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Smoking With David Mohan

Interview by Aliya Whiteley (Read the Story) September 24, 2013

David Mohan

art by Alexander C. Kafka

I love the intangible nature of place in your story. It’s like a dream of a city, not quite real. Did you get your inspiration from the city, or did the plot come before the location?

The inspiration for the story came from a number of things. I have lived in Italy (in Milan), but I’ve only discovered Lecce recently and only as a visitor. I was definitely interested in thinking about place, but I also see the story as psychological. For me this story is about someone who is surprised there is anywhere new to discover in life—perhaps so surprised that they find it difficult to strike out and explore. In general, I was trying to think about how unknowable places are (especially to tourists) but also, more specifically, I wanted to think about a place that becomes an emblem of a character’s sense of themselves at a particular time in their life. In this case, middle age.

Your paragraphing is so good. It leaves the perfect space to see how the narrator has slipped between the cracks in her relationship. How conscious are you of elements such as the form of the piece, or does this naturally spring into shape when you start writing?

I am conscious of the form of each story in progress, but usually during re-drafts. I find I tend to use quite short paragraphs in flash stories. It’s a natural tendency, but I think it suits the pace you need in most flash pieces. I think you are absolutely right to mention space. That’s something that strikes me more and more with short stories—the importance of what you leave out. I very much enjoy the implicit in other people’s stories.

Could you tell us about the way you found the voice in this story—a woman struggling to make sense of the gap between her dreams and her reality?

I think this is an introvert’s story. It is a story about what might seem to some readers as a peculiar level of passivity. But I find that type of personality and voice fascinating. It might seem dangerous to write about such a passive character—the danger being that that sort of character might be perceived to be too inert to be interesting. But that’s the wonderful thing about the short story. It’s a form that seems particularly attuned to enquiring into those odd cul-de-sacs of the human psyche that the novel swerves past.

About the Author

David Mohan is based in Dublin, and received a PhD in English literature from Trinity College. He came second in the Sean O’Faolain International Short Story Award and won the Hennessy/Sunday Tribune New Irish Writer Award. He has been published in or has work forthcoming in Necessary Fiction, Word Riot, Opium, Contrary, elimae, NANO, Flash International magazine, The Chattahoochee Review, New World Writing and Used Furniture Review. He has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize.

About the Interviewer

Aliya Whiteley was born in Devon in 1974. Her first two novels were published by Macmillan, and her short stories have appeared in places such as The Guardian, Strange Horizons, McSweeney’s, and various anthologies. She blogs at veggiebox.blogspot.com.

About the Artist

Alexander C. Kafka is a journalist, photographer, and composer in Bethesda, Maryland. He created the cover image for Lost Addresses: New and Selected Poems by Diann Blakely (Salmon Poetry, 2017). His work has also been published at All Things Fashion DC, BuzzFeed, Fast Company, Juked, Vice, The Washington Post, The Writing Disorder, and many other periodicals. He has been on the documentation team for the Washington Folk Festival at Glen Echo and is a contributing concert photographer for DMNDR. Kafka studied fine-art figure photography with Missy Loewe at the Washington School of Photography and portrait photography with Sora DeVore at Glen Echo Photoworks.


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