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Smoking With Max Ruback

(Read the Story) June 15, 2005

Max Ruback

Art by Marty D. Ison

I think of your writing style as “keepin’ it real.” Artful without artifice. It’s such a joy to read. How do you think of your style?

I try not to think about it actually. Not too much anyhow. I try my best not to focus on it because then I feel I might get fixed into a certain way to write, a style. What is important to me is that I don’t set myself into any fixed way of writing. I just like to let it go, so to speak. When I look over my stories, I see that the voices differ greatly from one story to another. I like to see that. It makes me feel like I don’t have to write in any specific way, tone or subject matter. I get a voice in my head, or feel the possibilities of a sentence, or image, and I just go with it. I go with it until the voice stops speaking to me.

In between the haunted house and that final image of Jesus stands that teenage girl “in a pink half shirt” and “ripped jean shorts.” What are we to make of her?

She’s the lure. There is an early, much longer draft of this story where I wrote many pages about her, who she is and what her life outside this Haunted House is like. Perhaps one day, I’ll give these pages another look and see if anything else happens.

The story that begins with such noise ends in silence. How long does that quiet last? And what’ll finally break it?

Well, I’d like readers to read this story and have a few moments of quiet once they finished it, that sort of feeling like I delivered them into another mindset, other than the one they’d been with all day. I’ll take a few moments of that. Then they can go move on with their lives already in progress.

Is there a haunted house behind every church?

As Halloween approaches, they pop up around here (South Florida). I see them every year. I believe there was a documentary about this subject matter a number of years ago, (cannot remember the name) about the way the church uses these Haunted House as a religious lure. I was at a church very recently, and there was a graveyard in the near distance. If you believe in ghosts, then I guess the answer is yes, in a way.

You also write nonfiction. What makes an “experience” get transformed into fiction rather than nonfiction?

Incident. Feel. Voice. Consequence. In nonfiction, I always know what’s about to happen, how the story will end. In fiction, I never know. I was a social worker for ten years, and witnessed a lot of what most people don’t want to know, the things that don’t make the news, the true stories of the lives that fall through the cracks. I have written about this, both as fiction and as nonfiction, and I pretty much know what I’m going to try and turn into fiction. Some experiences, I can tell like a straight line. Fiction doesn’t do this, though. I need to invent, explore, allow the words to take me in directions I never saw coming. When that happens, I know I’ve got myself some fiction to work with. I’ve written many stories about kids in group homes. I tend to hear their voices most often, and it is those voices that I tend to follow onto the page. That’s where they end up living anyways. Kind of like ghosts.

About the Author

Max Ruback’s fiction may be found in Descant(Canada), Zing Magazine, Zone 3, Hobart, Rainbow Curve, Crab Creek Review, Illuminations, Quick Fiction, OysterBoy Review, elsewhere. Nonfiction/Reviews in Thought, The Writer, Turnrow, Carolina Quarterly, and Main Street Rag. He lives in West Palm Beach, Florida and can be reached at MaxRuback@aol.com.

About the Artist

A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison’s work here.

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

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