Smoking With Jeff Landon

Read the Story September 28, 2009

Jeff, “Nobody Like You” is a heart breaker. Not much action, yet so much is felt. It feels like a still life of two young people experiencing an archetypal moment before things change forever…

Thanks, and well, hey, let’s face it, there is NO action here. My favorite writers and stories always seem to have an Edward Hopper moment in them, one particular quiet, lovely, lovelorn picture. I always look for that moment, and when it happens?usually in someone else’s work?I am gladdened.

What inspired you to write “Nobody Like You?”

I’m working on a short, very short, novel, about two teenage brothers? One of them has accidentally killed someone and consequently left town, and the other one, the one left behind, is trying to live a life that feels normal, but that turns out to be impossible. This is a moment in his life before things start to fall apart.

What inspired this story?

I like pools, the way they look at night, and I can remember sneaking into pools, but the truth, of course, wasn’t this shiny and romantic. In movies, people are always gettin’ it on in pools or the ocean or under waterfalls, but, well, no, no, no.

The setting: a pool at night, the storm brewing, the security system of a gated country club serve the story so well as backdrop. How important is setting in your writing of flash fiction? Can you talk about that?

I value dialogue and setting more than anything else in fiction, in other people’s fiction. I think about some stories that have really shaken me, in the best ways, and I see train stations, abandoned cars, corn fields, or a man and a woman looking out a window at night.

I notice how in “Nobody Like You”, your pacing feels casual, nearly languorous. Is that something you considered when working on this piece?

I don’t think about pacing at all before starting something, but i do like to slow things down at key moments in a story by taking note, at that time, of the whole picture, not just the characters but the physical world including the odd, slanted things. I think this is easier to do if your writing style is spare and fast-paced. One of my favorite books is Frederick Barthelme’s “Moon Deluxe” because the endings to his stories are so perfectly paced and oddly affecting.

What do you read/listen to/turn to… for inspiration?

Well, when i was young, and the world was pretty, i listened to music all night while writing, mostly old soul music, and the sweet stuff, like Smokey Robinson or Al Green or Gladys Knight, and also the Pips. But, time staggered on, and i found myself an old and embittered man, and i don’t, can’t, listen to music anymore.

I read lots of fiction written by my writing friends, and they and their work are constantly inspiring and wonderful. Mostly, 90% of the time, I read short story collections, literary journals, and poetry, with maybe five novels a year tossed in, usually in summer, at the beach. There’s never enough time, never enough, but then, well, I guess I could skip the occasional “Cops” marathon and read or write, but then I think about all the shirtless mullet-headed meth-heads I’d have to miss, and it makes me sad?they need me.

About the Author:

Jeff Landon has been published in numerous places, print and online, including Crazyhorse, Wigleaf, FRiGG, Another Chicago Magazine, F(r)iction, and others. He is also a contributor to New Micro, an anthology of flash fiction published by W.W. Norton in 2018. Lately, he's been doing some chair yoga.