Smoking With Jason Peck

by Paula Benson Read the Story September 22, 2014

Is “The Age of Discovery” purely imaginative or based on experience?

Experience. I live near the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, and I’ll see adults who simply don’t care dragging around these wide-eyed kids who love the museum. That encouraged me to write this story about that disconnect between this overwhelming sense of wonder and this dismissive attitude that later takes over.

And I needed a way to convey that. They have these paleontologists working on dinosaur bones in open view at the museum; my first draft had the kid watching them for some sudden eureka! moment that doesn’t just instantaneously happen in actual archaeology. But that was too abstract. I needed something more hands-on. I actually did the chicken mummy project in sixth grade, and that worked fine enough.

The protagonist develops a lifelong fascination with ancient Egyptian burial customs. What would he be doing as an adult?

I doubt he makes a career of Egyptology or anything. I see him growing up into a man who watches way too much History Channel and pretends he’s taking his kids to the museum, rather than the other way around. Hopefully, he’ll have a patient family.

How do you create such real, compelling, and likeable characters without ever telling the reader their names? Are there advantages/disadvantages in using unnamed characters in flash fiction?

I wanted this character to serve as a stand-in for the reader. Like his teacher cynically said—kids go through these phases. We all have. I wanted the reader remembering the times when they themselves were kids doing something similar. I wanted to appeal to this universal experience. That’s much easier when the reader can just insert their own name.

Besides writing and ancient Egypt, what are your other enthusiasms?

Anything with ancient history is amazing to me. The world was so different then, it might as well be some alien civilization.

Tell us about your work with the After Happy Hour Review.

I’m on the 12-person editorial board, so I vote on stories and procedures and whatnot. Mostly, I sit back and watch people much more talented than me do amazing things I never would have thought of. I can’t believe how much the journal’s evolved from a local writing group, just how much potential it’s got.

How was the dog deterred from eating the hen until it was no longer appetizing?

I didn’t get into that, but we had dachshunds growing up. We just moved it where they couldn’t reach—like three feet off the ground.

Might we see your protagonist from “The Age of Discovery” in other adventures?

Probably. I have the outline for another story I started while I was halfway through this one—not a sequel exactly, but something cut from the same cloth. I wanted another flash piece, but it might end up longer. I’m just picking at it for now, trying to fill all the gaps. I’m sure I’ll write it soon, but no rush for now.

About the Author:

Jason Peck's work has appeared in more than two dozen newspapers and magazines across Pennsylvania and Virginia, with fiction either published or forthcoming in Seven Eleven Stories, Bloom Aluminum and Third Wednesday. He is one of the founding editors for The Hour After Happy Hour Review, which recently celebrated its inaugural issue.