SmokeLong Quarterly

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Smoking With Trevor Houser

Interview by Tara Laskowski (Read the Story) December 20, 2011

Trevor Houser

A Smoke Backstage by William Michael Harnett

Where did this story come from?

For a few years in grade school, 87 percent of the books I read for pleasure were books about shark attacks. My librarian was probably terrified. We all know dying by shark attack is the worst way to die. Sort of drowning and being eaten at the same time, thinking about your life, or what you’d wished you’d done differently while this thing chewing on your leg is only thinking, chew, swim, chew, chew.

We follow Georgia through most of this piece, and then suddenly at the end we leave her and move on to others. Can you talk about this decision and what you hope it accomplishes?

I think just to show how everyone is usually caught up too much in his or her own narrative, and that includes me. We all believe we’re special somehow, but no one is, of course. Jim Bowie died in his underwear, Catherine the Great on the toilet.

This is a story about a shark attack and people dying in horrible ways, and yet it is so funny! Do you normally write this kind of dark humor? Do you find it harder to be funny than serious in writing stories?

Normally, yes. I’m not sure which is harder, but for me, being funny and being serious come from the same place, being honest. For me they coexist.

Are you more likely to get eaten by a shark or die of thirst in a desert?

I can’t say, but if a shark were eating me, being thirsty in the desert would become my ultimate life goal.

Besides writing, what’s been your favorite job ever and why?

Private investigator. My first day on the job I was drinking scotch at 11 a.m. at some bar in the Tenderloin, asking around for a guy named Skillet. Never found him.

About the Author

Trevor J. Houser has published stories in Pindeldyboz, Zyzzyva and Story Quarterly, among others. Three of his stories were nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

About the Interviewer

Tara Laskowski

Tara Laskowski has been editor at SmokeLong Quarterly since 2010. Her short story collection Bystanders was hailed by Jennifer Egan as “a bold, riveting mash-up of Hitchcockian suspense and campfire-tale chills.” She is also the author of Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons, tales of dark etiquette. Her fiction has been published in the Norton anthology Flash Fiction International, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Mid-American Review, and numerous other journals, magazines, and anthologies. Tara lives and works in a suburb of Washington, D.C.

About the Artist

William Michael Harnett (August 10, 1848–October 29, 1892) was an Irish-American painter known for his trompe-l’œil still lifes of ordinary objects.

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

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