Smoking With Megan Roberts

by Beth Thomas Read the Story March 28, 2011

How did you get started writing this story? What was the spark that got it going?

I think I must have been reading a lot of Sylvia Plath and Sharon Olds, which I am picking up. These writers, as well as many women that surround me, ignite an awareness/curiosity about the struggles of motherhood. I’m not yet a mother; however, I am constantly observing the mothers in my life, and I am in awe of all that they handle. I think motherhood is sometimes portrayed as a wistful, totally fulfilling enterprise, and I’m interested in exploring all the other sides (sometimes darker) of motherhood.

Did it ever go in another direction? Did you make any major plot changes while writing this? What kind of iterations did you go through before it was ready to send out?

This was one of those rare, rare occasions when I just knew my characters well from the start, so they took over the action. It’s an amazing feeling when you can give yourself over like that to your characters. Also, once again, rare for me. I did rewrite the first paragraph many times, changing sentence structure and making word choice changes. I can tinker with a first paragraph for a long time.

What is Beth’s relationship with her husband like? He seems closed out, marginalized. Does she blame him for something? What is Beth’s relationship with her dog like? She seems to identify herself with her dog more than anyone else around her.

Her husband is a character that I’ve cringed about creating. He is in some ways a cliché. However, I wanted to portray that moment(s) in a relationship when it’s all about the kids and suddenly your spouse is this marginalized stranger. You look up and wonder who in the world is this cliché that I’m living with? However, this is just one stage or phase in this relationship.

As for the dog in the ending, it was a surprise. It just appeared. I like that the dog, without speaking, can ask for help, which Beth hasn’t been able to do yet. Maybe that’s what she craves from her husband, but she doesn’t want to have to ask him. We often think our partner should just know. Beth sees some of herself in the old dog.

Tell us about Beth’s hair. She seems to place a lot of her self-worth or happiness in the state of her hair. Why?

Don’t all women? I heard on the radio just the other morning that women think about their hair something like 30 times a day. As much as we might not like to admit it, women put a lot of thought and time into their hair (I know this is a gross generalization). I think hair can portray social status, priorities, the amount of time you have free, and how much money you make. I also teach at a college with a Cosmetology program, so hair has become even more apparent to me lately. It’s everywhere, and I just like describing hair.

What else are you working on right now?

I have my hands in many jars right now. I am working on the last edits of a novel, Everything is Only a Mile Away. I have also been tinkering with a chapbook about women who have been executed, and of course, lots of flash fiction and short stories in between. You can check out my weekly nonfiction writing at my blog: /www.figuringouthome.wordpress.com

About the Author:

Megan Robert's fiction has appeared in 971Menu, The News & Observer, Our Stories, and The Raleigh Quarterly. Her poem "Blackberries" was published in Albatross, a journal. She's received an honorable mention in the Brenda L. Smart Fiction Contest and Poetry Contest, and has been a two-time finalist in this contest's short-short category. Recently she was awarded N.C. State's Academy of American Poets Prize.