Storyglossia Issue 38, February 2010.

An Interview with Barry Graham


Barry Graham's "Whatsoever a Man Soweth" appears in Storyglossia 38. Here, Barry discusses the premise of the story, Bloody Mary, voice and pacing, and what he's currently at work on.


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


Barry Graham: So, I was on the couch trying to get my girl to take her panties off, but she wouldn't because she was watching some bullshit ghost hunter show on TV. I had no choice but to wait it out. Well the next show was on urban legends and I watched and I'm like "You know what, I can do this." And she's like "I told you I don't like to do it during the day time." And I'm like, "No, I can do this. I can write urban legends." I was thinking that if I found a way to combine what I do with another niche that is already sorta mainstream and has its own fanbase and distribution outside of independent literature that I would be able to maybe sell more than a few thousand copies. So, I wrote the first story, "Whatsoever a Man Soweth." And that's that.


AV: The inclusion of Bloody Mary is particularly intriguing to me here, an urban legend that got under my skin so much that I removed the mirror from my bedroom as a kid. How did this legend come into the mix, among bedroom fans and pawn shops?


BG: It was the other way around actually. In my process, Bloody Mary came first and the bedroom fans and pawnshops were secondary. I tried to incorporate as many historical aspects of the original legend as I possibly could within the confines of characters and setting.


The Korean fan legend is a very very old legend and the pawn shop . . . who doesn't wanna own a pawn shop?


AV: The voice in this story is so strong, and the pacing just moves, from start to finish. How did you get into the world of this narrative? Why did this voice and pace feel right for the story?


BG: I live in the same world as the narrator so it's less difficult for me than writing a story about skiing in Nova Scotia, I just have to look around and observe and record my observations. I don't mean to say that I've lived these experiences personally just that I live in the world where they exist.


I don't know why this particular voice and pace feel right. It's like making a really good beef stew. You just keep throwing shit in and taking away and stirring and mixing and smelling until everything tastes right. Sorry . . . I've just made a really good beef stew so it's fresh on my mind: carrots, mushrooms, onions, zucchini, corn, red-skinned potatoes, and sirloin. I'll spare you the broth and seasonings.


I'm not sure whether or not it's actually possible to ski in Nova Scotia.


AV: You serve as the editor of DOGZPLOT. Does your editing work influence your own writing?


BG: Nope.


AV: Your book, The National Virginity Pledge, came out last year from Another Sky Press. What are you currently working on? Any stories forthcoming that we can point readers to?


BG: Right now I'm working on a way to get rid of bed bugs without moving or calling an exterminator. I'm also working on more urban legends. At some point I'd like to put together a nice size collection. And a novel. I've been working on it for so long it feels like I'm not working on it.


Forthcoming stories? No acceptances yet.


Barry Graham teaches writing at Rutgers University and he wrote The National Virginity Pledge. Look for him online at