One staff member commented about loving this story “because it feels true and isn’t conceited at all.” That’s a very hard thing to accomplish. How did you do it?
This story draws on my own memories of playing drums in bands way back when, so naturally, I gravitated towards the son’s character. I think fighting the urge to be in his skin and instead writing from the father’s perspective gave the story a bit added depth and allowed me to write it more objectively, while still ringing—I hope—authentic. I discovered that the most interesting people are sometimes the ones quietly hiding in the crowd
We all felt “warmed” by the story’s end. And it achieved that sense without being saccharine. How did this character and you arrive at this ending?
My sense is that the night described in the story is as much a trial for the father as it is for his nervous son. Entering the son’s world to support him made the father face risks. The growing generational gap between him and his son could have been thrown back in the father’s face. His own symbols of his youth, which are still so important to his identity, could have been ridiculed. But none of that happened. At the end of the night, I think the father feels proud, not just of his son, but of himself. Here is a guy that doesn’t quite fit in with adult society and is able to, for a night, revisit his own youth and feel a sense of belonging and acceptance, as well as see his son achieving the same thing. In the final image of the morning after, we see that the father is still not ready to let go: of the night, of his youth, and of his son. Showing love by being passed out on the couch listening to records—something only a father would do!
I love the role music plays in this piece. What role did LET IT BLEED play in your own life? What other LPs played an important part in your development?
What other LPs played an important part in your development? On re-reading the story, it’s funny to see all the classic rock references. While obviously important to the father in the story, this sort of music has not ever meant anything to me personally. That said, music was so important to me and my identity growing up. There was something amazing about discovering bands that made me feel a part of something and help shape me towards a clearer, more confident identity. Before I found my passions (music and otherwise), all I knew is that I didn’t feel connected to the other kids hanging out at the mall or on the football field. I think only knowing what you’re ‘not’ just makes you feel lost and isolated. We all need to believe in something.
It’s interesting to see how the internet is changing the way music affects identity. Music was the foundation of most subcultures in the 80s and 90s, but now, music is being relegated to ‘bands I like’ Facebook lists rather than someone shaving a mohawk into his head or wearing a t-shirt of his favorite band. These days, it seems that many kids’ online identities are more important to them than their real ones. Online identities are so detached and easy to change, and I wonder how this affects how connected and self-aware they are with their own development.
What led to your life as a writer of (very) short fiction?
As a developing writer, I think working on flash fiction allows me to boil a story down to its structural elements, letting me tinker around with how one element affects another. Too much content can cloud my over-analytical mind that tends to kick in when I’m not confident that I’m doing something well.
I’ve found that certain stories are destined to not be entirely successful once finished, not because they are executed poorly, but because the mix of characters and situations that I chose just didn’t add up to a completely fulfilling experience, for whatever reason. I compare it to two interesting people going on a first date and it falling flat, not because of them individually but because of the lack of chemistry between them. The shorter length of flash fiction allows me to get better at understanding which stories percolating in my head warrant writing and which don’t, because I can take more story ideas to the finished stage.
I also think the control freak in me just enjoys writing in general. It’s the ability to determine the actions and desires of fictional characters. Is anyone as terrified as I am that we can’t do the same thing in the real world?
What’s life like on Vancouver Island?
I’ve never lived anywhere with so much tourism before. People come here from all over the world and I have to keep reminding myself not to take the beautiful surroundings for granted. When I walk home from work, I make a conscious effort to look around and take in the sight of the ocean, the historical buildings, and so on. Our ability to habituate with daily experiences is at once our strength and our downfall. I strive to find newness in my everyday experiences to feel more stimulated by life and I hope this will also make me a better writer.