Smoking With Megan Giddings
by Isaac Boone Davis Read the Story December 16, 2013
So let’s talk about sexuality in the story. Some of the characters are lesbians and in some ways that feels intrinsic to the piece. This isn’t the same story if these characters are straight. Or, maybe it is. Could you discuss the choice you made here?
The choice here is really about representation. Probably the majority of my friends identify as LGTBQ and it’s important to me that their lives are represented in fiction, just like it’s important to me as a biracial person to see people like me getting to live on the page. I remember the first time I read On Beauty by Zadie Smith and it was the first time I’d read fiction—to be fair I wasn’t very old—that had people coming from a mixed race background who didn’t just feel like symbols/themes, but felt complicated and real. It was exciting. So more and more when I veer toward writing more realism-style pieces I try to populate my fiction with people from all different backgrounds.
Let’s talk about stanza 20. Why is Janet breaking into houses? Is it really to just stimulate her creativity or is something else going on?
I think of the characters as in their early to mid-twenties. When I was that age, it felt like everyone around me (and this could’ve definitely been a byproduct of being in Ann Arbor at that time) was trying really, really hard to be super interesting and artistic and thus having adventures. I think of Janet as one of those people; she’s breaking into an abandoned house for a few months, she’s probably dropping acid and drawing the word fear over and over again the next month, and probably a year from then, she’s in Turkey for whatever reason taking artistic photographs. So yeah, on one level it’s about creativity. On another, it’s the fear I think a lot of artistic people might have of being boring.
While we’re on the subject of secrets, could you talk about how that influenced the story? All of them seem to have something that at least is being restrained inside of them, or suppressed if not out-and-out guarded?
I genuinely think that everyone has a secret. I don’t mean that everyone’s secretly run over someone and left them to die on a country road. (Although if you’re reading this and you’ve done that, just an FYI, that person didn’t die. And he’s outside your house right now and he knows what you did. So, get ready.) I think everyone has something that they should have told or want to tell someone that begins to feel more and more important the longer they hold it inside. It can be something as everyday as a crush, or it can be something as dumb as throwing an egg at a car, alone at night, just because you wanted to do something like that just once, or it can be something bigger and bigger. What I’m saying is, I don’t think anyone is flat and all surface.
I might also feel this way because I’ve been watching a lot of Frasier. And those motherfuckers interrogate every single thought and action.
Did you ever work in a restaurant? Why did you decide to set the story in one?
I didn’t. This piece actually came out of a writing exercise. When I was at Miami University for my MA, they brought in Cyndi Reeves to teach a sprint week course. She had us focus on place and how we could write short fiction highly influenced by history and time and then to think about how history and time motivates how we see places. I chose to work with a local restaurant as my place because it gave me a lot of characters. It’s also a place where people naturally tell stories and fall into patterns. And also, one of the great joys of my life is going to a restaurant with someone I like very much or would like to like very much.
If we weren’t paying you this colossal salary at Smokelong, what would you be doing professionally if you weren’t writing?
If I could think of anything else to do but write, I wouldn’t be in a MFA program right now.
About the Author:
Megan Giddings will be attending Indiana University's MFA in the fall. She has most recently been published in the Doctor TJ Eckleburg Review and Knee-Jerk.