Smoking With Anne Marie Jackson

Read the Story September 15, 2005

The metaphoric power of the pepper packs a punch (Say that three times fast). How did you discover its hidden figurative qualities?

Perhaps it’s the pepper itself that lends itself to metaphor. I wasn’t consciously looking for metaphor as I wrote, but when I had finished the first draft, there it was, and I was very happy about it, too.

“Clouds loitered overhead on the fourth day, lazy and pregnant with suggestion.” That’s just gosh darn wonderful writing. Do you always see the world so lyrically?

I don’t know about that, but I hope I string together a poetic sentence here and there! In this case I really wanted to incorporate the water/rain which she craves but isn’t getting

Love the indeterminacy of the story’s “he.” What does such conscious use of unspecificity do for a story?

When a story is left open the reader can hang their own interpretations on it. I personally imagined this garden as an Eden-like place, and ‘he’ as an ambiguous devil-like tempter. For me it is a mythic creation story.

Did you conduct any pepper research for this perfect piece of prose?

Ahh, this is where the story really came from. Writing this story was an education in peppers for me! When I Googled ‘chile pepper’ I discovered all these incredibly gorgeous names and pictures of peppers. Did you know that your ordinary hot jalapeno yields 2,500 — 8,000 Scoville units of heat? Then compare that with the Red Savina Habanero at 577,000 Scoville units — Ouch! The sheer scale of it is staggering. I knew I had to write something, but didn’t know what, so I just wrote — and grumbled — over the course of two days until the story finally clicked into place. Then I threw out most of what I’d already written and got the first draft down.

We heard about your Cornish fisherman boyfriend. Do all Cornish boyfriends have lush sideburns?—and are there any other Cornish secrets you care to divulge?

Hmmm, I don’t know if this is true of Cornish boyfriends, but Cornish fishermen, well I do know some of those with generous sideburns. However, my fisherman has the lushest sideburns of all! I do despair when he gets his hair cut, but fortunately for me it doesn’t take long before he’s well sprouting again.

As for other secrets – Cornish fishermen like to get together to drink a pint or two or three while standing in the center of the pub singing traditional sea shanties, sometimes banging on the ceiling beams for rhythm, depending on the song. At times like that you really ought to cover your drink with your hand unless you enjoy the taste of plaster.

About the Author:

When Anne Marie Jackson is not admiring the lush sideburns of her Cornish fisherman boyfriend, she likes to write stories about Moldovans, Russians, and things like peppers. Her stories have appeared in Gator Springs Gazette, Edifice Wrecked, Aesthetica and Mytholog.

About the Artist:

A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison's work here.