Smoking With Robert Kloss

by Tara Laskowski Read the Story March 28, 2011

So what’s with the alligators? I see you have another story accepted by Fractured West about alligators as well.

Yeah, alligators have become a fascination in the last year. An obsession? I think the first alligator piece I wrote was something called “An Ancient House” that was in Mudluscious last summer, but I don’t know where it came from and I’m actually a little careful about thinking about it too much. Sometimes I sense them becoming metaphors and I hopefully pull back before that happens. I like the idea that the Mayan people saw the world as being built from the parts of a slain alligator. I like the idea of prehistoric alligators and their relationship to the current species. I like how alligators look as they swim around, as they hiss. So, who knows.

I love the sense of danger in this piece &mdash both “out there” but also inside, where it should be safe but might not be. Did you intend this when you started writing the story, or did that develop along the way?

If there’s anything my work might consistently try to achieve is a sense of interior and exterior anxiety. To me that’s life. But this story more than a lot of them came together very quickly. I had really strong sense of the situation from the moment I started typing.

The dogs get eaten. But how about the cats? Are they sneaky enough to escape?

I hope so! Cats are pretty much untouchable as far as I’m concerned. That’s my one soft spot.

What other subjects/topics do you like to write about?

You know I’m a pretty limited writer. I write about alligators, I write about fires and diseases, I write about fathers and sons, I write about mothers, I write about historical figures, usually obsessive types. That’s about it. I always liked the idea of an artist continuously reinvestigating and obsessing over a particular few ideas or images.

I find it interesting that you like when authors obsess over the same topics all the time. I’ve always worried that was a weakness in my writing &mdash I tell my husband all the time I feel like I keep writing the same story over and over again.

Well, now you’ve got me thinking.

 
I think my writing was stunted for a long while because I always thought I had to do something completely different every time instead of continuing to explore and develop what seems authentic to me. I think Saul Bellow said the reason why his novels were always so similar was because he hadn’t yet figured out the answers to the questions he was asking. But maybe I’m thinking of Woody Allen. Or Samuel Beckett. Anyhow, I think it’s a good thing &mdash to me it suggests a seriousness, a deep connection between the artist and the art. I’m sure there are thousands of people who, at this moment, can write a much better story than I can. This is fine, I guess. I just want to write the story that only I can write.

What’s the meanest thing anyone’s ever said about you?

I don’t know about said about me. I’m sure most of that stuff I’ve tucked away pretty deep into my subconscious. Probably the only time I expressed what I wanted to do with my life was when I was 9 or 10 when I told my mother I wanted to be a writer. All she said was, “That’s probably not a good idea. You have to be pretty talented to do that.” Of course, she was absolutely right &mdash I make no money at all from writing and I probably never will &mdash but I’ve always held onto that advice.

What are you working on now that you’re excited about?

I’m immersed in a sort of Civil War novel called The Alligators of Abraham. I really think it’s far and away the best thing I’ve ever written, and that “The Lives of Alligators” is partly taken from my notes for the second section, but I shouldn’t say anything more about it until it’s closer to finished.

About the Author:

Robert Kloss has known the valley of alligators. He can be found online at rkbirdsofprey.blogspot.com.

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.