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Smoking With Thomas Cooper

Interview by Beth Thomas (Read the Story) July 26, 2010

Thomas Cooper

Epilogue by Joaquin Villaverde

Where did this story come from? Is it too easy to assume it came from actual experience?

Not many of my stories are based on actual experience. There’s nothing in this piece that’s based on my life. It’s all a bunch of horsing around.

I saw one of those corny “What would your baby look like?” ads on Facebook and that sparked an idea. I gave myself a day or two to work around this motif.

Why did he throw the picture into the junk drawer and not the trash?

I’ll be honest: I’m not too sure. I don’t know why many of my characters do what they do. I’m not saying they take a life of their own, because that’s dumb. Paraphrasing Nabokov here.

I guess throwing the picture in the trash would have been too insensitive a gesture? The woman in the story obviously felt some maternal attachment to the baby, or the idea of it. Also, the man filed away the episode in the junk drawer of his memory. So, doing the same with the photo is a corollary to that.

Not that I thought about a story’s elements this way during composition. Theorizing like that is anathema to creativity. At least mine.

What did this argument bring to light in their relationship? What splinter did it wedge in there?

I don’t think it wedged a splinter. The splinter was already there. But it’s the man’s misbegotten notion that this was the beginning of the end, when the end had already started.

The title is a huge part of this story—it would read quite differently with a more passive title. How did you decide to give the title so much power?

The piece went through a few different title changes. At first, it was “Boris,” which is iffy. Then it was “Little Baby Boris,” which is much worse. Then it was “Our Hypothetical Baby,” which is putrid. So, choosing the title was ultimately not a matter of thinking, “What’s the most powerful here?” but “What sucks the least?”

About the Author

Thomas Cooper’s short stories have recently appeared in New Orleans Review, Pindeldyboz, Beloit Fiction Journal, Quick Fiction, Opium, and elsewhere. His chapbook of flash fiction, Phantasmagoria, is forthcoming from Keyhole Press.

About the Interviewer

Beth Thomas is originally from New Mexico but currently lives in California due to military relocation. She works as a technical writer in the aerospace/defense industry—don’t ask what she writes about ’cause she can’t really tell you. She has a BA and an MA in writerly things from New Mexico universities. Her work has recently appeared in Pindeldyboz Online, SmokeLong Quarterly, Juked, Word Riot, and other places.

About the Artist

Joaquin Villaverde on Flickr.

This interview appeared in Issue Twenty-Eight of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Twenty-Eight

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"The Shape of Things: Movement, Momentum, and Dimension in Flash CNF" with Steve Edwards

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From sentence-level craft concerns to questions of overall approach, this 90-minute webinar will explore strategies for adding shape, intensity, and depth to your flash creative nonfiction.

Steve Edwards is author of the memoir BREAKING INTO THE BACKCOUNTRY, the story of his seven months as caretaker of a 95-acre backcountry homestead along federally protected Wild and Scenic Rogue River in Oregon. His work has appeared in Orion MagazineThe Sun MagazineLiterary HubElectric LiteratureThe Rumpus, and elsewhere. He lives outside Boston with his wife and son.