Smoking With Ryan Dilbert

by Beth Thomas Read the Story December 20, 2009

Where did you get the idea for Liu?

When I started writing the story, I was teaching English in Gongyi, China and that influence is probably pretty obvious. Even with a working heater, this would have been during one of the coldest winters I’ve ever experienced and so I spent a lot time sleeping face down with my arms tucked under me for warmth. Bear imagery (hallucinations?) soon followed.

Have you ever imagined yourself to be an animal, like Liu does? If so, what, and why?

I usually imagine myself to be a star athlete, a homicide detective or Otis Redding. I rarely picture myself as an animal. Liu is seeking strength from his images while I mostly explore alternate existences in a spaced out manner.

Wen Tian’s derision is the catalyst for Liu’s change. So in a way, she put him on the path to his (eventual) mojo. What will Liu do when he sees Wen Tian tomorrow?

That’s a great question. I would hope it would be something impressive.

Does Liu still imagine himself a bear at the end? Or has he transformed into something new, left the imagining behind?

Something I hadn’t thought of. I don’t think the transformation is complete. I envision bumps in the road, frogs in the throat and a gradual change into someone more bear-like.

How do you generally start a story? Where does it all begin?

My starting point varies. Sometimes it’s an image or a line, a setting or a smelly old man trying to feel me up at Whole Foods. For Imagines He’s A Bear, I thought of the first line first and the rest came pretty quickly.

About the Author:

Ryan Dilbert lives in Houston where he teachers for Writers in the Schools. His work can be seen in Paperwall, Titular, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, decomP and Dzanc Books' Best of the Web 2009.