Smoking With Frances Gonzalez

by Gay Degani Read the Story June 27, 2011

I got caught up in “Pebble in a Pool” from the first line, the structure imitating the action, everything happening fast. This is hard to do, to give us a whole relationship, two lives, in a piece of flash and make it feel as if you’ve used just the right amount of words. I’m wondering if this is how you first wrote it — fast and all tumbly, or if you went back to put the structure in?

The first draft of the piece was rough-and-tumble and written very quickly, but the idea of a singular event leaving a mark on a person’s life — if only a very faint one — was always present. But I didn’t know how to convey it. I went back to the piece later on with the specific image of ripples and the way they spread and fade, and reworked the structure to capture that image.

Structure is a strong element in this story. The title suggests the theme, concentric circles moving out from a center, reverberating from their embrace out into their lives: “The first step down dark paths. The tight coiling before the leap. A weightless moment of floating wonder before ordinary fear struck them down and made them human again.” When does “theme” occur to you in your process, or does it?

Theme is a huge part of my writing process. Stories begin with images or ideas, but I don’t start writing until I know well what this story will be about and what feelings it should attempt to capture. I don’t get too specific or inflexible about it, since change is always possible, but I believe in writing with the intent to communicate something meaningful — which is what “theme” means to me.

When visiting your website Tales of Pneuma, I noticed The Lighthouse Chronicles, a young adult urban fantasy book. What can you tell us about this project and your other writing endeavors?

Both Tales of Pneuma and The Lighthouse Chronicles developed after I began feeling discouraged writing traditional literary fiction. When I was growing up, I read a lot of YA novels and they shaped my love of reading, so I decided to go back to what first drew me to books: admirable protagonists, fun adventure, and stories that balanced plot with interesting concepts. Posting the works online gave me the structure of a regular updating schedule and direct interaction with readers, something you don’t often get in the traditional writing/submission cycle. I love those stories and the worlds they inhabit. I’m proud of them and am still growing them.

Can you name some of your favorite authors? Your favorite books?

So many! Right now I’m enjoying Karen Russell, Michael Ondaatje and Helen Phillips. My all-time favorite book is Catch-22.

Is there any one lesson you’ve learned about writing that you’d like to share with others, something that might have seemed obvious once you learned it, but that eluded you for a while?

You don’t have to write every day. People are always giving that out as advice: “Write every day!” Like it’s homework or a task to check off a list. Write when you want to, when you have something to write about, but never force it or it will feel like a burden. And if you truly enjoy writing, you’ll make the time to practice and hone your craft as much as you need and want to. I felt so relieved when I figured that out!

About the Author:

Frances Gonzalez is currently studying for her MFA in Creative Writing at The New School in New York City. Her recent awards include Honorable Mention in 2010's Raymond Carver Short Story Competition.

About the Interviewer:

Gay Degani is the content editor at Smokelong Quarterly. She has had three of her flash pieces nominated for Pushcart consideration and won the 11th Annual Glass Woman Prize. Her suspense novel, What Came Before, was published in 2014.  Founder and editor emeritus of Flash Fiction Chronicles, she blogs at Words in Place where a complete list of her published work can be located.