Thursday, April 7, 2011

Q and A with Tara L. Masih

I was absolutely entranced by Tara L. Masih's short story collection, Where the Dog Star Never Glows and have become a short fiction convert because of it.  Ms. Masih generously agreed to a Q and A with me - read on to learn more about her and her writing.  See the end for another chance to win a copy of her delicious collection!

What was the plot of your very first piece of fiction?

I did a lot of writing and primitive illustrating in my spare time when I was 9 or 10. I know I was fascinated by two things at that age--fairy tales and mice. I can't find the first fairy tale I wrote (something typical about a Cinderella-type and her Prince), but I did find a large piece of paper that was sort of a storyboarded rendition of a mouse tale. There's a cat in the beginning that starts the conflict, and a male mouse that saves a female mouse. (I cringe at these old-fashioned, milky-white themes.) So the female mouse asks the male mouse to stay overnight in her watering can home, and he does, and then he invites her to his house, and she spends the night as well; all very innocent, of course. Then they marry in the last scene.

The drawings are the best part.

All I can say is that my plots are very different now, thankfully. Though relationships in some form or another still fascinate me--all the complicated stuff, the stuff that the picture books didn't prepare us for.

Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

I wish I did. I would have a larger body of work at this age if I had a consistent routine. But it's a result of life's interruptions and my own reluctance to make this a "job." I always want this to be my creative escape. Something fun to retreat to. I don't want to resent picking up the pen because I have to. And yes, I still write my first draft in pen on paper. I suppose that's my one ritual. Then I move to the computer.

Your stories are set in such diverse locations -- which comes first in your story, the premise or the place?

Wow, that's a really good question, one I haven't been asked before. Let me think for a moment ... I think in most cases, place comes first. If a setting, an environment, or geographical history inspire me, I try to find a story to set in the locale. However, in "The Guide, the Tourist, and the Animal Doctor," the first story in the collection, I overheard a conversation about a woman who had her cat operated on in a garden on a Caribbean island. In this case, the premise came first. I loved that detail and wanted to write a story around it, so picked an island I had been to so it would be more authentic.

But place is what inspires me. I soak everything up, and the best part of the creative process is seeing what will evolve later.

How were the stories in this collection selected?

It was very easy, for the most part. I do not have a huge body of work. So I waited until I had enough stories I felt were worthy of being published, and then I left a few out that were a bit weak, or that didn't quite fit in terms of nature and place.

When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?

Spend time with my family (my son plays tennis so that takes up many weekends), garden, go antiquing, travel. I like being active, because I sit at a desk all day.

Read any good books recently?

Just read a fabulous novel by Peter Rock, based in part on a true story. My Abandonment. Highly recommended. It made me feel like a sophomore writer! And Silk, by Grace Dane Mazur. It's out of print, but well worth hunting down a used copy.

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My thanks to Ms. Masih for her time. You can learn more about her and her books at her website. Where the Dog Star Never Glows is available both as an ebook and paperback.

Giveaway!  Leave a comment with your email for a chance to win an ebook copy of Where the Dog Star Never Glows, thanks to the publisher.  Open to US and international readers!  Ends 4/22.  Comment on my review for another entry!

1 comment :

  1. great interview! i like the question on place vs premise.