Smoking With Trent England

by Brandon Wicks Read the Story June 27, 2011

Can you start by telling us about the inception of this piece?

I’ve been interested in writing short profiles of characters, and this came out of that urge. Initially, I thought I would write three small biographical segments — based on real girls I had known, know presently or had only minimal contact with — but I really don’t like memoir in fiction, and decided instead to create characters, including the narrator in each one. And even though it’s complete fiction, it has been or it is or it will be true for someone else. There’s a different truth that’s still present.

Stylistically, the language throughout is rich with sensory detail and feels very close, yet the relationships of the characters remain obscured, at something of a distance. Can you tell us a little about how these three separate portraits cohere?

There isn’t meant to be any coherence outside of the fact that each narrator shares the same distance with each girl, yet there are three different degrees of familiarity here.

The third portrait is particularly strong, set in that bus station full strangers, tense with interesting mix of expectation, anonymity, and desire. What led you to end your story here?

I didn’t order the segments at first, and when I looked at all three, I saw finality in this one. The bus terminal made sense, with the arrivals and departures and not knowing the end to someone’s story once they get on a bus.

To me, flash fiction seems suited to lyrical or modular narrative — like “Three Girls” — sometimes more than linear narrative. Do you find yourself often drafting stories in this lyrical mode? If so, does this carry over into longer works you may write?

Oh, I’m terrible at talking about this. How fiction is written is something I don’t ever dwell on, and while I’d like to think that all my work is lyrical, this story is unique in that most of what I’ve been writing has been traditional in structure, especially the long work I’m currently in the middle of. I’m old-fashioned.

What was the last book or story you read which struck a chord with you?

Tom Wolfe, A Man in Full.

About the Author:

Trent England's work has appeared in various places including Fiction, Unsaid and The Collagist. He lives in the Boston area where he writes full-time.

About the Interviewer:

Brandon Wicks is the associate editor for special projects at SmokeLong Quarterly. He is a freelance writer and illustrator based in Philadelphia. His debut novel, American Fallout, will be published by Santa Fe Writers Project in 2016. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Pembroke Magazine, Potomac Review, Sou'wester, and other journals.