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SmokeLong Quarterly

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Smoking With Cara Long

Interview by Bonnie ZoBell (Read the Story) March 26, 2013

Cara Long

art by Ashley Inguanta

I confess to being a little worried about interviewing you when I read your cover letter—after selecting your story—about how little you like to talk technical aspects of writing. Do you really cover your ears and say “la la la” when somebody mentions voice?

No, I’d love to, but no. I just tend to tune it out. I don’t like to discuss the technical aspect of writing, but I write intuitively.

Without using the “V” word, I have to say when I found out later that this was written by a woman, I was really impressed because the male perspective is so well done. How do you get into character?

Well, the characters just come. I’ll be walking home from work, or making dinner, or what have you and the story starts to form in my head. Then I just need to sit down and write it. If I don’t interfere, meaning if I don’t try and assert my will over the character, all will be good. When I find mistakes is when I’ve interfered with the character.

I love our first introduction to John’s estranged wife: “Out in the hallway, he hears rustling bags and knows instantly that it’s Lorna. She tries to enter the room quietly, but quiet escapes her. Lorna is always bustling and rustling and clicking and ringing.” Did you laugh while you were writing that part? We’ve come to know John as a rather grim, no-nonsense kind of guy. Could you say a little more about this couple?

I liked Lorna a lot, and I came to know John as someone who is always looking for things beyond what he has, and that, of course, is what causes his dissatisfaction. But I think he loved Lorna because he could count on her. I believe that John is likely an emotional coward, whereas Lorna is not.

Where do you find your characters?

I don’t know. I think a particular thought or idea just chews at my unconscious until it’s ready to come out in story form. Or sometimes, someone will say something to me and it just hits the right mark and a story will come from it. I think we all draw from our experiences and environments.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I’m completely boring. I work; I hang out with my dog; I create to-do lists. I’m not shy; I’m just not terribly social.

So thank you, Bonnie, for selecting my story and thank you to SmokeLong for publishing it. I’m enormously flattered and grateful.

About the Author

Cara Long lives in New York State, though not New York City. She is very open to change right now.

About the Interviewer

Bonnie ZoBell has received an NEA and a PEN Syndicated Fiction Award and won the Capricorn Novel Award. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in such print magazines as American Fiction, The Bellingham Review, and The Greensboro Review, and online at FRiGG, Hobart, and Word Riot. She received an MFA from Columbia and teaches at San Diego Mesa College.

About the Artist

Ashley Inguanta is a writer, art photographer, installation artist, and holistic educator. Her work has most recently appeared in Atticus Review, Santa Fe Literary Review, and the anthology The Familiar Wild: On Dogs & Poetry. Her newest chapbook of poems, The Island, The Mountain, & The Nightblooming Field honors a human connection with the natural world.

This interview appeared in Issue Thirty-Nine of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Thirty-Nine
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