Smoking With Grant Bailie

by Tara Laskowski Read the Story March 24, 2014

Was this story inspired by a real photo?

Not a particular photo, but it occurred to me sometime ago that probably eighty percent of the pictures taken of me in the last twenty years have been ones of me either holding a bottle or a glass. This might be some sort of warning sign, but I choose to take it as a coincidence or the predilection of the photographers I know. I imagine that, as much as anything, was the inspiration for the story.

The descriptions here are so spot-on and careful. I’m curious about the process of writing this piece. Since it is so small, and every word is magnified even more than usual, how did you go about editing and revising this story?

Sometimes a story comes mostly in one shot and sometimes they are like wringing blood from a stone and in the end, after the passage of time, I cannot always tell one from the other just based on the results. This one was more the former than the latter, I suppose. I wrote it primarily on my lunch break at work. But, of course, after that one shot, there is the refining and the pairing things down to their essentials. I have heard writers say the opposite, but I find small pieces easier to refine and boil down. It’s less words, right? Less words mean less work. But maybe that’s just me and my inability to juggle.

Tell me about this writing-in-captivity thing I read about in one of your bios!

So you are referring to a thing I took part in 2005 at the Flux Factory in Queens, NY. Their idea was to take three writers, put them each in individually designed habitats that allowed for viewing during visiting hours, and have the writers live there—more or less in captivity—for a month, attempting or pretending to attempt to write a novel during that time. (Not to brag, but I wrote two.)

It was fun. The people I met through it are people I will hold dearly in my heart for the rest of my life, and, on top of that, it was probably the best and most productive pure writing experience I have ever had. I do well in captivity, it turns out, and now I am left with a life-long envy of zoo animals.

Why do people love to take drunk pictures? And, on that note, what is your favorite drink?

Candid shots are always popular, and I would imagine things can only get more candid with drunkenness. And then, of course, there is the great likelihood that the possessor of the camera is also drunk and therefore thinks everything before him is of interest and significant to everyone.

My favorite drink is scotch on the rocks. Or anything else in the whisky family—except Southern Comfort, which is vile. Also I like beer—but good beer. Or red wine. Or a brilliant cocktail my wife and I invented called The Bark and Stormy—which is one part Kracken Rum to three parts Spruce Beer. We invented it in a cabin in Quebec, which is about the only place you can get ahold of Spruce Beer, but it’s a really great cocktail. My participation in its creation may be the most lasting achievement I leave behind in this world.

It occurs to me that this entire answer may be another warning sign.

What’s the best thing that’s going to happen to you this year?

My next book, Highway Narcissus, is scheduled to come out through Leaky Boot Press this spring. It is a book I am particularly proud of. If that is the best thing that happens this year I will count it a pretty successful year.

About the Author:

Grant Bailie is the author of the novels Cloud 8, Mortarville, New Hope for Small Men, and TomorrowLand, as well as numerous short stories and articles both in print and online.

About the Interviewer:

Tara Laskowski has been editor at SmokeLong Quarterly since 2010. Her short story collection Bystanders was hailed by Jennifer Egan as "a bold, riveting mash-up of Hitchcockian suspense and campfire-tale chills." She is also the author of Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons, tales of dark etiquette. Her fiction has been published in the Norton anthology Flash Fiction International, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Mid-American Review, and numerous other journals, magazines, and anthologies. Tara lives and works in a suburb of Washington, D.C.