David was recently interviewed by Heather Clitheroe for Trachodon’s “cheek teeth” blog about his story, “In Love with Louise.”
TRACHODON 4 contributor David Hicks discusses his short story, “In Love With Louise.” It is a story that is charming one moment and brutally frank the next: the perfect love story for our time. Past contributor Heather Clitheroe read an advanced copy and had a chance to ask David about it.
Heather Clitheroe: I quite liked the flavor of this story. Was that a hint of Updike I detect? And maybe a bit of Carol Shields and Alice Munro? Who would you say your influences are?
David Hicks: Thanks; it was my first attempt at being somewhat humorous and adopting a somewhat southern voice. (I’m a New Yorker.) The original version had a much “twangier” flavor, bordering on cliche, and my friends edited most of that out. As for my influences, I certainly like the writers you mention, and I’m (consciously or subconsciously) influenced by all writers I read, but I’d say a more direct influence might be Ron Carlson, whose works I love. Many of his stories depict a man struggling to get his act together and often there’s a bit of an uptick at the end, as in my story.
HC: “He told her that when he lost the kids after his divorce he had gone into a hole so deep he hadn’t realized he had run out of dog food until he found Larry Bird lying listlessly on the floor, and hadn’t truly snapped out of it until Mase had left seven messages on his voicemail, the last one sobbingly incomprehensible.”
I thought this was the most plaintive part of the story–not that the narrator Trent’s son Mase was sobbing on the phone, but that the dog Larry Bird was lying on the floor, listless. Was there a single line or scene that made you cringe or feel especially sorry for Trent? Something that just seemed to be the defining moment of a sorry state?
DH: It’s the same moment for me, but the cringing isn’t for Trent, it’s for myself; because, as you might suspect, some of that (but not, thankfully, all) is autobiographical. Finding myself alone, facing a life without my children with me every day, was devastating, and I didn’t handle it well at all. But I think moments like that keep a story like this one from being too “light”–I needed some gravitas, and the way I usually get that is by dipping into something embarrassing about myself that I really don’t want to reveal. But once I do, it’s a much better story.
HC: I was intrigued by your choice of a gardener for the story. You spent some time at the Jentel Artist Residency program in Wyoming. Did the environment there–a largely natural and rural setting–influence your writing?
DH: Wow, nice connection–I hadn’t made that association myself, but of course, it had to be an influence. I absolutely loved being at Jentel, and although it was in the winter, and the landscape was quite barren and snowy in that beautiful Wyoming way, still, I was surrounded by land, took hikes every day, stared at it outside my window; I suppose that had to influence my decision to make Trent a gardener. By the way, I just tried to remember how it was that I chose that occupation for him, and I can’t think of it. From the beginning, he was a gardener, and I don’t remember even questioning that.
HC: Why does Trent call himself a gardener instead of a landscaper?
Well, he actually calls himself (on his business card) a “landscape artist.” He struggles with what to call himself because I’m trying to depict him as someone struggling with who he is–he’s no longer a full-time father, he’s quit his job at the Orchards, and he’s trying to forge a new identity. “Gardener” doesn’t quite cut it for him, but he struggles with what to call himself. I got this from a friend of mine in Western Colorado who did some landscaping on the side, and as he described what he did, his pride in his work came out, and finally he admitted, with a blush, that he really considered himself a “landscape artist.”
HC: And, finally: do you eat your sushi with a fork?
DH: Like Trent, I fumble with chopsticks, but unlike him, I can use them with minimal dexterity.