Smoking With Charles Hale

by CL Bledsoe Read the Story December 22, 2010

“How We Handle Our Midnights” reads like a novel in the space of a short short story. What was the inspiration for writing the piece?

This story goes back several years and many many pages. At one point I believe it was a very bad 18 page short story. When I started with this story I was looking to write something with a more serious tone than most of my work. I was riding back to Oxford from a music festival with a girl I was seeing. One of us said something to the effect of we did well, as a couple, in the car. That was the genesis, the details like following the mosquito truck and blood on the asphalt came from things I’ve heard people say or things I’ve said.

You live in Oxford, Mississippi, correct? Do you consider yourself a Southern Writer? How does your location color your work?

When all of your writing goes straight into the slush pile you learn that once you mail off a story then you’re done with it. Of course when it comes back you make rework it but then once it’s out of your hands then it’s out of your hands. Being called or not called a southern writer is a lot like that to me. I could care less, not once have I been in my room and staring at the screen and trying to find some more southern to put in a story. That being said, most of the authors I hold most dear are considered southern writers. And of course my location has an impact, most basically there are more mosquitoes here than about anywhere else.

What really stands out to me about the story is the desperate tone. The ending offers a hint of optimism. Are these doomed characters, do you think? Is this a commentary on love in general, or something else–perhaps the world at large?

No. These characters are a long way from doomed. They are simply dealing with experiences of the arrival of adulthood. I’m in my early thirties and one of the things that I’ve noticed, both in literature of people my age and with many of my friends my age, is a reluctance to enter adulthood. One of the characteristics of living an arty life is avoiding some responsibility, which I’m guilty of at time, but when a good friend calls to tell me he’s getting a divorce or I run into two good friends of mine for the first time after they lost a pregnancy I can’t just talk about the new indie rock album I just downloaded. It’s kind of a coming of age moment for folks who didn’t have the coming of age moment earlier.

Why do you write?

Not to be flippant, days I write are better than the days I don’t. I could say that writing facilitates my loner personality or my obsessive tendencies, truth is the days I write are better than the days I don’t.

What’s your next project?

I’m about hip deep into the second draft of a novel and I’ve written most of a chapbook memoir of my window cleaning career. And I have a handful of stories I’m often tinkering. In April I’m moving to Colorado to start my own window cleaning business.

About the Author:

Charles Hale works as a window cleaner in Oxford, Mississippi. His work has or will appear in Noo Journal, Kitty Snacks and Fried Chicken & Coffee, among others.