Smoking With Ian Woollen

by Terence Lane Read the Story March 24, 2014

Your title is intriguing to me. Can you talk about it?

The title is a framing device that invites the reader into experiencing the story as a narrative sequence, and as a linguistic sequence, and as a sequence of repeated readings (one of the best features of flash fiction).

What really impressed me about this story is its sense of humor. It’s so funny and doesn’t call attention to itself because the humor is so inherent. The fundraiser reminds me of something Christopher Guest or Wes Anderson would love to have written. Is humor your natural mode or was it just the mode you chose for this story?

My natural mode. I’ve always been drawn to The Human Comedy. And language itself is intrinsically playful. A humorous glaze can gently steer a reader into darker, underlying aspects of the characters.

It feels like everyone here has an ulterior motive and is just barely keeping their façade intact.

Exactly. It’s a microcosm of the political process. Everyone is invested in something different and the possibilities for genuine contact are fleeting.

What is one of the most influential short stories you have ever read? Why?

Today I opened the newspaper to the obituary of Mavis Gallant. I hadn’t thought about her in years. Early on, she was a big influence. Her stories always revealed something about the grown-up world I didn’t know.

What are you working on now?

I’m deep in the umpteenth draft of a new novel (about a therapist abducted by a client) and I continue to experiment with the “repeatable sequence” format. It’s teaching me to take risks and hone basic skills.

About the Author:

Ian Woollen lives in Bloomington, Indiana, walking distance to Bryan Park. His day job is psychotherapy. Short fiction has surfaced in a variety of places, including The Massachusetts Review, Juked, decomp, and Bartleby Snopes. A new novel, Uncle Anton's Atomic Bomb, is due out this fall from Coffeetown Press.