I had decided to retire the literary Would You Rather series, but didn't want to stop interviews on the site all together. Instead, I've pulled together 40ish questions - some bookish, some silly - and have asked authors to limit themselves to answering only 10 of them. That way, it keeps the interviews fresh and connectable for all of us!
Joining us today is Laurie Marshall. Laurie is an award-winning writer and collage artist working in Northwest Arkansas. Recent work has been awarded the 2021 Lascaux Prize in Flash Fiction, selected for Best Small Fictions 2022 and included in anthologies from Belle Point Press, Bath Flash Fiction and Retreat West. After completing a BA in English with her newborn in tow at the ripe old age of forty-one, Laurie spent several years working in communications for nonprofit organizations and writing content for print and digital lifestyle publications before she took a chance on fiction. Several regrettable entries to writing contests, a couple dozen online workshops taken throughout the pandemic, and more than a little pure good fortune later, and she’s as surprised as anyone to be an emerging writer in her late fifties. She is confident none of this would be possible without Spotify, a steady supply of peanut M&Ms and Party Size bags of nacho cheese-flavored Doritos. Follow her on Twitter @SeeLaurieWrite. www.SeeLaurieWrite.com
What do you do when you’re not writing?
Gosh, I think it depends on whether I’m avoiding writing or just blocked. Either way, laundry, cleaning the air filters and mopping are always options. LOL But in terms of other hobbies and interests, I am a collage artist, and last year I moved most of my art supplies into the guest room that I use as an office to make it easy to transition between writing and making art. Some days when I am not sure I’m ready to dig into a story I’ll tell a story in my sketchbook instead. I’m also a half-assed gardener and seamstress, perform with a comedy improv group, and am a loudmouth in local and state politics. Living in Arkansas provides endless opportunities in that regard.
What’s your kryptonite as a writer?
I rode the double-decker struggle bus in college any time I was faced with a writing project that required that I read and respond critically to a text. In fact, I ended up with a 2.99 cumulative gpa because I failed a class on women in modernist literature because I just couldn’t figure out what to do for a final paper. I used to shrug and assume I’m just not an intellectual, but I’ve come to realize I’ve spent a lot of time in my life not digging very deep in subjects that would require too much critical thinking. I’m making changes in other areas of my life where this is a failing (yes, politics again…) but I still prefer to read for enjoyment.
What’s the best money you’ve ever spent as a writer?
Whatever a copy of Writer’s Digest cost in 2011 – that much. I bought it at a Barnes & Noble in Oklahoma City while I was in town for some work training. I don’t remember specific articles I read, but I know I read it cover-to-cover that week and came home thinking I might actually consider the possibility of maybe, at some point, think about trying to be a writer. Fun Fact: I may have fangirled at AWP in Portland when I met Grant Faulkner in person, because I loved his articles in WD so much. He hasn’t blocked me on Twitter, so I guess I wasn’t too weird.
Describe your book in three words.
Relatable. Poignant. Sensory.
Would you and your main character(s) get along?
Like most writers, I think, I see bits of myself in each of the characters in the stories in my collection. There’s the young woman floating in the pool, desperate to be seen, the kid being driven away from a home she doesn’t want to leave, the woman struggling with how to continue to exist after losing someone who was a large part of her identity, the man who is tired of people telling him who he’s supposed to want to be… Since some of these folks represent things I don’t like about myself, I think some would be more likely to be invited to dinner than others, but I would certainly be able to understand them.
If you could cast your characters in a movie, which actors would play them and why?
Okay, this is my FAVORITE question, and the one I spent the most time on. I have a novella-in-flash in progress that I created a cast list for before I even wrote the first story, to give you an idea of how my mind works. I love movies, and I think I write scenes imagining how they’d look on screen without trying to. So here are some select stories and characters and who I’d cast. After you read the collection, let me know if I got them right!
Some of Your Favorite Things Aren’t Made to Last – Dad: Michael Peña Child: Isabela Moner
In Lieu of Flowers – Hailee Steinfeld
Add a Drop of Whiskey to a Vase of Flowers to Keep them Fresh – Reverend January: Michael Shannon Young Man: Skyler Gisondo
Burned – Dylan: Joseph Gordon-Levitt Mom: Frances McDormand
Some of us say we are worried about Larry. – Larry: Colin Firth Shirley: Olivia Colman
Is Transparent a Color or Does it Mean Invisible – Fiona Shaw
If you could spend the day with another author, who would you choose and why?
This is a tough one, but in the end, I’m not going to choose someone to learn from because there are too many! Instead, I’d choose someone who would be delightful to spend a day with, and I think it would have to be Beatrix Potter. I can just imagine sharing a pot of tea in her garden, talking about writing and how to choose the perfect flowers for a bouquet. Perfect.
Do you think you’d live long in a zombie apocalypse?
Absolutely! I was an expert shot with an M-16 in the U.S. Army and I’ve watched every episode of the show “Alone” so I’ll be fine. 😊
Are you a book hoarder or a book unhauler?
I’m in transition! I’ve been a hoarder, but at 57 I am realizing there are only so many years left and I need to make hard choices. LOL I have a little free library that’s waiting to be installed in my yard to help me thin the stacks. Wish me luck!
Proof of Life examines small moments in the lives of normal people who struggle with the same foibles and baggage we all possess. This focus on human interaction—the things people do for and to one another—captures the human condition in stark contrasts and in every shade of gray. By exploring characters' emotions and behaviors within the context of recognizable themes such as grief, escapism, disappointment, regret, despair, and brokenness, these tiny stories illuminate lessons in living and challenge us to look more deeply into ourselves. In Proof of Life, we find ourselves asking Big Questions: Can we really trust and depend on others? On ourselves? And yet, through it all, our characters somehow keep their foot on the accelerator, always sure of the next best thing, not worrying about how they get there, but blindly focused on the road ahead. In addition to moments of upheaval and loss, there are significant moments of clarity, of forging independence on broad metaphorical levels in precise prose. Indeed, Marshall’s eye for characters and ability to tap into their psychology in limited space needs a standing ovation.