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Smoke & Mirrors with Ra’Niqua Lee

Interview by Sarah Layden (Read the Story) June 21, 2021

Ra’Niqua Lee

Ra’Niqua Lee

In “Extended Stay,” there’s an energy of push and pull, and stay or go. Key seems on the verge of change. How did those elements come together or come to be in the piece? 

“Extended Stay” is equally inspired by the film Waiting to Exhale and seasons 1-5 of Schitt’s Creek. It’s the longing of the former and the plot of the latter. Something about the format of the show, the living indefinitely in a space that is supposed to be temporary, appeals to me. Key has spent a year at a motel, so that push/pull energy might have something to do with her living in this transitional space. Only, she’s stuck. Meanwhile, my life has been the opposite of that, always moving from places that were meant to be more permanent.

Striking images like the mosquito larvae (“translucent comma babies”) stand out, as does the Narcissus-like moment by the pool. How do you work with and call up imagery in your writing?

I’m not a hundred percent sure how to answer this question. I will say that I love to write setting, and I try to undermine my own expectations with specificity. When I started writing “Extended Stay,” my head was somewhere in Nevada or California, an aspiring actress hoping to make it big on the west coast—I’ve seen that before, which is probably why my first impulse was to write it. I put a bit of myself in the story by bringing it home to Atlanta with all the little details. Also, those translucent comma babies originally had a cloud of winged mommas, but they didn’t make the final cut.

As with many works of flash fiction, I’m intrigued by these characters, and would gladly read more about them. Is this piece connected to other things you’ve written, and what are you working on now?

As of now, the story is a standalone work, but I’m sure I’ll write more about the motel at some point. That setting has a lot of potential as a vehicle for storytelling with so many people coming and going. Maybe I’ll find a David Rose in the room adjacent to Key’s.

Right now, I have a fourth draft of a novel that I’m trying to finish up, so wish me luck!

About the Author

Ra’Niqua Lee writes to share her particular visions of love and the South. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Cream City Review, Split Lip Magazine, Fractured Literary, Watershed Review, and elsewhere. Every word is in honor of her little sister, Nesha, who battled schizoaffective disorder until the very end. For her always.

About the Interviewer

Sarah Layden is the author of a novel, Trip Through Your Wires, and a flash fiction chapbook, The Story I Tell Myself About Myself, winner of the inaugural Sonder Press Chapbook Competition. Her work appears in Boston Review, BoothMcSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Salon, The Millions, Moon City Review, and other outlets. She teaches creative writing at IUPUI.

This interview appeared in Issue Seventy-Two of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Seventy-Two
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A SmokeLong Summer

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From May 30 to August 28 2022, SmokeLong is going to host a superworkshop. We want to spend the summer with you, the flash community. Our workshops take place on a devoted website where you can create a profile, interact with the flash community, and take part in group discussions on craft, but A SmokeLong Summer will be much more.