“GIRL OF GREAT PRICE”
“GIRL OF GREAT PRICE”
The White Funeral was originally the first chapter in the book that SNUBNOSE PRESS published this year under the title HOME INVASION. It began the story of Billie et all, with her mother and grandmother in a pitched battle over control.
Billie’s mother, Kay, has to return home when her marriage falls apart. Few women were able to support themselves and care for a child in the fifties. Kay could do neither.
When I looked at the novel as a whole, it seemed like I was beginning too early on in the narrative. I really wanted the novel to be about Billie and her son, Charlie, rather than start back with Kay and Adele in the late fifties. Kay was the kind of character that was better in a supporting role in a novel. A little of Kay goes a long way, in other words.
But I liked a lot of things about that chapter. I liked that both woman basically ignored Billie despite struggling over control of her. I liked that both woman had moments of strength and moments of weakness. I enjoyed evoking the house of my childhood, which was on a block of row houses where going to the back of your house without going through it could lead to a long walk. Divorced women in the fifties got little respect and the issue of pedophilia was practically unknown. I doubt anyone thought twice about leaving their child alone with a man for ten minutes. How did these women that married so early become an adult, and more importantly, a mother. Not always very well.
Writers: do you always know where a novel or story should start? I find that a difficult issue. I almost always end up cutting a lot of the early stuff in a story. It’s like scaffolding I can eventually remove.
HOW I WROTE THIS BOOK: The Same Mistake Twice
Allure Furs was originally a chapter in a novel I wrote called SHOT IN DETROIT. It is surprisingly easy for me to take chapters from my attempts at novels and turn them into short stories, a good indication that I have perhaps written short stories for too long to change my writing patterns.I see a story in 3500 words rather than 100, 000.
And this one was particularly simple because I merely wanted to establish an early introduction for my character to: photography, to men who want things from women, to tawdriness, to the things that would harden her. Essentially, it was a standalone chapter in the book. Not good for a novel but good for a short story.
As a teenager, Iris takes a job working the counter for Allure Furs, a seedy fur store stuck between a donut shop and a second run (or perhaps an adult) theater. Her duties grow when her boss decides she can do more than answer phones.
(In the mid eighties when my kids were teens, it became quite common to have an afterschool job. Designer clothes were coming into vogue and kids suddenly wanted jeans that cost too much for most families to afford. And businesses were thrilled to pay minimum wage to kids instead of livable salaries to adults. Some kids were performing tasks they had no business doing. Society was seduced by the idea that working was good for kids and schools began to accommodate this trend.
I sent the story to THUGLIT and Todd Robinson, its editor, thought it needed a bit more indication of just how sleazy the atmosphere at Allure Furs was. He was right. I was telling instead of showing the protagonist’s encounters with men while modeling fur coats. The reader needed to feel her fear, and also her power, over the men who wanted to humiliate her. Hope it works for you.
The new Nightfalls anthology is a good thing, a collection of fine stories where the proceeds go to help those less fortunate.
When editor Katherine Tomlinson asked me if I’d like to submit a story, I said yes, and told her I’d just published a collection of stories about the end of the world, Apocalypse Tango: http://www.amazon.com/Apocalypse-Tango-Five-Story-Collection/dp/1477514902/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1355098564&sr=1-1&keywords=apocalypse+tango
Uh… she said, well, that’s what the new collection is about.
Okay, no problem, I’ll just write another one…
But I’d used up my available scenarios.
When she told me about the charity the proceeds were going to, the idea began to form. Since the last night of 12/21 was so close to Christmas, it grew to having the apocalypse seen through the eyes of a young Latino child, who’s confused as to why the grownups are acting so strangely around the time Santa is supposed to come. And since the Los Angeles area charity was there, that became the locale, and even the theme. The prompt for the collection guided precisely what the story was to be.
Within the tale, I wanted to explore the different reactions that people would have: some lose themselves in drinking or drugs, some end on their knees praying for salvation or redemption, some who would like to end with pleasures of the flesh (going out with a bang, not a whimper), some in finally getting that one thing they’ve always dreamed of, and some, committing that last act of ultimate love.
And a nod to the apocalypse coming 50 years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, when we came within a whisker of having it happen then. Plus ca change, you know…
Religion, death, Christmas, love, and the end of the world, all in a few thousand worlds. Guess that says it all.