BOOK TITLE: THE HUNGRY HEART STORIES
PUBLISHER: Wilderness House Press
Tell me about yourself.
I’ve been writing for 25 years and am passionate about it. I do believe in learning fictional writing techniques before seriously writing. It is like a doctor having to learn anatomy before understanding how to treat people. When I teach creative writing or memoir structure is what I stress.
When and why did you begin writing?
Began about 25 years ago to write in earnest.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
After a great deal of study I began to master fictional techniques. That is when I called myself a writer.
What inspired you to write your first short story? My extreme curiosity about the psychology of human nature, motivations and behavior.
What do you think is the difference between writing short stories and novels?
Short stories are far more concise where you use every word to forward your story. You have to eliminate everything extraneous. Novels have some more wiggle room.
Why did you decide to create this collection and is there a common theme to the stories?
I have been publishing these stories in various literary journals for many years. When I published 3 in an online journal the publisher invited me to submit my stories for a collection. He had a small press in addition to the journal.
Is there a message in your stories that you want readers to grasp? Mostly it’s about yearning to fill emotional gaps in our lives. There are experiences that move us to the edge and how we react and resolve these issues fascinate me.
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life? (Has anyone ever realized it?)
It is a combination of my experiences and others – often I take just a tidbit and build the fiction from there. Sometimes they are fully fictional.
What books have most influenced your life most?
Authors like Joyce Carol Oates, Lorrie Moore, Alice Munro, Anne Tyler, Tobias Wolff, Jane Smiley, E. Annie Proulx, Raymond Carver, Ann Beatie, Flanery O’Conner, Ian McEwan.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
All of the above – perhaps Joyce Carol Oates takes a lead.
What book are you reading now? What do you like, or not, about it? Canada by Richard Ford and Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan. They are both wonderfully written, gripping books with excellent character studies.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Still working on those established ones
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
The need to share stories.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? The editing. I seem to be able to come up with plots and characters but the editing is back-breaking.
Do you ever have problems with writers block? If so how do you get through it?
Not really. I find taking care of every-day life and having to do social media is a hindrance. As someone said you experience writers block when you are afraid to reveal yourself.
What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing?
Go to theater, big and small as much as possible as well as movies.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Joyce Carol Oates and Ian McEwan. Both dig deeply into the character and are not afraid to plot. There is a new trend to avoid plot. It doesn’t work for me. Life itself can be plotless and repetitious so why repeat it. These authors, and all the good ones, zoom in on what motivates a character’s behavior and determines what decisions they will make in their lives. I want to be gripped into the story.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The numerous rewrites and editing.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
One of the important elements of writing is to see what obstacles people meet up with and how they overcome them. That’s what most of everyday life is like. The conflicts and hurdles we must constantly get past. It helps me to work those elements out.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers? Fiction is what life is about only it is focused and eliminates the peripheral routine in our lives. It is like a magnifying glass to the real world and demonstrate human behavior, motivation and how we deal with problems.
Any special appearances or events coming up that you want to mention?
You can buy the book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Who is your publisher and how did you choose this publisher?
The publisher kind of chose me by offering to publish my collection.
What are your current projects?
Still working on short stories and a new novel. I also write articles about relationships for www.wildriverreview.com.
How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc. - please share your public links.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Learn the basic structure of fiction! Learn the techniques and practice them until they are grooved into your mind. They will help guide you to write well.
a short story by Fran Metzman
My mother is dying. There are shuffling noises overhead coming from her bedroom. She has cancer, and her death is imminent. I am her only child. We never liked each other.
I stare out the window at my large backyard covered in a crust of ice. The bird feeder is nearly empty. I know I must replenish it, but I can’t command my body to move.
Before my seventy year-old mother moved in, I thought I’d continue working and hire a nurse to care for her. I wavered. In the back of my head I wondered if we might find an emotional connection before it was too late. In the end, I convinced the senior partners at my law firm that it would be better to work at home for a while and take care of her myself.
Now I see my wish to wring more from our relationship as foolhardy. It’s elusive, like an important thought I can’t recall that hovers in the back of my mind. Now I just want to get through this miserable time and have it end. I’m so tired my teeth ache.
I climb the stairs and enter her bedroom. My mother is packing, her open suitcase stuffed with clothes and her silver tea set. Glints of light ping off the gleaming surface of the polished metal.
“Just where do you think you’re going?” I ask her.
Without a word, she places her underwear beside the tea set, overlapping each piece two inches apart.
“I’m still alive. I’m going home.”
Her words bounce in the air and their meaning nearly slips out of my reach. We have only talked around her impending death. When she chooses, she blocks out what the doctors told her. “You can’t go home. You’re not well.”
“I’m better. I want my salad bowl back, too.”
My mother barely stands upright. Her handwriting is no longer legible. “We sublet your apartment and put most of your things in storage. Remember? You’re staying with me for now.”
She glares at me. Although she’s shriveled four inches from her original height and lost a lot of weight, her presence still fills the room.
Her attention focuses on a nightgown slung over a chair. It’s one that she brought from home. I grab it, crumpling it under my arm. Three weeks ago, when my mother first arrived, I bought her a batch of better fitting clothes so that her weight loss wouldn’t be so apparent.
Each lost pound seems to represent one less breath left in her limited allotment. I’ve tried to count the number of breaths she takes in an hour. Then I multiply them over a day, a week, a month, figuring how many are left within the short time she has left. It’s a senseless activity that fills long voids in our conversations.
She stares at the floor. “I’m real sick, aren’t I?” Her voice is a hoarse whisper.
“Yes, but I’m taking care of you.”