Smoking With Stephen Ausherman

Read the Story June 15, 2005

Hegel’s tragic vision centered around the idea that, in life, there’s no gain without a commensurate loss. You trade sanity for rapture, rapture for sanity. Agree? Disagree? Somwhere in-between?

Life rarely doles out gain and loss in equal measures. Everyone gets more than their fair share of one or the other. In the case of sanity vs. rapture, the variables are impossible to quantify. Who can say what is an even trade? Each of my siblings has at different times experienced a profound religious conversion, and in the process sacrificed varying degrees of sanity—both theirs and mine. Their transformations were often frightening things to witness. And yet, as the youngest, I sometimes wonder if I’m just waiting my turn.

What’s your definition/vision of “sin” in the world?

Thomas Aquinas’ 13th century list condemns certain personal feelings and emotions, while a recent BBC poll on revising the Seven Deadlies suggests we’re to be judged by our actions toward others. Cruelty now tops the list, and everything that follows seems to be a form of cruelty. So are sin and cruelty one and the same? I think so.

You (pardon the Christian pun) nailed that ending. Truly. Talk, if you would, about the importance of the right ending in flash fiction.

The last sentence is the most difficult line to write. When I prepare a story to read in public, I tend to finish on a sudden change in tact, kind of like a punchline. Cheap devices like that often amuse live audiences, but always disappoint readers.

What’s new at your fantastic web site, www.restlesstribes.com?

The Travel page is getting regular updates with new photos from the Southwest, for reasons mentioned below.

What’s next for you? Rumor is you have another book out in 2006. Can you tell us anything about it? Anything else on the docket?

My second novel, Fountains of Youth, is based on a skewed recollection of stories I heard while growing up in North Carolina. It’s Southern Lit bordering on the surreal, and I’m pleased to have a truly Southern press to work with me on this one.

I recently finished a collection of short works, which includes “Living in Sin.” I started shopping that around, but then suddenly decided to throw myself back into travel. I just returned from amazing road trips in southern New Mexico and northern Arizona, and have Utah on the near horizon. Midsummer will put me in Arkansas as a Writer-in-Residence at Buffalo National River, where I hope to develop news ways to fuse my two greatest passions: travel writing and flash fiction.

About the Author:

Stephen Ausherman is the author of two award-winning books: Restless Tribes, travel stories, and Typical Pigs, a novel. Visit his site: www.restlesstribes.com.

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.