Smoking With Scott Ford

Read the Story December 15, 2004

I love “Axl Rose is My Dog.” Lines like this make me happy: “When Jodi, my live-in girlfriend, is on my ass about one thing or another I kick Axl Rose out and lie down on his lumpy bed and think about things. Like: Can things get any worse than hiding in a doghouse? Why does my girlfriend look like Drew Carey?” How did this narrator, Gaylord, and his voice come to you, Scott?

Actually I was surfing the net one afternoon looking for “story ideas”. I came across a story where the mayor of China, TX was mowing the courthouse lawn and then pocketing the money set aside for the yard work contractor. I thought this might be fun to write, but I just never could get the mayor outside mowing the grass. So I tried it with the yard work contractor—Gaylord. I wanted to make Gaylord as sympathetic as possible, so I gave him a dog (all my best stories seem to have dogs in them), a girlfriend he no longer wants, a daughter he never gets to see, and an ex-wife who is now married to the mayor.

Your bio says you have four children. Is it difficult finding quiet time to write?

It’s hard, but I set mini-goals for myself. I try to find one hour each day, or 250 words whichever comes first. As for finding quiet time, it doesn’t exist. I write upstairs and sometimes I can hear them downstairs fighting, but it’s cool, because I’ll listen to what they’re saying and what they’re fighting about and see if I can build a story around it. Really, that eavesdropping thing is cool; you should try it. I went to a lecture once where Tim Gautreaux was the keynote speaker. He said that he told his students to go to Wal-Mart with a small book and just listen in the aisles; you’ll never run out of stories or great dialogue in the aisles of Wal-Mart. Last weekend I took my notebook and I was listening to this lady on her cell phone talking to a car salesman. She said, “I know my monthly is five hundred, but my friend says it has a cost, how much the car costs.” There’s a story there, I know it…

Do you write primarily flash fiction? What do you like about flash?

What I like about flash is that it fits nicely into my mini-goal solution to writing. I can write the first draft of a story in one sitting. And then add and subtract the rest of the week. A story a week is my “big” goal. Lately I’ve been stretching myself, trying to build narratives around 2,500 words instead of 1,000.

What themes have you found recur in your stories?

I tend to explore the darker side of human nature, but the stories I’ve had the most success with tend to be traditional stories of conflict with lots of dialogue and a dose of deadpan humor. You’d think I’d learn…

Which writers particularly inspire you?

There are two books that I read and read and read—no kidding, I’ve probably read them 200 times each! Raymond Carver’s collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love and Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson.

About the Author:

Scott Ford was born in Flint, MI and now resides in Houston, TX with his wife and four children. He is not related to Dennis Franz.

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.