Issue 19: Snake: Author Interview and Reader Discussionby Fringe Magazine • 08.17.2009
Fringe: What was the inspiration for this piece?
Bowers: I like to write stories with surprising or disturbing narrators, and lately I’ve done a few short-shorts in the second person, implicating the reader in a break-up. Writing in the second person is challenging, because there’s a fine line between addressing the reader and accusing the reader. I enjoy the challenge, trying to find the middle ground. I also had this found text line from an old snake care manual: “Owning a snake is a hobby that can become an adventure.” I started out thinking about what would happen if someone slightly unhinged took that motto to the nth degree.
Fringe: How often do you write? Do you do it on a schedule?
Bowers: Ideally, I like to write in the mornings, though often life gets in the way. I try to get down at least 300 words per sitting–enough to feel like I’ve made some headway, but not so much that the prospect of writing sounds overwhelming. Some days I get more, some days it’s less, sometimes I finish a piece in a few days, sometimes it takes weeks or months.
Fringe: Why did you choose a Snake as the narrator’s pet?
Bowers: I feel like I’ve read or heard a lot of stories where single people are unnaturally attached to their cat or dog–normal, cuddly pets. That seems a lot more acceptable or normal than a reptile, or an insect, or an amphibian. I waffled between a snake and tarantula, but as soon as I pictured a corn snake sinking its fangs into a bar of Dove soap, the choice was clear.
Fringe: How did you get into writing? How long have you been writing?
Bowers: My dad was a poet when I was a kid, and I fell in love with his typewriter, retyping Shel Silverstein poems in my parents’ basement. I received my first rejection from Highlights Magazine when I was around six years old. I’d sent them a bad poem written in purple crayon. I’m 29 now, and somewhere along the way I’ve learned to type my submissions.
Fringe: Is this piece typical of your work?
Bowers: I do tend to use a lot of natural imagery, and I’m most comfortable with a story when it involves animals, either in the spotlight or on the periphery. I’m interested in the intersections between humans and nature, and what happens when an animal encroaches upon a human’s living space, emotional state, or personal life. Right now I’m working on a short-short cycle about dead horses, and those pieces seem to have a similar disturbing/amusing aesthetic.
Fringe: Is Fringe your first publication?
Bowers: No, I’ve also had work published in 3:AM Magazine, The Allegheny Review, Zone 3, Zaum, and Baltimore City Paper. A recent short-short is forthcoming in Fiction at Work. But I’m tickled pink to be in Fringe!
Fringe: What do you like to read? Who are your influences?
Bowers: My two favorite writers are Edgar Allan Poe and Richard Brautigan. More modernly, I’m very fond of Aimee Bender, Hannah Tinti, Maud Casey, and Steve Almond. And, of course, I’m very influenced by the animals in my life–two guinea pigs, two cats, some fish, and a Haflinger horse. But they don’t write.
Fringe: What do you hope the reader gets out of this piece?
Bowers: With short-shorts, I’m more invested in creating an effective mood, image, or voice than a complete story. I think the best short-shorts leave the reader somewhat bothered, mentally toying with ideas beyond what was on the page. I hope “Snake” has that effect.
Did Snake leave you feeling bothered? Click on discuss to share your thoughts.