Chester has published many volumes of poetry, prose and
non-fiction, including a selection of prose-poems, Sparks, and novels
The Story of
the Lake, and
Kingdom Come. She has edited four literary
anthologies, including Deep
The Unmade Bed. Having grown up in
Wisconsin, lived in Albuquerque, Paris, and Berkeley, she now travels
between Patagonia, Arizona and Massachusetts.
with Laura Chester
How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?
Laura Chester: I
wrote the rough drafts of the majority of these stories in a short
season~maybe 4-5 months, but completed them over a two year period.
They came very fast, one after another~as the theme of prejudice
connected in my mind to various situations. Survival of the Violet Girls
was written earlier, and Sulphur
Art & Money was
written from a different perspective, and after the others, but the
main body of the book came very quickly.
TSR: Did you
have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
LC: I believe I wrote La Tortuga first, and it was initially titled Rancho Weirdo,
but then I did not want to draw so much attention to that one story,
and so retitled it.
The first stories I wrote were about the border situation and prejudice
against the Hispanic community
which is actually a very complicated problem where I live, twenty
minutes from the border. We see drug runners
passing in front of our house as mule trains of eight of so, on a
regular basis, after they have dropped off
(for the most part~ bales of grass/marijuana). While horseback riding
alone, I found 300 pounds = 6 large burlap wrapped bales of grass and
reported it to the Border Patrol, trying to discourage the
drug runners from going down out small dirt road, Harshaw Creek.
But it should be noted that my house was built by legal Hispanic
workers who were a dream team, and we were all very close
by the end of the project, even though most of the men could not speak
English. I threw all of the workers and their families
a big feast at the end of the job, and we remain in touch. There is
also prejudice coming from American Hispanics against
Mexican workers, even if they are there legally - I took the crew out
lunch one day at a Mexican restaurant in Patagonia, Santos, and we sat
there for over an hour before they would serve us. The men
felt humiliated. Part of what I wanted to explore was also the innate
prejudice of the politically correct, who think
they are open minded, when deep down, they are not.
These stories make fun of almost everyone, including the Anglos.
TSR: How did
you choose which stories to include and in what order?
LC: I deleted a
couple of stories because I thought they might be hurtful, or they just
up to par, but for the most part, I think the stories that flowed
through me, were of a pretty
even quality. I also indluded a couple of older stories from a
collections titled Bitches Ride Alone, because I thought
they were great stories, and they fit in with the others. I decided to
include Survival and Sulphur even though they were different from
of the stories because I thought they added something to the
collection. Survival is really an anti-war
anti-prejudice fantasy story as well, though more of a prose-poem.
does the word "story"
mean to you?
of my stories are about 8-12 pages long. They are like sprints, as
opposed to long-distance running
(a novella, or novel). A story is usually quite tight, and it unfolds
on its own and completes itself in
a short space of time, but will have a feeling of fullness. I was a 50
yard dash girl - the fastest runner in my school -
And my stories reflect that. That doesn't mean that other writers can't
write longer stories -such as in Eudora Welty's wonderful work. (Note that she and I had the
same birthday April 13th. When I turned 40,
She turned 80, and I sent her a bunch of roses.)
have a "reader" in mind when you write stories?
I don't really have anyone in mind when I write other than connecting
with my own
inner voice, (that voice can be somewhat varied~just as an actress can
take on different roles)
though I would hope my readers are smart, and GET what I am up to. I can imagine some readers being put-off by some
of my humor
because it seems offensive, while the ideal reader would
TSR: Is there
anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection,
anything at all?
LC: ~Did you get it?
Did you enjoy it? Which was your favorite?
TSR: How does it feel knowing that people are buying your book?
TSR: What are
you working on now?
LC: I am currently working on a non-fiction book called SCRAPS:
a memoir of a charmed yet secret life, about my bisexual father, and
the problems created in our family life, especially between my mother
& I, as she took her frustration and jealousy out on me without
ever really facing the key problem in her marriage. Though my father
was a terrific personality, bigger than life, and well loved - the
memoir comes to terms with both parents and is ultimately compassionate
towards them both, and healing for myself.
TSR: What are
the three most recent short story collections you've read?
LC: David Sedaris, (I'm zipping through all of his work and feel a real connection to his dark humor)
Christine Schutt, Nightwork, and her other fiction, which is dense and great,
Eudora Welty (Collected Stories)