Cover Story & Editors’ Choice Story
“Who the hell are you? Why are you in my house?”
Despite his bluster, Fred Banner did not look imposing. His bathrobe was threadbare. His eyes were red. He was obviously unshaved and unwashed.
“I’m Melanie Jones, sir. I’m sorry to barge in on you, but your door was unlocked.”
“No, it wasn’t.”
“The key wasn’t well hidden. That’s almost the same thing.”
“Why are you sitting in my chair in my kitchen?”
“I was hoping to interview you. I am a graduate student—”
“Oh, Lord. When did graduate schools abandon all sense of decency and allow students to focus on living writers? Why don’t you research somebody safely dead? Shakespeare?”
“Done to death.”
“Agoraphobic. Had no life.”
“Okay, but why me?”
“You rarely give interviews, sir. I need to bump up the number of my publications.”
“That does not excuse you breaking into my house.”
“I used a key.”
“At the break of dawn.”
“It’s after ten.”
“And accosting me before I’ve had my morning coffee.”
“I brought you a half caf latte with soy milk and two squirts of caramel, just the way you like it.”
Banner sat down across from her. He noted she was dressed like a librarian with her hair tied in a knot. A pencil was stuck through the knot. He motioned for the paper cup. He took it and slurped from it noisily.
“It would be better with a shot of Bailey’s or Kahlua in it. What do you want to interview me about? My journalistic writing or the other?”
“Oh, the fiction, sir.”
“The fiction called fiction or the fiction called reporting?” He laughed at his own joke. “You know nobody’s going to read my stuff twenty years after I die, don’t you? There is a tsunami of writing right now. The sheer magnitude of prose makes shifting out the really good stuff almost impossible.”
“That’s just the sort of thing I want to include in my interview,” she said, taking a spiral notebook and a pen from her purse.
“What do you think will be the future for literary writing?”
“Damn near what it is now. Most writing has been, is and will continue to be garbage. The writers who stick it out and put in the time, the energy and the sheer hard work of writing have a chance, not a certainty, to produce something worth reading. Writers rise and fall in popularity with those who try to arbitrate what is and is not literature. As a writer, you have to ignore your reviews and stay with what moves you as an artist and a human being. Will work be published on paper, in the ether, on electronic tablets or something else? I don’t know. I don’t care unless the publisher is going to pay me. Then I care.”
“Do you think you will be remembered?”
“A writer may be the worst judge of that. Sometimes I write something and it grips hold of readers. Sometimes I write something and its primary usefulness is to put people to sleep because of tedium. Sometimes I can’t tell one from the other. Have I written enough exceptional prose to have a body of work worth even a footnote in the history of written English? I don’t know.”
“Some people say your work suffers because of your drinking and your drug use.”
“Do they, now? Isn’t that what they say about any writer who is not a teetotaler? Isn’t that what they say especially about us with Irish heritage?”
“It has been quite a while since you published anything new. I’ve read that you seem depressed. Some people even speculate that you might kill yourself.”
“Like Hemingway or Plath? They both had serious depression. I don’t. Some authors invest their entire self-worth and personal identity in being a writer. Again, I don’t. Even if it hurts my eventual book sales, I have no intention of offing myself. I don’t like the tone of the last two questions. This interview is over.”
“Very well.” She returned the pen and notebook to her purse.
“You didn’t really explain why you wanted to interview me. I haven’t done many interviews because nobody asked for them. There’s not much interest about me. What makes you think any publisher will be interested in this interview?”
“It will be the last one you gave before your apparent suicide.” She pointed at the paper cup he’d been drinking from and smiled.
Warren Bull is an award-winning author with more than fifty short stories and three novels published. He is a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime and an active member of Mystery Writers of America. He blogs on Writers Who Kill blog site. His website is WarrenBull dot com.
Copyright © 2015 Warren Bull. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited.