Smoking With Nick Brown

by Ashley Inguanta Read the Story June 25, 2012

What sparked this story?

This story was born out of a writing prompt that I turned on its head. We were supposed to write about a black sheep in our family, I decided to take that instruction even more literally. All of my friends really enjoyed the original draft, but I felt like I could expand it and so, “My Black Sheep” became what it is today.

This story is so heavy in atmosphere—this world is truly wild. Tell me more about this world, about its pink and orange sheep, its men in suits, its craters.

The world in the story is important, being both strange and mundane at the same. When I originally wrote about the multicolored sheep, I thought it was just another casually strange detail to ease people into the craziness of the story. Eventually though, one of my friends told me that farmers sometimes dye their animals (mostly sheep and chickens) different colors, so we’ll just say I knew that the whole time. There are really two powers at play in this story that plague the family: the supernatural/extraterrestrial and the government. Smog is implied to have fallen to earth via a meteorite (a la Superman), however the meteorite was also radioactive. The men in suits work for the government and are wearing protective suits to shield themselves from the hazards of the radioactivity. I also liked the idea of them being faceless if that’s how people imagined them. They’re G-Men, and they aren’t messing around as Pa found out.

Tell me about Daryl.

Daryl is a sort of amalgam of multiple influences, the most important however being Darl Bundren from Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, It’s one of my favorite stories, and I had been reading it at the time I was writing the story. Darl, for anyone doesn’t know, is the chief narrator of the story and seems to have some kind of extra sensory perception that eventually causes problems for him. I had hoped that people felt as though Daryl had a sort of connection with Smog (not saying what kind of connection that it was supposed to be). It’s subtly implied that Daryl is abducted and probed during the family vacation and like Darl in As I Lay Dying he takes the brunt of the family’s wrath when house is burned down, just like when Darl burns down a barn to try and rid the family of the burden of his mother’s corpse.

If you could tell the narrator one thing, what would it be?

This last one is probably the toughest question to answer. Um, probably that I’m sorry for writing her into such a terrible world?

About the Author:

Nicholas Brown is an up-and-coming graduate of SUNY Oswego's Broadcasting and Creative Writing programs. He has served as the treasurer of the SUNY Oswego Writers' Open Forum and of the college's student run literary magazine the Great Lake Review. He hopes to pursue further education in graduate school and working in the marketing department at a coffee company.

About the Interviewer:

Ashley Inguanta is a Florida-based writer and photographer whose work has appeared in Redivider, PANK, and The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review. She is also the Art Director of SmokeLong Quarterly. In 2010, Ashley’s story “The Heart of America” earned an Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train for their Very Short Fiction Award. She is a former art director of SmokeLong Quarterly and author of three poetry collections: The Way Home (Dancing Girl Press, 2013), For the Woman Alone (Ampersand Books, 2014), and Bomb (Ampersand Books, 2016). In 2019 Ampersand Books will publish her newest collection, The Flower, about how death shapes us.