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Smoke and Mirrors with DJ Hills

Interview by Michael Czyzniejewski (Read the Story) March 22, 2021

DJ Hills

DJ Hills

One of your story’s themes is control, Bobbi making choices about what happens to them when they haven’t always had that luxury. Would you go so far as to say Bobbi is empowered in this story?

Absolutely. Bobbi demonstrates a real strength in the way they set up and enforce boundaries with Derek.

Like you said, we see from their past that Bobbi hasn’t always had the luxury of control and I think the fact that they are entering this new relationship knowing where their boundaries are and not compromising those boundaries is a testament to their power.

In the same vein, Bobbi seems to be toeing the line between control and plummeting into full-blown PTSD. It reveals an awful lot, them taking that risk. Had you considered pushing Bobbi over the edge in their scenes with Derek?

No, in the scenes with Derek, especially the physically intimate ones, I wanted to show that despite, and because of, the trauma Bobbi carries with them, they’ve learned, for themselves, where the line of consent is.

I like to think about crafting tension as characters walking around with raw eggs between their teeth. As a reader, and by extension as a writer, I’m more interested in stories where the shell doesn’t break.

Is Derek a good partner for Bobbi, willing to do what it takes to fulfill them, or is he simply an enabler?

It was important to me to show a relationship that explores sexuality in a consensual way. What I believe makes Derek a good partner is that he listens to Bobbi and respects their boundaries.

There isn’t always a clear parallel between past experiences and present sexual desire. In the story, Bobbi and Derek are learning about one another and that includes their sexual preferences as well as their personal histories.

Big question: Can Bobbi ever be happy?

No matter what my characters have done or experienced, I don’t believe hope and joy are ever truly out of reach for them.

Happiness is funny—it’s so fleeting.

Bobbi is still pretty young in this story and healing, as we know, can be a lifelong journey. It might take time before they achieve ongoing contentment, but I think they’ll get there.

Small question: Do you make your own pasta? Any recipes you want to share?

I remain, to the disappointment of any dinner guests, a deeply mediocre cook and maintain that Trader Joe’s prepackaged butternut squash ravioli is prime.

About the Author

DJ Hills is a queer writer and theatre artist from the Appalachian Mountains, currently living in Baltimore. DJ’s writing appears most recently in Free State ReviewOyster River Pages, and Appalachian Review, and their plays have been produced in and around Baltimore City.

About the Interviewer

Michael Czyzniejewski’s fourth collection of stories, The Amnesiac in the Maze, is forthcoming from Braddock Avenue Books in 2023.

This interview appeared in Issue Seventy-One of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Seventy-One
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