Smoking With Roderick Leyland

Read the Story March 15, 2005

Your voice knocked us dead in this one! Where’d that come from?

I had been reading American Short Story Masterpieces edited by Raymond Carver and Tom Jenks. One story grabbed me: “1/3, 1/3, 1/3” by Richard Brautigan in which a story within the story is written in childlike language with poor spelling and grammar. I was on the bus going to work and that voice triggered a childlike voice in me. It had an urgency and desperation. F. Scott Fitzgerald says: “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” That’s what it felt like. It wrote itself in my head and I couldn’t wait to get home to write it down. I was a bit worried, at first, that the voice revealed too much of me. It does, but SmokeLong’s response has made that OK.

Character-driven? Plot-driven? Voice-driven? What’s driving your flash fiction around the block?

I’m more interested in the way my characters react than in what happens, therefore character definitely comes before plot. If I’m lucky enough—and it is luck—to locate a voice, then that helps. I think the real driving force is my urgency to communicate.

Ah, the search for magic in the world. And where does one find it?

Magic is all illusion, though when we engage deeply with others we can have access to immense powers.

Ten Tips for Bored Housewives: Release Yourself from Domestic Strife! Sounds like a bestseller. Can you share any of the tips with us?

This book was at the top of the charts for months and is still selling well, especially now that Desperate Housewives is airing in the UK. Although the publishers will not allow me to quote copyright material, I can summarise the tenth tip: Kiss the belly of a friend. It’s all to do with risk, intimacy and connecting authentically with people.

How are things in Brighton, England?

Brighton is a vibrant city. American Express, where I worked for nine years, has its European headquarters here. It’s on the coast and I can see the sea from my study window. Brighton used to have a rather sleazy image because it’s just under an hour from London by train (close to the centre of crime) and a popular place for secret assignations. If you were going to be found in bed with another woman, Brighton would be the place! Graham Greene immortalised it in his novel Brighton Rock.

About the Author:

Roderick Leyland was born in Dundee, Scotland in 1949. He was trained as an actor and worked in the theatre. He has also worked in retailing and financial services. Stories and articles have appeared (or are forthcoming) in SmokeLong Quarterly, BuzzWords, Peninsular, Countryside Tales, Scribble. He lives and works in Brighton, England.

About the Artist:

A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison's work here.