The characters and dilemmas presented in “Easter Egg Surprise” are socially salient and unsettlingly familiar. What inspired you to write this particular story?
Weirdly enough, this is based on a true story. The very first section did happen. I witnessed it a little boy threaten to kill his entire family one at a time; it was hilarious, and of course that hilarity became both alarming and disarming. I’m often thinking about how children are interacting with technology and how their behaviors are not changed by it but amplified. The school of thought that claims violent media creates violent tendencies in kids, specifically boys, has never been that convincing to me. There are outlets for violence in our culture and we steer masculine ideals into the realm of violence as one’s entire personal narrative. That’s not excusing it, just naming it. Side note: I have a story in I in a previous edition, “Chew,” that is also based on a true story with a similar theme, weirdly enough: Ha!
I’m struck by the narrator’s voice in this piece; phrases like “creating suspense and shit” and “genetic transfer of fucked-up tendencies” come across as pointed and powerful. How did you decide that this story would be told from the perspective of a struggling parent? Further, how did you go about crafting their personality?
I’m not a parent, but I’ve been around babies my entire life. My brothers are much older than I am, so I became an aunt/babysitter early on (quite an expensive babysitter, btw, $50/hr.). Come to me only when most desperate. I did discover that parenting is very very hard. There had to be a bit of an edge to the dad’s voice, if it served as an echo of an authentic parent to me. There is naturally something more tender and accepting that comes along with it as well. Voice is very special to me and really drives my interest in any prose. If the voice is not interesting or compelling, I won’t be that invested in the total story. So, the language needed to reflect a kind of weary, irreverent and earnest frustration.
“Easter Egg Surprise” works incredibly well as a piece of flash, though the issues it’s in conversation with are quite massive. How did you know or decide that the story of Lil Benny, Ben Sr., and the narrator would be flash fiction versus a longer story?
This one seemed destined to be shorter in scope from the very beginning. The genesis was the Easter egg video phenomenon from a few years ago. Kids were watching these videos like Game of Thrones episodes. They are addictive, and I will admit that I could watch them in a sort of mesmerized state for more minutes than I care to admit. But that’s just the gateway. The videos lead to other videos of not just toys, but kids playing with toys then whole families playing together with millions of hits, all for this simulacrum of playtime. I found it totally bizarre and telling, telling of our consumerism based system of instant rewards for minimal effort, plus technology’s ability to provide the illusion of success and social interaction. Fascinating stuff.
How does your process for composing flash fiction differ from when you’re working in other forms or lengths of writing? What stays the same?
I usually know how long a story is going to be when I finally start writing it. Most of the time I walk around with ideas, listening for voices and waiting for a situation worthwhile for particular characters. When the characters take on a lot of descriptive components, I know it’ll take some time to use all of the parts. I’m big on unity and not having a lot of arbitrary details. If I use something once, an object, an internal insight, I like to revisit that again in the story, each time widening the lens on the thing until everything is clear and connected.
What other creative projects—writing or otherwise–are you working on right now?
More stories. More stories! And a novel (whisper voice). I’m thinking about generational trauma these days, all the things we do from one generation to another with the intention of providing something useful, something that builds character and strength, but in actuality the gesture is quite devastating.