Thursday, December 17, 2009

An Interview With Laura Ellen Scott

Laura Ellen Scottís ďKaraoke People are Happy PeopleĒ appears in STORYGLOSSIA 37. Laura Ellen took a few moments to discuss the novel this piece came from, Elvis fans, narrative structure, and forthcoming works.

Anne Valente: Where did the premise for this story come from?

Laura Ellen Scott: My novel Social Aid & Pleasure is set in post-Katrina New Orleans during a phenomenon called "death wishing," whereby final words can come true. The narrator is a corset maker named Victor who struggles for normalcy in a destabilized world--cats are wished away, mothers grow third eyes, and the clouds turn orange, etc. Eventually someone wishes Elvis back.

The Elvis sections of the book are not central, but every once in a while the telling switches to Elvis's story because he's the control, not so much in terms of narrative structure but emotionally, within the world of the book. He is a known entity, a point of stability and innately powerful. The fact that he has returned by fantastic means is irrelevant.

AV: Another of your stories, "The Elvis" at kill author, also rests upon Elvis, in a similar way. How did Elvis become an object of fiction - or fascination, maybe - for you?

LES: Actually, I don't have an interest in Elvis, and aside from my paranoia that the Elvis-as-concept was a bit on the nose, I found it really natural to use him as an anti-ironic device. I tried to think of an alternative to Elvis, but nothing satisfied.

My Elvis is strong and noble, just as Elvis people might conceive of him. Elvis people are my real interest--they have chosen a very human deity/intercessor out of the thousands of magicians available, and unlike conventional zealots, Elvis people are nice people--as David Thomas of Pere Ubu points out in "Turquoise Fins." Niceness means a great deal to me. I don't want to be saved, but I do want to be nice.

AV: Structure plays a large part in this story, with the narrative broken out in five sections. How did you go about constructing each section, in an order that felt right for the story?

LES: The sections come straight from the novel, extracted because my husband noticed something going on there. And then I looked at the parts and thought, "Huh, that's a Storyglossia story." The approach has a lot in common with "Felly Stories," which appeared in Issue 31. I did worry that Steven would think I was repeating myself, but he didn't mention it.

The order of the sections is chronological except that 4 and 5 are reversed so Victor can have one of those "happy endings" you hear about. Section 4, by the way, is not possible with the POV.

AV: The narrative centers on change in each section, in subtle mourning of the passage of time, or the loss of what was. A displaced Elvis feels like the perfect, haunting choice for this theme. How did you come to explore this concept, in this way?

LES: The narrator has an adult son, so he relates to Elvis as a fellow father whose job is done, essentially. I tried to work with melancholy in the voice without making the reasons explicit. The huge difference between the novel and the short stories I've pulled from it has to do with the management of anchors and reason. My novel is fairly mainstream in how emotionality is constructed and explored, but the short stories don't feature real "plot"; I use its rhetoric to allow something else (who knows what) to come through.

AV: What are you currently working on? Any stories forthcoming that we can point readers to?

LES: I'm working on putting together a bunch of very short ghost stories for a possible chapbook. I mentioned elsewhere that I'm more frightened by objects than normal narrative tension--a wrong eyed doll is much more troubling to me than any "Johnny, I'm on the first step" story, so I'm trying to do as much with that sense of bother as I can. (Think Nick Antosca re-writes Joseph Young's Easter Rabbit). One of these stories is coming out in Wigleaf, probably well after the winter holidays, and I have other stories coming out in JMWW and Writer's Bloc, soon. The Vips on vsf blog that I started for my students has been a great project this semester, and as it winds down I'll be posting student micros on the site: http://vipsonvsf.blogspot.com/.


Laura Ellen Scott made this yearís Wigleaf Top 50 and has had two stories nominated for Dzancís 2010 Best of the Web anthology. Her most recent stories are online at >kill author, PANK, The Northville Review and decomP, and in print in the Paycock Press anthology Gravity Dancers: Even More Fiction by Washington Area Women. She blogs at probablyjustastory.blogspot.com.

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