Author Website: Daughters of Catastrophe
S. P Miskowski
has won two Swarthout prizes for short fiction and received two
National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships for short fiction and
drama. Her play about cyberbullying, "my new friends (are so
much better than you)" was nominated for the prestigious
American Theatre Critics Association/ Steinberg New Play Award in
2009. She is currently writing a horror novel about mother-daughter
with S. P. Miskowski
How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?
S. P. Miskowski: The four short stories and one novelette in Red
Poppies: Tales of Envy and Revenge were
written over a five-year period.
have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
During those five years I wrote two plays, a first and second draft
of a novel, and maybe a dozen short stories. I was in production with
one of the plays and was sending the stories to various magazines. It
only occurred to me to put together a collection when a publisher in
the UK announced that they were accepting new titles as part of a
project sponsored by the London Arts Council. So it seemed like a
good time to put out a collection, to see how far it might travel.
you choose which stories to include and in what order?
I looked back over the stories I'd written between 2004 and 2009, I
realized that several fit together thematically. These embodied a
certain class conflict and the bitterness engendered by failure in a
highly success-oriented culture. This conflict was especially
striking in the city where I lived--Seattle, which boasts the
multi-million dollar home of Bill Gates and a 16-foot bronze statue
of Vladimir Lenin.
After posting some of the stories online at authonomy, I
took a suggestion from my fellow authors and made the novelette Red Poppies the first story in the book. Red Poppies
is about a house cleaner, a woman who has given up on all but the
basics of living. By chance she comes into contact with a colorful but
unstable trophy wife. The house cleaner begins to need the trophy
wife's manic energy. When a newcomer threatens her role as the trophy
wife's muse, she will do anything to safeguard what is slipping
away--although she once lived adequately without it for years.
The story was immediately appealing to people who sampled the book at authonomy. So I decided Red Poppies would be the tale to pulls readers into this little world of spite. And I wanted the book to end with Idiot Boy,
with a sibling's bitter acceptance in the last scene. Those two tales
were the bookends. There's a progression in the book--from relations
between mysterious strangers, to the ultimate mystery of one's own
does the word "story"
mean to you?
is about human life. It's what we shape from experience and
imagination, and then share so that we can recognize our differences
Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?
write for myself and for people who find my stories interesting. I
never have one audience in mind, because I never know who will
respond to the story I have to tell. Sometimes that's the most
interesting thing about having work published and read by strangers.
You find common ground in odd places.
anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection, anything at all?
one story in particular strike a nerve? Which story, and why?
TSR: How does
it feel knowing that people are buying your book?
delighted every time someone buys a copy of Red Poppies.
Being understood by people who share my sense of humor is especially
strange and wonderful.
What are you working on now?
novel I've been working on, a ghost story set in a small town, is
almost ready to be hurled at some agents and publishers.
the three most recent short story collections you've read?
Imago Sequence and Other Stories by Laird Barron,
Two Sams: Ghost Stories by Glen Hirshberg,
After Sunset: Stories by Stephen King