Last week, I was interviewed by the editor-in-chief from Literary Successes Journal after my collection of short stories, Guns of the Borough, won the esteemed 2017 Mat Tennysson Award for Excellence in Dark Humor. With exclusive electronic reprint rights, I am both humble and proud to share this piece with you. Please note that under strict government censorship guidelines for electronic reprints, I must include all aspects of this article in its entirety, notwithstanding misspellings and grammatical errors, despite their cringeworthy(*) effects.
Interview with the Author: Shannon Coughlin (*) Rice (*)
Editor: What was the inspiration behind your award-winning short story collection, Guns of the Borough?
SCR: Some time ago, I asked a published writer friend in Paris to read my slush pile stories. I had been rejected over a hundred times in nine months, and I was beginning to feel like a talentless hack. A few weeks after I flooded her In-Box with my attachments, she asked me to have a rosé with her in Pigalle. After we finished our third glass of wine, she lit a cigarette and said, “Let me be frank. I couldn’t open the documents because you sent them in Apple Pages and I use Word.” I took a drag off her cigarette and threw what was left of my wine in her face. Then I rode the Metro back to my comfortable apartment in the 16th Arrondissement, cracked open a Kronenbourg and went to work converting all of my documents to Word. I resent them to my published writer friend’s In-Box, along with a link to an apology e-card.
Editor: That’s very interesting. Let’s try to get back on track here. In summation, what do you think was the inspiration behind Guns of the Borough?
SCR: So my published writer friend was quite forgiving and decided to meet me again for a rosé, this time in the Marais. She also insisted I buy her one of those falafel things, for no other reason than she likes them. She was halfway through her pita when she looked up at me and said, “Have you read any Donald Ray Pollack?”
Editor: Had you?
SCR: Fuck, no. Do you think what I’m telling you would be interesting at all if I had? I shook my head and she continued, “So he’s this old dude, authentic as hell. I met him at a book signing last year. He grew up in Ohio in a town called Knockemstiff, worked in a paper mill for like a million years and then started writing. I mean, he sat around handwriting all of Hemingway’s manuscripts, copying his novels word for word, studying his art form. Eventually he went to college and got his MFA and shit. Obviously, you can’t get anywhere without an MFA. But anyway, he published this book of short stories, many of them from his slush pile, and now he’s, like, respected. You should read him.”
Editor: And that inspired Guns of the Borough?
Editor: Did your published writer friend suggest you revive the stories from your slush pile?
SCR: Oh my God, no. But she did think my writing was of a similar style to Pollack’s, and she asked me if I could write erotic fiction.
Editor: Pollack writes erotic fiction?
SCR: Absolutely not. But there’s money in erotic fiction, particularly the self-published kind on Amazon, and I have kids going to college, so it’s something to think about. Well, now we’re off topic. Anyway, Pollack writes Grit Lit. And my published writer friend was correct. My style was similar to his, although it certainly needed to be tweaked. That was the seed for Guns of the Borough.
Editor: Grit Lit.
SCR: Yup. Grit Lit. Street Lit. Pulp fiction. Black comedy. Lipogram. Obiter Dicta. Hemistich. Clerihew. You get the idea.
Editor: So, the “Borough” is a fictional place?
SCR: It’s as real as you and me, believe you me. I grew up there. City accents, cockroaches on pubic(*) transportation, little kids running around all day long without shirts on.
Editor: Are the stories based on real life experiences?
SCR: Nah. Wait. Nah.
Editor: What’s next for you?
SCR: I was thinking of buying one of those food trucks, actually, and turning it into a charcuterie of sorts. Jambon, saucisson, all kinds of dried pork products.
Editor: Do you have any forthcoming published material?