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Smoking With Timothy Gager

Interview by Beth Thomas (Read the Story) March 29, 2011

Timothy Gager

Smoke Stacks by Ed Luschei

The opening sentence is odd &mdash that elephants can change your life is not something I have heard before, but I guess it stands to reason. Where has the narrator heard this?

A lot of my writing works as sequence chains and word associations, thus as you see in the story it makes working with an unstable narrator an easy jump. The opening is a tag along to the title. “Everyday there is so much that can change your life” is something I was hoping the reader would understand in a logical way (If A=B then B=C) especially as the tone  changes per Paradigm Shift from the observer to the active observer. It’s a theory from quantum physics and the phenomenon of an active observer is very pertinent to the field of mental health. In the form of flash fiction this is a wonderful gift &mdash as what you don’t see or place in a story is often as important as what you do. I’m a very image driven writer. Mentally when I write I see things in picture form. All that I’ve just said gives me the tools to create and delve into the unkempt mind of the narrator in this story.

The opening sentence also chains to the one that follows. I have many friends that champion causes and during the week this was written I’d heard from two about how I could change the life of an elephant by protesting the circus. The circus comes up often in my stories and poems, so off I went.

The narrator has some mental problems that unfold during the course of the story. What has caused him to become unhinged?

He was pretty unhinged all along but I’m guessing you’re talking about his final unhinging. Getting fired from his job was, if I can make a pun, a trigger for him.  I wanted the story to simultaneously flow with silly elephant connections within his life to his final decompensation. I thought it was important and interesting to run those story lines on parallel tracks even though the concept of elephant coincidences versus going into your office and shooting up the place are so different in real world weight.

At the end, he is, I assume, heading off to do some major damage. What do you think happens next?

I pictured him going into work and causing harm to people in his work place. I can see it doesn’t have to be that but I’ve hinted at that with references to animals killing their owners and why people get fired on Fridays. It’s going to lead to a tragic and newsworthy event.

Where did the idea for this story come from?

During that week everywhere I turned there was something about elephants. They were on television, they were marching in downtown Boston to open the circus, I was receiving e-mails &mdash even Yahoo’s most viewed photos were of an elephant.  The week I wrote the story, conversations and references to elephants were occurring at an abnormal rate. I had a spiritual conversation about Ganesha as I obviously had to during that week.  “You can change the life of an elephant” was presented not once but twice during the week. I had all these spring boards as everyday there really was something about elephants. Sometimes all it takes is that.

Tell us a little about your writing process. How do you begin your stories? What comes easiest? What takes the most work?

I start with an image or a thought which births an opening. I’m able to work in two ways which are: one, to immediately plot the story in my head with a beginning, a middle, and an end; and two, write ideas up to a point that I can’t go any further and then let it sit on the page or in my mind until there is a definite game plan of how to run to the end.  The former is the easiest as all I have to do is fill in the blanks with any combination of direct connections, shown sign posts and poetic language. It’s funny but the first way is an easier place to write from and I end up with more confidence in the quality of the piece. What takes the most work is overcoming the self-doubt, and tweaking the story in a way that I don’t end up feeling the story was a piece of crap to begin with. 

Timothy blogs about the creation of his story here.

About the Author

Timothy Gager is the author of eight books of fiction and poetry. He lives on www.timothygager.com.

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.

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

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