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Smoking With Sam Martone

Interview by Brandon Wicks (Read the Story) June 26, 2012

Sam Martone

art by Claire Callister

How did this idea come about?

A friend actually asked me to write a story that featured the following three things: a bubble bath, a case of mistaken identity and an accident. For whatever reason, I immediately thought of a woman in a bubble bath looking at a picture of a woman in a bubble bath looking at a picture of a woman in a bubble bath, and so on. I wrote my ideas down, put the story on my to-do list and promptly forgot about it for a year. Then, last winter, I sent out slightly modified guidelines (I replaced “an accident” with “an imagined super power”) as a “winter break prompt” to everyone in my MFA program, in hopes that we could motivate each other to write over vacation time, and also to see the neat similarities and differences that would arise from our stories. Secretly, of course, it was an excuse for me to finally write this story for my friend.

The story is a delicate one: the trauma has already occurred, one that’s more of a psychological violation than physical, and the main character is reflective. Tell us a little about your drafting and revision process and how you struck this balanced tone.

I’m often more interested in playing with language and images, so in my first draft, there was no previous trauma, nothing really outside of this very brief moment in the bubble bath. You didn’t really know anything about Annabelle except what she thought about the woman on her champagne bottle. In the next draft, the peeping tom kind of came naturally: the story was all about looking and watching, and the reversal of that, the idea of being watched, gave it the extra dimension it needed.

The U.S. isn’t exactly a bathing culture, compared to some other countries, but the idea of a bath certainly holds a space in our psyche. So what do you think the allure of a bath is?

I suppose it’s a safe space for us to go. Kind of womb-like. For me, though, the appeal has always been the amazing “Do De Rubber Duck” song on Sesame Street, where eventually the entire cast is singing with Ernie in his bathroom.

What about you: baths or showers?

Showers now, but for a long time when I was younger, I was scared of the shower for some forgotten reason (a subconscious inspiration for this story, maybe?), so it was baths throughout my childhood.

About the Author

Sam Martone prefers showers to bubble baths, lazy rivers to whirlpools, tubing to waterskiing, and sparkling grape juice to champagne.

About the Interviewer

Brandon Wicks is the associate editor for special projects at SmokeLong Quarterly. He is a freelance writer and illustrator based in Philadelphia. His debut novel, American Fallout, will be published by Santa Fe Writers Project in 2016. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Pembroke Magazine, Potomac Review, Sou’wester, and other journals.

About the Artist

Claire Callister is a native Californian who has been involved in art since the age of 10. Throughout her travels in the United States, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, she has honed her skills in illustration, primarily specializing in black and white pen-and-ink renderings. She graduated from Chapman University in Orange County, California, with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.

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