Smoking With S. A. Tranter

Read the Story September 28, 2006

Something so relevant in this piece is the idea that a person can sympathize and love the people around them, and, at the same time, not want to make the same choices that these people made. What considerations did you have as you were dealing with this tension?

I was trying to get at the idea that identity, the sense of self, is largely, a construct of environment. Our immediate human environments are the people around us. The pull of the tribe is, for most people, irresistible. Julie has a dim idea that ‘out there’ there is the possibility for a better (material) life. However, one of the barriers to her achieving this ‘better’ life is her own folk, or rather her love and attachment for them/to them; this ‘comfort zone’ of belonging.

As you were writing this story, or even now, did you have Julie’s future in mind? Do you already see what becomes of her?

It’s difficult to get off the well trodden path. Julie’s environment is one of multi-deprivation. In Julie’s world there are very few prospects: there’s no support; no point of reference; no knowledge of what is out there, what is available and achievable. Not only is there the pull of the tribe, a dynamic experienced by all people regardless of socio-economic class, but there is also the very real short fall in opportunity caused by poverty. But there is always hope.

Genetics comes into play as Julie is making her decisions. She’s thinking about her baby and how close she is to becoming an “alkie with nothing.” Do you believe the idea of biology is essential when depicting human nature?

I’m not sure I really ‘get the question’ as it were. I think, perhaps, it’s a reference to gender. I didn’t have any specific gender issues in mind when I wrote the thing. I used Julie’s pregnancy as a means of heightening her predicament; of making her situation more immediate for the reader. I think biology must, to a degree, influence our human nature(s) but to what extent no one knows. I think the piece is more an investigation of how environment impacts and influences people rather than the role that biology/genetics play.

Tell us about the youtube interlude you included in the story. What role does that play in this piece?

You’ve got to have some humour. I tried to inject a bit of colour and energy in amongst the despair. People endure. It’s the turning point too of course; Julie is faced with the Funky Junky and Petrol Drinking Shaun, faced with the reality of that and yet she doesn’t get on that bus and make that journey.

About the Author:

S. A. Tranter Lives in Edinburgh and has had stories published in print magazines in the UK and US. He's had too many jobs, all of which he hated, but the night shift taxi driver paid the most.