Smoking With Kelli Ford

by Tara Laskowski Read the Story March 29, 2015

So, have you ever had any Jesus sightings of your own?
Hmmm. Interesting question. I’m going to say yes, though not in the picture-on-the-wall sense. I’m a believer, though again, I’d qualify that too. I grew up in a holy roller family. We traversed the country going to camp meetings when I was small; we had faith healings in our living room. People still talk in tongues and move when and how the spirit tells them to. There’s a beauty there, and a real goodness. Power, too. There’s also a darker side, which I could write pages about but won’t here. I’m no holy roller myself, but I can’t ever really get away from those tendencies.

My husband and I visited Roswell this summer on our honeymoon (long story). I think Roswell awoke some part of me that longs for mystery that had been lulled to sleep with the day-to-day routine of lesson plans and grading. I don’t know. I’ve begun rewatching the X-Files. I’m a Mulder when it comes to these things. Once a preacher by the name of Prophet zapped me in New Orleans, and I landed flat on my back. I’m particularly susceptible to zealots of all sorts.

I love the last lines of this story so very much. They are so perfect. How do you know when a story is done, when it has an end?
Thank you, first of all. The last two lines of “Bathroom Jesus” have been there since the beginning. They were the sort that just came out mostly right from the beginning, and I knew what was left to do was go back to the beginning and the middle to try to make that reflect where the story had to go. In this case, I upped the trouble a little bit—thanks to some feedback from you—to try to bring out what was at stake. I actually thought it was through long before it was.

In general, the right endings have tended to find me. Remember the mystery thing? However, of late, I’ve been having some trouble finishing anything. I think it has a lot to do with the herky-jerky nature of my writing these days. Instead of a regular routine, I work in manic spurts, which aren’t always long enough to see something through. The result has been some strong beginnings which soon turn into over-worked middles that go on and on and float aimlessly about in my “new work” folder until I start over with a new great beginning.

I’m happy to say that I recently decided to end that streak by any means necessary. I took a nice meditative piece about a young man and his beet garden—I tend to get caught up for pages in the planting of a garden or something like it and forget that somewhere, something resembling a plot has got to emerge—that I’d been working for months and added a lesbian couple and their new shotgun. Deux ex Lesbians. Hello plot, hello ending. I actually think something may come of it, but the jury’s still out.

To me, this story is about hope and faith and finding salvation in unexpected places. Which do you think will win out in the end for this character—the spiders or the bathroom Jesus?
I don’t know that either ever really wins out. One or the other will for a while, but I think Jesus will always be waiting in that heater facing, just like this spider or a new one will always be waiting to creep in. I think this is how faith is. One facilitates the need for the other. As soon as you think you’ve got it handled, here comes something new at you. The struggle never stops. She could leave, I guess, but something tells me it would take something big to make that happen. Maybe lesbians with shotguns.

Can you talk about your other writing projects some (other than the lesbian shotgun story)? What are you working on now that excites you?
Well, the story I mentioned is part of a linked collection I’ve been plugging away at for a long time. I also have a project of sorts in mind that I can’t talk much about because it’s only in mind right now, and I don’t want to put the hoo-doo on it. I’ll say it was Roswell inspired.

What do you do for fun when you’re not writing?
For fun? I live in Idaho right now, so every chance I get, I try to get out in the mountains and do some backpacking, car camping, or hotspringing. This summer we did a short trip to Hell’s Canyon after we got married. We’re hopeful there was no foreshadowing going on. Fall and winter are reserved strictly for football. I’m a long time Saints fan, and let me tell you, redemption is sweet.

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.