Smoking With Bob Arter

Read the Story June 15, 2004

I really admire the way you use sex in your work not so much as something titillating as to open windows into your characters. I’m sure, though, that some would label works like this as erotica. How do you feel about that?

I don’t care what my work is called so long as people put their eyes on it and tuck their minds inside until they reach the end. My fiction features its share of sex, perhaps more than its share, because sex is (to me) a critical part of human life. And I write mainly about humans. And on my list of The Very Best Things, sex is way up there.

Is there one major event in your life that you feel colors your writing more than others?

Well, sex. And on occasion, war, because I know a million great reasons for having sex and not one puny little reason for waging war. I imagine that the Swiss spend most of their time in bed. Eating all that chocolate.

How do you feel about Flash versus other literary forms?

I used to hate it, even be snotty about it, because it’s so damned difficult for me to write short. I’ve come to like it because it affords me an opportunity to finish something, even when I have three or four half-done stories lying around, mocking me. Also, the form is so new that there are really no established rules/criteria, so everyone can write wildly different stuff with the same chance of success. I truly don’t believe that all flash must feature emotional density that would rival a neutron star—a really creative neutron star—I think it can be funny or quirky or (to reprise a theme) sexy.

As a reader, what really turns you on?

The Big Surprise. I like a story that sets out on an unrippled pond, proceeds politely enough, and then at some point just winds up and belts me. It can’t cheat, mind you; the blow must come from somewhere; the seed must have been planted. But it nails me anyway and then just soars to Land o’ Goshen, me clinging to its mane. Um, I think I just set a record for mixing metaphors. But yeah, I like a piece to have dynamics.

What’s the one area of your writing you’d like to improve?

I want to develop the confidence to take big fat risks—I can always feel that drag, that oh-no-not-that impulse. Or rather, resistance to impulse. When I say “risks,” I mean in plotting, in characterization, in word choices, metaphors, the works… and of course, I mean in sex.

About the Author:

Bob Arter lives and writes in Southern California. His stuff has appeared, or soon will, in Zoetrope All-Story Extra, The Absinthe Literary Review, Painted Moon Review, Lit Pot, Ink Pot, Night Train, and elsewhere.

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.