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Smoke & Mirrors with Caroline Bock

Interview by Wendy J. Fox (Read the Story) June 17, 2024

Caroline Bock

Caroline Bock

In your story, “matching plaid chairs, burnt orange couch” is immediately evocative of the 1970s; it doesn’t feel to me that other decades have such an easily identifiable palette. How do you approach scene setting as a fiction writer?

You’re astute! It is the 1970s but I wanted to give just a sense of the era through specific details, which is the beauty of flash—less is often more.

However, while the setting is grounded in the past, the emotion is grounded in the present, an urgent now. I think the setting in opposition to the emotion gives a frisson to this micro.

If you don’t mind sharing, what kind of salesperson is Pop in the story? I always find the backstory of characters interesting, but flash in particular rarely has room for it.

That’s a complicated question! In real life, my Pop was a commission-only sales rep and a substitute teacher in the New York City public schools. When I was ten, he started his own small business. He imported/wholesaled and was his own main sales rep for housewares—pots, pans, tea kettles.

His olive oil can is in the Julia Child exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. It has his company mark on the bottom. I visit it every time we go to that museum.

My upbringing had the highs and lows of a salesman on commission marked on it. I didn’t think in this story I had to go into this detail, just being a salesperson ending a “good” week was enough.

There is both longing and nostalgia in your story. What can you share about your relationship to the past?

It’s complicated, too. In 1967, when I was four-and-a-half, my mother had an aneurysm that left her brain-damaged. She is paraplegic and institutionalized. My Pop ended up raising me and my three younger siblings on his own.

I’m not a sentimental person; I don’t want to go back to the struggle/tumult of my childhood. What I want is a moment with my Pop again. He’s been gone about eleven years, and I can’t slice an onion without thinking of him.

You’ve published widely and in different forms. What speaks to you about flash fiction?

This micro is part of a series that I’m currently writing—that I’ve titled “I Should Have Slept With Them All”—and I am able to tackle longing, wanting, desire in these stories only because the container is tightly bound. I don’t think I would dare to write these if I aimed to write them long. With a micro, I can be fearless. I am aiming to write at least fifty in the series.

About the Author

Caroline Bock writes stories—from micros to novels. She is the author of the forthcoming novel THE OTHER BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE from Regal House Publishing in the summer of 2026. Her flash fiction “Government-issued Bunnies,” was published by SmokeLong in 2018. A graduate of Syracuse University, she studied creative writing with Raymond Carver. In 2011, after a twenty-year career as a cable television executive, she earned an MFA in Fiction from The City College of New York. She is the co-president and prose editor at the Washington Writers’ Publishing House. She lives in Rockville, Maryland with her family.

About the Interviewer

Wendy J. Fox is the author of four books of fiction, including What If We Were Somewhere Else, which won the Colorado Book Award and received a star for excellence in the genre of short-stories in Booklist. Her 2019 novel, If the Ice Had Held, was a top pick in audio for LitHub. She has written for many national publications, including SelfBusiness InsiderBuzzFeed, and Ms. and authors, a quarterly column in Electric Literature focusing on independent books. She is a former SVP of marketing for a green tech firm and lives outside of Phoenix.

This interview appeared in Issue Eighty-Four — The SmokeLong Quarterly Award for Flash Fiction of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Eighty-Four — The SmokeLong Quarterly Award for Flash Fiction

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