Smoking With Steven Gullion

Read the Story September 28, 2009

Steve, there is a dark comic voice in this piece, and its energy leaps of the page. How long did it take you to write this piece?

This story was written very quickly. The first draft was done in less than an hour; revisions were minimal. That’s the way I usually write flash. Even with short stories, I find that my most successful writing is done quickly, although there are big exceptions. One story in particular (“Old Maids”) spanned three years from start to finish.

How do people react when they find out you can write something so vibrant in… er… a half hour!?

They tell me their eight-year-old could have done it in twenty minutes.

What was your process?

First, I reread Beowulf in the Old English (I own a facsimile copy written in the Runic alphabet), as well as John Gardner’s updated version, and reacquainted myself with the body of criticism around those two works. Next I read everything I could find about moles. They have three spleens, did you know that? And X-ray vision, which of course finds its way into the story. Sort of. Finally, once the research was complete, I wrote, blindfolded in a dark, soundproof room with the doors locked from the outside. I wrote and I wrote, until I grew weary of writing and wanted to come out and have a snack. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to tell my wife where I was and she had flown to Connecticut to visit her mother. It was a long week.

There is a lot of information about this character that makes no sense, which IS its charm. The biggest question here is: Why does Grendel stick with pastels and subdued shades of color? Why decaf?

Grendel, like many of us, feels driven to become a better monster. He’s been to Anger Management; he’s learning to recognize the negative voices in his head and confront them peacefully. Pastels and decaf (and aromatherapy) are a small part of the making of Grendel 2.0.

Does Grendel eat the mole?

About the Author:

Steven Gullion's other fiction has appeared in Night Train Magazine, The Barcelona Review, The Adirondack Review, and issues 5, 21 and 22 of SmokeLong Quarterly, among others. He is currently working on a novel about an armadillo.