. I’ve never tried to be symbolic, but you do need to be wary/careful with images. So, it’s a pretty bad sign that I was unaware of the fruit contained in this particular story.

What other flash fiction writers do you read and who would you recommend?

For flash writers I read, read the new Norton anthology, New Micro. Almost every flash fiction writer I admire and read and steal from—all gathered here.

About the Author:

Jeff Landon has been published in numerous places, print and online, including Crazyhorse, Wigleaf, FRiGG, Another Chicago Magazine, F(r)iction, and others. He is also a contributor to New Micro, an anthology of flash fiction published by W.W. Norton in 2018. Lately, he's been doing some chair yoga.

About the Interviewer:

Beth Fiset earned her MA from Missouri State University, where she still teaches composition. She is a proud mom of one and dreams of living in New York City, and her flash fiction can be found in Bartleby Snopes and Heavy Feather Review.  

About the Artist:

Find more photography by Eugenia Maximova at Unsplash.